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Ventlines@ NY Times

NYT 4/26/20  

Thomas Friedman NY Times Columnist : “We Need Herd Immunity From Trump and the Coronavirus.”

Ventlines: Good idea. But maybe not quite a complete cure.  If the reality is that this Trump is the last elected Trump, then Friedman’s idea is correct.

But what if things could get worse – what if Trumps replicate? What if we have more and future Trumps. What if in the grand scheme of things, this particular Trump is not a one off, an ill-timed sneeze or cough? What if this Trump is a simple symptom of a larger more dangerous political virus? The answer is that then we must look farther afield in order to serve our country. Because if this Trump is but a symptom, then we are truly facing huge, existential problems.

How then could we solve the immunity problem?

We could try Covid 19, virus-like political tracking. Good virus-like tracking, would sooner or later, lead us back to the source – the breeding ground for this Trump and all future Trumps. However, assuming the virus-like tracking is rigorously scientific, that may take a while.  So, what to do? What would a man, in a hurry, (before November) who has good and decent values along with ample political scars, do to quickly immunize himself and his family against Trump. 

Given that the Republican party has a long history of publicly and proudly breeding wannabe Trumps, methinks that a wise man, in a hurry, would do well to immunize himself against Republicans – all Republicans, everywhere! Methinks that if enough good men and women do that – all of us in this country might survive all Trumps – in November- and far into the future.

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The Pence Pardon

The Pence Pardon

Is Trump warily looking over his shoulder?  Did the 2018 Democrat election landslide really not perturb Donald Trump?  How about the spontaneous boos from the fans at the World Series?  Did he really not notice that Virginia and Kentucky have turned bright blue?  Or how about the Ukrainian impeachment momentum growing in the Democratic congress? How about those polls? Has Trump turned to his closet, thinking survival mode? What are the chances?

While being born rich tells us that Trump likes winning. His numerous bankruptcies also tell us Trump knows how to survive.  So, no matter the existential threats surrounding Trump’s White House today, troubles which would crush a dozen lesser grifters, we can be sure there is a Trump University caliber survival plan already unpacked, at the ready, on the shelf and sitting alongside a can of dutiful hair spray in one of Trump’s White House closets.

Should Donald Trump therefore, ever feel the need to quickly exit swampy Washington, we can be sure he will be ready.  His plan, based on history, will be simple and true to form. The plan will involve only the ever-reliable profit motive and a few special incentives for Washington’s avaricious and ambitious political class. The plan, of necessity, will also incorporate a few narcissistic survival niceties, such as quickly returning to reality show celebrity status and settling in as a new low tax Florida resident at Mar A Lago and occasional golf games at one of his favorite private courses.  All safe and happy places for Donald, far, far away from the Washington, DC ‘rats’, fake news and the US Attorney’s Office, Southern District, NY.

Trump will also need a bit more of a rich man’s luck.  He will have to finesse Washington twice?  Can he do it?  Trump, doubtless, sees no problem.  Why should he?  Washington always has a price.  And this simple survival plan should succeed because it cleverly includes significant political value for his adoring, fox hole buddy, VP, Mike Pence, and the MAGA greats, Congressmen Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows and Senator Lindsey Graham. Trump also has a few personal motivators. His plan will deny evil Democrats, traitorous Republicans, fixer, Michael Cohen, Special Counsel Muller, Stormy Daniels, James Comey, Rex Tillerson, General Mattis, Colonel Vindman, Ambassador Taylor, John Bolton, Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff and a whole lot more, their full measure of moral satisfaction.

Like Trump, the core of this Trump survival plan is simple beyond words.  Simply exit Washington, DC, physically.  Nothing else matters.  Just get our of town.  Cinchy, huh? Like a Trump Monopoly Board Game.  Go directly Home.  Do not stop at Go.  Do not stop at Jail.

Can it be done?  Come November 5, 2020, if Donald Trump has lost the election, will President Donald Trump convince Vice President, Mike Pence to become the 46th President of the United States?  And will Mike Pence, in a classic quid pro quo, cement into history the special Republican tradition of presidential pardons for departing Republican presidents?  Stay tuned.

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FEAR

Shortly after the 2018 Congressional elections, second-guessing of Democratic electoral success began with a few snide Republican pundits.  Then the critics grew to include to a few malcontent Democrats.  Then critics of the Democratic party grew to include so-called liberal institutions like the Center for American Progress.  Today, critics are everywhere.

