Wither the Republican Party

Contributed by Arthur Ahrens of Branchport

I am as surprised and upset as everyone else. And looking deeper, I am become even more upset. On the theory that misery loves company, I offer the following:

Trump has received at least 68 million votes in 2020, or five million more than he did in 2016, meaning that despite his myriad failures, scandals, self dealing, corruption, etc., he received the support of 48% of Americans. Further, the Democrats lost seats in the House and were unable to take control of the Senate.

In a development that seems to have flown under most people’s radar, an abysmal showing by Democrats in state legislative races on Tuesday not only denied them victories in Sun Belt and Rust Belt states that would have positioned them to advance their policy agenda — it also put the party at a disadvantage ahead of the redistricting that will determine the balance of power for the next decade.

Locally, Tom Reed whomped Tracy Mitrano 63.1% to 35.8%. To put this into perspective, Reed in 2012 Reed won with 49.2%, in 2014 with 57.8%, in 2016 with 57.6%, and in 2018 with 54.2%. NY 23 Democrats have actually lost ground over 8 years.

I will leave assigning blame to others. I’m merely pointing out a trend, which would seem to indicate a problem with Democrats’ strategy on a local, state and national level.

Would anyone care to comment?

Best Regards,

Arthur Ahrens

Posted in 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Starts with “C” (as in Correction?)

This article was written and submitted by Lee Marcus of Arkport (Steuben County).

My father didn’t die in Italy during WWII, but the rest of his unit did (all but one), and it happened in one night—the same night he witnessed the burning of the church with all the Italian villagers locked inside, screaming for help. Two nights later, he suffered another battle almost as horrifying as that one. The Nazis were determined to shed all the Allied blood they could as they withdrew into the Alps, defeated. My father was unable to put these atrocities behind him and only lived to the age of 55, never explaining to his children about that bronze star or any of the rest. He did have some good times in his life, in spite of what was missing—that thing most of us take for granted: peace of mind. My father had seen and heard and felt things no one ever should. Things the human heart cannot reconcile.

My mother lost a brother she adored, her next younger sibling and best friend. A handsome, well-liked Hornell boy, John Long went missing in the South Pacific and was never found. My mother could not talk about this loss. I’m not sure she ever stopped waiting.

I miss both of my parents, but I cannot not wish them back. When I think of the sacrifices they made for their country, of how ferociously they believed in the righteousness of the American cause—well, my heart sinks. I would not, could not wish them here to see what has become of their legacy. I am ashamed. Mortified.

The nation that pitched in every resource, every ounce of purpose and resolve, e pluribus unum, is now a hot mess of discord and division. We have a president and vice president who have signaled that they do not subscribe to the peaceful transfer of power, the very bedrock of the American experiment. Armed vigilantes have been told to stand by, and the country holds its breath as if on the verge of disintegration, threatened not by foreign invaders but by the vigilantes themselves, self-appointed guardians of America’s closet with its renounced and rotting skeletons: white supremacy and patriarchy.

This could go either way. The forces of darkness are jonesing for civil war and a return to the bad old days. The other side is building toward breakthrough: some kind of rainbow dawn involving atonement, reparation, forgiveness, and healing. Then the march onward together to beat back climate change and realize a more perfect union, ameliorating extreme poverty and obscene greed. A future molded of justice and what we used to call brotherly love.

I don’t know what to expect. But I do know that what I saw in my parents and their generation is what I’m looking for now as we head into the election of 2020. In a word, character. It’s old news that elections have consequences; now it’s been drilled home that consequences are a function of character. We ignore character at our peril. You don’t say, you might say.

The importance of character is the very thing that makes character assassination such a handy tool for candidates whose records are too weak to run on. These guys are easy to spot from their advertising. They skip the part about what they’ll do for their constituents, because they don’t want us asking what they’ve done so far in the many years they’ve been in office already. They vandalize the photographs and reputations of their opponents, spewing hot-button epithets: liar! extremist!—also vandalizing democracy in the process. These are little men.

