In an effort to communicate something to somebody, somewhere, today, I thought I might share some of the news that caught my attention this week. Since I enjoy the Wall Street Journal as my primary news source, this report is focused on news and commentaries in last week’s editions.
Inflation and Consumer Spending
In line with my recent post on advertising, U.S. consumers validated my concerns about being manipulated. Shoppers Increase Spending, Despite Inflation (11/17) by Gabriel T. Rubin reported that retail sales rose by 1.7% in October. Spending increases on electronics, groceries, gasoline, and automobiles was robust. Online retailers benefited from a 4% increase in sales. Mr. Rubin noted that core retail sales rose 1.6%, showing that consumers increased discretionary spending in addition to taking on higher prices for necessary goods. To emphasize this fact, he said Spending at sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores was up 1.5% and rose by 2.2% at department stores.
To reinforce Mr. Rubin’s report, Julia Carpenter contributed Rising Prices Yet to Trigger Changes in Spending Patterns (11/17). Of particular interest was the rise of 6.2% in the consumer price index. As Ms. Carpenter reported, it is the highest level in 31 years. She also noted that credit card balances rose by $17 billion in the third quarter. A particularly inciteful comment was: Some are so far failing to reconcile the reality of price increases with the lifestyle changes required to adapt. Kudos Ms. Carpenter.
Immigration Problems in the EU
Poland is being overwhelmed by immigrants across Europe’s version of Mexico: Belarus. Immigrants are flooding the Belarus/Poland border similar to those overwhelming the U.S./Mexico border. Poland, along with Lithuania and Latvia, have declared a state of emergency across hundreds of square miles that border with Belarus, where police now stop cars at checkpoints for migrants [11/18 Belarus Pulls Some Migrants From Border by Natalia Ojewska] The headline is referring to reports that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged thousands of Middle Eastern and African migrants to try to enter the EU from its eastern flank as retribution for a series of sanctions the bloc has imposed on Minsk.
Two stories published earlier in the week provided more background information. Poland at Heart of EU-Belarus Rift (11/15) by Drew Hinshaw and Daniel Michaels with contributions from Laurence Norman and Natalia Ojewska noted that thousands of migrants were being pressed by the military of authoritarian Belarus to enter the EU. They reported that Poland responded to the migrant incursion along the Belarus border by fencing it off, dispatching soldiers and blocking journalists from hundreds of square miles. (I haven’t seen anything yet, but I’m sure Donald Trump will credit his administration for this as a “Trump foreign relations policy success”. I didn’t watch the Trump news network, OAN (One America News) this week; they may have mentioned this.)
The other story, EU Broadens Belarus Sanctions (11/16) by Laurence Norman and James Marson provides more background details on the Poland immigration crisis.
Mike Kerrigan wrote an op-ed about parenting that literally had me laughing so hard I was in tears. I really can’t tell you about it. You have to read it. The Hunt for Red October at the Breakfast Table. Of course, if you don’t have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, here it is.
Submarine movies are always suspenseful, none more so than the 1990 thriller “The Hunt for Red October.” Entertaining as it is, I never thought the film would be a source of sound child-rearing advice.
A few years ago, my daughters Molly and Hope ambushed their mother, Devin, and me over our Saturday morning coffee. They were both still in high school and charged us with favoring their older brother, Joe, who’d just left for college.
“It is always Joe, Joe, Joe with you,” Molly accused us. “Yeah,” Hope added, “you act like nothing we do ever measures up, and we’re sick of it.”
Although the argument was absurd, their concerted complaint startled me. I had, however, recently seen my favorite movie for the hundredth time, and I took inspiration from the commander of the Soviet Red October submarine, Captain Marko Ramius, unforgettably played by Sean Connery.
From the breakfast-table conning tower, I considered my options. The girls were bearing down on me, too close for evasive tactics or countermeasures. There really was only one maneuver left. It required boldness, but fortune favors the bold, so I deployed it. “Girls,” I said, “your mother and I have never been anything but clear that it is a race for second in this house. If you can even see your older brother on the horizon, you’re doing fine.”.
They had come at Devin and me guns hot, expecting pursuit. Instead I, tongue in cheek, turned directly into the thrust of their argument, swiftly closing the distance between us. The girls walked away anticlimactically, and we parents got to finish our coffee in peace.
Turning headlong into a torpedo’s path so it doesn’t have time to arm can not only save a submarine. It can also rhetorically disarm teenage children on the warpath. Captain Ramius, a fine submariner, would have made a decent family counselor.
Mr. Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte, N.C.
In the immortal words of Edward R. Murrow, “Good night and good luck.”