And all these critics sing from the same dismal hymnbook.  All express what sounds like earnest concern for the well-being of the Democratic party. All have suddenly become fearful that “dangerous” liberal tendencies in the Democratic party, will cost Democrats the 2020 election.  The critics within this strange alliance of Republicans and bedfellow Democrats are urging caution.  They want Democrats to be fearful instead of feared, timid instead of intimidating, cowed instead of empowered.  They want Democrats to boldly adopt their version of old-fashioned political moderation.  No Bernie. No AOC. No Kamala.  No Elizabeth Warren. No Mayor Pete, no Medicare for All.  In sum, all these critics are selling “fear. Come 2020, critics want Democrats to go down fighting for political moderation.

These conservative columnists, centrists and media voices are making arguments that sounds like genuine selfless concern for the Democratic party.  Democrats, they say, have endangered their 2020 election prospects because of their recent tack to the left of the political center in American politics.   Deception works.  Many Democrats and media voices have already bought into “fear.”  They have second-guessed the extraordinary Democratic victories of 2018 as a victory for political moderation.  As a consequence, they now shy away from the idea of a genuinely progressive populist Democratic candidate and agenda.  They prefer Hilary mode candidates as the alternative to Trump, They prefer candidates satisfied with Obamacare – who do not see the need to fight for Medicare for All.

But that is not the whole story.  What’s really going on here is that influential conservative voices and the political and corporate power structure, Republicans and Democrats alike, are deceptively trying to revive a once reliable, money focused, boring, politically correct Democratic party; a political party intimidated by the GOP and influenced by quasi-Democrats who enjoy deep ties to deep and entrenched political money.  These special interest critics are rooting for the return of their once willing partner and accomplice – a Democratic party that knows how to return a favor to big money donors.  As did Bill Clinton to the banking industry with his so-called bank “reforms” which, in turn, gave us the Great Recession;  as did Clinton once again to the auto industry, with his middle-America job killing NAFTA; as Obama did with TPP, his job-killing Asian version of NAFTA; or the money-grubbing likes of Democratic, Senators Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman, two wholly owned subsidiaries of the health insurance industry who stand in the first rank of history’s sleazy Democratic saboteurs of universal healthcare.  That, is the real story.

So how should the American people respond to these critics peddling fear, aka, political moderation, aka, no universal healthcare?    Do we go forward with a progressive Democratic party – the kind of political party that gave us LBJ’s civil rights laws and Medicare and FDR’s labor laws and Social Security. Or do we allow fear to freeze us in place?

The answer is mixed. First and above all, let us take note of FDR’s timeless response to the fear-mongering critics of his Social Security: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

Then move forward to Medicare for All.

http://www.medicare4allresolutions.org/

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JONESTOWN

Donald Trump is President of the United States. Yet he doesn’t speak to all Americans, And he doesn’t speak for all Americans. Trump speaks mostly to true believers. Once in a while he also speaks down to Republicans. Trump and his supporters speak mostly about the rest of America. They need these special conversations. Each of these conversations helps support their faith in mutual beliefs. The rest of us do not understand or partake in these conversations.

For example, in a recent Trump-speak, President Trump promised supporters that he and the GOP would soon be giving true believers a wonderful MAGA healthcare program to replace their mutually despised Obamacare. But sadly for the true-believers, President Trump also had to tell the faithful that he could not release this magnificent MAGA healthcare proposal until AFTER his 2020 re-election.

As expected, Trump’s faithful understood the message. And as expected they uniformly shouted, Amen.

For most Americans, this particular Trump promise, which is so obviously too convenient and so suspiciously untrue, where so much is personally at risk for each and every true believer and his family – the rest of us would be right to doubt that even the most rabid Trump follower would drink from this cup of strange and sweet tasting MAGA brew.

Yet we must give the devil his due. The rest of us may never understand Trump’s message. The rest of us may just be biased slow learners. Or then again, the rest of us AND Trump’s followers might do better to remember and learn from the history of true believers.

If we do, perhaps the day may never come where any of us has to bear witness to the grisly aftermath of a Jonestown syndrome set loose in America.

Pass the cup?