Meanwhile, this time around, we are rich in options. Energetic new candidates high on vision and purpose, and most of all: character. I am leaning in, heart and soul, for two in particular: Tracy Mitrano (for Congress) and Leslie Danks Burke (NY Senate). By now I have come to know them both pretty well, and for me, these women are a source of real hope—the same hope embodied in the poetry of our nation’s founding documents. All men are created equal. Liberty and justice for all. That may sound corny, but right now, we can’t afford any more cynicism. A once-great nation is on its knees and the church is on fire. Help get us out of this. Choose character, up and down the ticket.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Fiscal Responsibility

What the right hand gives, the left hand takes. — Attributed to Martin Luther

Catch 22 — For every regulation that gives something, there is another that takes it back.

Laffer Curve — the idea that in some circumstances tax cuts increase revenue.

New Year’s Resolution — promising to do next year what you failed to do last year.

The Problem Solvers Caucus has published ten principles for fiscal responsibility. Most are vague; here they are:

  1. Support for building a sustainable, fiscally responsible budget to invest in Americans and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
  2. Support for paying down our debt when the nation’s economy is in good shape.
  3. Recognizing that the federal government’s balance sheet can afford targeted spending to mitigate the effects of economic downturns, disasters, and emergencies.
  4. Support sustained assistance to the economy while the COVID-19 pandemic persists and while the unemployment rate remains at record levels.
  5. Support for transparency measures to strengthen awareness of the nation’s finances, including its debt and deficit. The Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution aligns with this assertion.
  6. Support for accountability mechanisms to help Congress demonstrate greater accountability in navigating the decisions necessary to improve the country’s fiscal health. The TRUST Act would support this plank.
  7. Support for responsible, thorough plans to establish budgetary goals to lower the government’s debt in relation to the size of the economy, or GDP.
  8. Support including the Fiscal State of the Nation, the TRUST Act, and/or legislation to establish budgetary goals in a future COVID-19 relief package to address our budget crisis once the economy recovers.
  9. Support curbing brinksmanship related to the debt limit, which risks the full faith and credit of the government due to artificial limits, and tying such reform to meaningful debt targets.
  10. Support paying for legislation and the House rules in place (Pay-As-You-Go) to enforce this principle.

Many would disagree on what it means to “support building a sustainable, fiscally responsible budget to invest in Americans and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars;” it could mean anything. However, the second principle–“paying down our debt when the nation’s economy is in good shape”– is rock solid. Yet Congress failed to do that in 2016/2017, when instead of reducing the deficit, they did the opposite by cutting taxes, particularly for the rich and super rich.

Points five to ten encompass the idea that Congress can encourage itself to do, with resolutions and legislation, what it otherwise wouldn’t do. Point 9 is good, if only wishing made it so.

There are a number of oft cited principles which are not mentioned:

  1. The idea that tax cuts pay for themselves
  2. Trickle down
  3. Statutory balanced budget

All else is moot if these tacitly remain.

Posted in 2020, Economics, Reed's Views | Tagged | 4 Comments

Election to the Senate

Louis C. Wyman (RNew Hampshire) was declared the victor of the US Senate contest in 1974 in New Hampshire by a narrow margin on Election Day (355 votes). A first recount gave the election instead to John A. Durkin (DNew Hampshire) by ten votes, but a second recount swung the result back to Wyman by only two votes. The state of New Hampshire certified Wyman as the winner, but Durkin appealed to the Senate, which had a sixty vote Democratic majority. The Senate refused to seat Wyman while considering the matter. After a long and contentious debate in the Senate, with Republicans filibustering attempts by the Democratic majority to seat Durkin instead, a special election was held, with Durkin winning handily and becoming Senator.Wikipedia

I suppose the 1974-1975 debate over seating a Senator from NH took place in the newly elected Senate . Democrats were in the majority before and after the 1974 election; Mike Mansfield (D-MT) was the Majority Leader during both sessions.

The 1974 precedent–a special election to settle a near tie–seems good to me. The filibuster rule contributed played an important role. Under different circumstances, the precedent might not hold.

  • The lame duck Senate in 2020 will know how the 2020 election went.
  • McConnell is ruthless, but it isn’t clear to me what he might do to cling to power if Republicans don’t have a clear majority in the new Senate.
  • The new Senate will adopt rules and choose a leader. Does the former leader retain the position until a new leader is chosen? Could newly elected Senators be excluded from these votes, or defeated candidates be allowed to vote?
  • In 1974, there was no dispute over election procedures–hanging chads, mail-in ballots, illegal voters.
  • Might there be another lengthy debate over seating; might one party or the other appeal to the courts?
  • If there were a tie in the Senate, the Vice President would cast the deciding vote.