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PLACE YOUR BETS

The U.S. Congress is failing. Thanks to enduring and successful political partisanship, the House of Representatives and the United States Senate no longer behave as envisioned by this country’s founders.  Within the GOP, the success of the U.S. Congress is now vastly undervalued when compared to the value placed on the political success of the Republican party. To make matters worse, congressional dysfunction is now coupled with the dysfunction of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.  Trump’s recent ‘national emergency’ declaration, in strict pursuit of his politically, crowd-pleasing border wall, places us on the verge of a constitutional crisis. Consequently, our constitution and laws as understood since 1776 are now at risk of being dangerously altered by a combination of presidential overreach and Congressional failure.

On the one hand, we have a House of Representatives under Democrat control exercising its oversight powers on the President.  The House voted to overrule Trump’s ‘national emergency’ declaration.  On the other hand, we have a GOP controlled U.S. Senate unwilling and incapable of exercising its constitutional oversight powers regarding Donald Trump’s ‘national emergency’.   Thus, we have an unrestrained President faced off against a crippled Congress. Take a wrong turn here, we could be profoundly changing our current form of government.

While thoughtful people are hoping the Supreme Court is willing and able to contain this crisis by declaring Trump’s ‘national emergency’ unconstitutional, that hope is misplaced. Believing the Judiciary is willing and able to lead us out of this crisis, leads us deeper into the delusion that Trump’s conduct is just another business-as-usual political transaction in Washington.  As if Trump’s ‘national emergency’ declaration is a plain vanilla political issue that will be resolved in the due-course of Washington politics.

Trump’s declaration of a ‘national emergency’ however, is anything but business as usual.  Donald Trump has made an unprecedented power grab and end run around the U.S. Constitution. If successful, Donald Trump’s gambit could forever reduce the political power of Congress and increase the power of the Presidency.  If President Trump’s emergency declaration is successful, this country will move incrementally closer to an American presidency which would be able to enact and enforce Presidential decrees, – laws not enacted by the people’s representatives.  Think Turkey or Egypt. 

The following are the only options open to the Supreme Court if the GOP controlled U.S. Senate fails to overrule Trump’s emergency declaration.

Option 1. The Supreme Court decides with Trump.  The President has emergency powers. Trump will build his wall and we have changed our form of government – Congressional funding/legislation is no longer required in presidential emergencies. 

Option 2. The Supreme Court refuses to rule on Trump’s national emergency. The Court rules it does not have the power to decide. Trump will build his wall and we will have changed our form of government – Congress need not legislate in presidential emergencies. 

Option 3. The Supreme Court disagrees with Trump.  The Court rules there is no emergency.  Therefore, Trump has no emergency powers.  Therefore, emergency border wall laws decreed by Trump are unconstitutional and unenforceable.  The Supreme Court has done this only once in its history. 

One out of three Supreme Court options protects the Constitution. Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets.

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COULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. Far too many pundits and Republican apologists are dangerously delusional about an imaginary streak of decency in Republican politicians. A decency streak, which they love to theorize has the potential to save Republicans and our nation from Trumpism. The great delusion here is their beginning argument that it is Trump who has brought rot to the Republican party and the ‘American Way’. When in fact it is the Republican party and its original sin, the ‘Southern Strategy’ and all its ugly derivatives that bears full responsibility for a Trump presidency.  Trump is just the latest headliner and currently atop a very long list of GOP apologists who now argue biblically on behalf of “decent” Nazis and against the menace of sinister Muslims, ballot stuffing African Americans and invading killer Latinos along our Southern border. Let us not, therefore blame Trump for Trump.

Trump, as such, has merely polished the Southern Strategy and its modern variations to a new high gloss and respectable sheen.  And for that result, the faithful are grateful – not upset.  Trump and his ‘-isms’ are now gleefully protected, projected and chanted by 90% of all Republicans. A malign Trump, therefore will never, never, never, in our lifetimes, be thwarted by a Lincoln-like resurrection among the alleged decent GOPers.

 So, on behalf of all concerned, let the punditry please stop with the prayer-like story lines where both GOP politicians and the rank and file rise toward the sun and save themselves and the rest of us from Trump. It will not happen.  And while I never knew a Republican who wouldn’t willingly overdose on a schmaltzy Reganesque homily where a GOPer saves the American Way, the rest of us are compelled to face reality – the 1% wealth concentration, trillion dollar deficits, a decimated middle-class and precious little time for GOP fairy tales.