An unprecedented partisan outcome would be bad for democracy.

Posted in 2020, Congress, Political | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Twenty-fifth Amendment

government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. — Lincoln

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. -Twenty-fifth Amendment

The Constitution allows Congress to create a commission on presidential fitness, but is it a good idea? The need for an effective way to remove a president in an emergency is apparent. Current provisions are ineffective.

  • Impeachment proved futile in the case of the Ukraine scandal, and would likely be futile under any circumstances..
  • Even though Trump’s cabinet reportedly contemplated action, today’s cabinets are unlikely to agree to depose their leader in any circumstance.
  • There is no other legal procedure for deposing an unfit president.

Yet a commission on presidential fitness might not provide an effective solution.

  • A commission, however constituted, would be suspected of political bias.
  • Commissioners elected by the people or party in power would be suspect.
  • An appointed commission would replace democracy with meritocracy.
  • Action by the commission would provoke a constitutional crisis. An unfit president would be expected to defy Congress.
  • In the present highly politicized time, the removal of a president for good reason might provoke retaliation for no good reason.

The fundamental problem is that The Constitution assumes some degree of wisdom and good will among elected officials and the people. In the absence of wisdom and good will, constitutional restrictions and long standing norms for acceptable behavior are inadequate. It is a dilemma–if the people won’t protect democracy, American democracy may be a lost cause.

Posted in 2020, Congress, Constitution, Political, President | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Is he trying to kill us?

Is he trying to kill us?

  • We know from Bob Woodward’s book that President Trump knew the danger, but ignored it.
  • Few precautions were taken until the pandemic exploded on the West Coast and in NYS.
  • He stopped cooperating with WHO.
  • We suffered from a lack of hospital supplies and equipment.
  • He encouraged governors to end the shutdown prematurely.
  • He arranged and attended super-spreader events.
  • Encouraged by his indifference, other super-spreader events went on without restrictions.
  • He claimed that all but the old were immune, as if seniors were expendable
  • He disparaged wearing masks.
  • He disagreed with and corrected government experts as if he knew better.
  • He mocked quarantine.
  • He told subordinates not to wear masks.
  • His action and inaction allowed the virus to spread at the capital.
  • He concealed his own illness.
  • He interfered with responsible government agencies.
  • He suggested vaccines would quickly be effective making other measures unnecessary.
  • He may have spread the virus himself including to his own family.
  • He left the hospital prematurely claiming falsely to be no longer contagious.
  • He suggested the treatments he received were or would be available to all.
  • He blamed the disease on others–China, WHO, Gold Star families.

I’m sure there is more evidence, but this is more than enough.

Posted in Health Care, Political, President, Trump | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Who knows what the future holds?

No one can predict what the future holds, but it is interesting to speculate:

In 2016, Trump won NY-23 57% to 43%. Tom Reed lagged Trump by three percent, winning over Tracy Mitrano 54% to 46%. National polls today have Joe Biden over Donald Trump 57% to 41%. If national polls apply to NY-23, Reed would have to lead Trump by 8% to be even with his opponent, Tracy Mitrano.

I am appalled by Tom Reed’s negative political advertising. With nothing to say about himself, he stoops to attacking his rival with altered images and misleading claims. There is no apparent need for Tom to go low; perhaps he delights in cruelty. It is hard to take his professed concern over domestic violence seriously, when he stoops to besmirch a woman he scarcely knows.

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Posted in 2020 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Who decides about experimental drugs?

This article on Covid 19 was written by Arthur Ahrens of Branchport and is published here with permission. Views expressed by contributors are their own.

When I get sick, I follow my doctor’s recommendations. As everyone
should. Science Rules!

But science is not good for TRUMP, who has repeatedly ignored and
belittled scientists and epedemiologists, saying he knows best! Over the
last few months (YEARS in TRUMP TIME) President Trump has ignored advice
to wear masks, pushed coronavirus treatments including
hydroxychloroquine (many, many times), bleach and bright lights (not as
much). He has indicated an interest in Oleandrin, a product pushed by
major Trump donor, the My Pillow Guy.

We should all be interested to see his medication list now that he is
ill with Covid-19.

According to the President’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, President Trump
is presently receiving the following medications:

an experimental antibody cocktail made by the pharmaceutical company
Regeneron, vitamin D, zinc, Pepcid, melatonin, aspirin, dexamethasone (a
steroid reserved for severe infections).

As far as we know, he is NOT taking:

hydroxychloroquine, Oleandrin (pushed by the My Pillow Guy), Bleach. 
Nor has he been subjected to light strong enough to illuminate his
internal organs

 I will leave it to the reader to make their own conclusions.

Posted in Health Care, Political, President, Trump | Tagged | 3 Comments

Mortality Rates

This article on Covid 19 was written by Arthur Ahrens of Branchport and is published here with permission. Views expressed by contributors are their own.pundit

 

The 1918 flu epidemic, the so-called Spanish flu, killed 675,000 people in the US when the population of our country was 103,000,000. Hence, a mortality rate of 0.7%.

Woodrow Wilson was president then, and had no time for the virus. He was consumed with prosecuting the war in Europe. The 1918 Sedition Act made it a crime to say anything the government perceived as harming the country or the war effort. U.S. Newspapers downplayed the risk of the flu and the extent of its spread, resulting in superspreader events like the Liberty Loan March in Philadelphia in September, 1918.

The Army’s medical department recognized the threat the flu posed to the troops and urged officials to stop troop transports, halt the draft and quarantine soldiers; but they faced resistance from the line command, the War Department and President Woodrow Wilson.  By the end of the year, about 45,000 U.S. Army soldiers had died from the flu.

Wilson never acknowledged the flu, yet caught a debilitating case in April 1919. This so weakened the man that he was unsuccessful in controlling the European thirst for vengeance against Germany in the Paris Peace talks, resulting in the punitive and cruel Treaty of Versailles, which set the stage for the Second World War.

Wilson suffered a severe stroke shortly after in October 1919. Some authorities believe that this was a direct result of his severe case of the flu. The stroke resulted in his incapacitation. His wife, Edith, became gatekeeper to the president, assumed a large role in running the government after his stroke, influencing decisions affecting both domestic and foreign policy.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are eerie parallels between the 1918 and current viral pandemics.
  • Woodrow Wilson’s decision to pursue the war irrespective of the pandemic accelerated the disease spread and increased its massive death toll.
  • Pandemics occur in waves. The second wave in the 1918 pandemic was the most deadly. Other waves will likely occur during the current pandemic.
  • Innate optimism, strong libertarian instincts, native distrust of national government, diversity, sectarianism, and partisan division hinder American efforts to fight pandemics.
  • Exceptional times call for exceptional measures and exceptional leadership to unite against a common foe.

Covid-19 has a mortality rate of ~3%, as opposed to the H1N1 which had a mortality rate of 0.7%. Crunching the numbers results in a terrifying result.

I’m hoping that Trump’s affliction will change the course of our response to the novel coronavirus. The realist in me does not believe that for one moment.

Posted in Health Care, Political, President, Trump | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Some things are hard to believe

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping anti-corruption package that they’re billing as a successor to post-Watergate reforms — updated for a potential post-Trump Washington.–Kyle Cheney

Some things are hard to believe:

  • A President who repeatedly misrepresents facts is respected by many.
  • A President would pardon close associates
  • Administration officials would secretly correspond with foreign governments
  • An Administration would ignore Congressional subpoenas.
  • The Hatch Act would be flaunted
  • The Emoluments Clause would be moot.
  • A President would disregard intelligence briefings.
  • Inspectors General could be removed on highly questionable grounds
  • The Dept. of Justice could be made subservient to a Presidents political interests.
  • A President would demand personal loyalty from subordinates
  • Administration agencies would adjust their recommendations to a president’s whims.
  • Whistle blowers would be fired.
  • A president would stonewall on releasing tax returns.
  • Confidence in fair elections would be seriously called into question.
  • A defeated presidential candidate might suggest clinging to office.

I am sure there is much more.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/23/pelosi-corruption-reforms-trump-420355

Posted in 2020, Political, President | Leave a comment