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FEELING PATRIOTIC?

With the following imagined speech by a Republican President, David Leonhardt of the NY Times perfectly describes GOP Trickle Down Economics.

“My fellow Americans, I’m here today to tell you about my economic plan. Each year, I will require every middle-class family across this great country to write a check. We will then pool the money and distribute it to the richest Americans among us — the top 1 percent of earners, who, because of their talent, virtue, and success, deserve even more money.”

“The exact size of the checks will depend on a family’s income, but a typical middle-class household will hand over $15,000 each year. This plan, I promise all of you, will create the greatest version of America that has ever existed.”

With a nod to the likes of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Donald Trump and their tax plans, Mr. Leonhardt just described GOP Trickle Down Economics and the actual American economy in which we now live.

Feeling patriotic? Write a check.

[Sign up for David Leonhardt’s daily newsletter — with commentary on the news and reading suggestions from around the web.]

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The Pence Pardon

Is Trump in survival mode? Is Trump looking over his shoulder at the overwhelming 2018 Democrat congressional election wins and the tabloid like Ukrainian impeachment momentum growing in the new Democratic congress? What are the chances?

Being born rich and on third base surely tells us that Trump has gotten very used to winning. But his numerous bankruptcies also tells us Trump is a natural born survivor.  So, no matter the man-eating, existential problems surrounding Trump’s White House today, troubles which would likely crush a dozen lesser grifters, we can be sure there is a Trump University caliber survival plan already unpacked, at the ready, on the shelf and sitting along side Trump’s dutiful hair spray in one of Trump’s White House closets.

Should Donald Trump therefore, ever feel the need to quickly exit swampy Washington, he is ready.  His plan, based on his history will likely be simple and go something like this; true to his  winning ways, it will involve the reliable profit motive, special incentives and be very doable. He will of course also require a few survival ingredients.  They will include his simple narcissistic necessities, like getting safely back to reality show celebrity status.   Getting back to a new low tax Florida residency at Mar A Lago and an occasional golf game on one of his favorite courses.  All safe and happy places far, far away from Washington, DC, its ‘rats’, fake news and the US Attorney’s Office, Southern District, NY.

To make all that happen however, Trump will need a bit more of his rich man’s luck.  And cunning.  Can he do it?  Can he finesse Washington one more time? Of this, we can be sure, Trump has little doubt.  Why should he?  Washington always has a negotiable price.  And this simple survival plan should succeed because it cleverly includes significant political office vacancy incentives for his adoring, fox hole buddies, VP, Mike Pence, Congressmen Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows and Senator Lindsey Graham. Trump’s personal incentives are also significant.  He will be denying evil Democrats, traitorous Republicans, Michael Cohen, Special Counsel Muller, Stormy Daniels, James Comey, Rex Tillerson, General Mattis, Colonel Vindman, Ambassador Taylor, Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff a generous measure of moral satisfaction.

For this simple survival plan to succeed, Trump believes he simply has to physically exit Washington. Cinchy, huh? Like a Trump Monopoly Board Game; Go directly Home.  Do not stop at Go.  Do not stop at Jail.

Can it be done?  Come November, 2020, if Donald Trump has lost the election, can Donald Trump convince Vice President, Mike Pence to become the 46th president of the United States and cement into history a special Republican tradition of presidential pardons for departing Republican presidents? 

What a plan!

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NPF GOOD NEWS – SO SO NEWS

GOOD NEWS.

In 2016 the NPF achieved 60.6% actuarial funded status,  its highest in recent history, if not ever.  The NPF continues its multi-year positive trends. *

In 2016 NPF pension contributions exceeded pensions paid, for the frst time in recent history, if not ever, a remarkable achievement. *

SO SO NEWS

In 2016, on a Current Liability basis,  NPF cash on hand vs current accrued pension liability equaled 32.1%, which is unimproved but consistent with NPF history.  (.32 cents on the dollar.) *

In  2016 the NPF was still in Endangered Status.  We have a long way to go  to truly secure your retirement and the NPF but the trend is now your friend.  Protect your union and your retirement.  Stay vigilant.

*Source:  Martin E Segal, January 1, 2017, NPF Actuarial Valuation.

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EVERYTHING’S DUCKY

Florida Governor Scott goes to Washington.

 

 

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