Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Ignore Calls to "Vote By Mail." The Case For Voting In Person

I am tired of seeing this graphic on my Facebook page. I find it weird that many public officials and organizations consistently push "vote by mail" but also fret that many votes will not be counted because of errors by the postal service (1-3 percent of ballots are lost in the mail) but especially by the voters themselves. Seems a lot of people are incapable of following directions written at a 6th-grade level, or lower.

I have a suggestion. If you want to make sure that your vote counts, securely as possible, vote in person. This is not rocket science.

Need a ride to your polling station? No problem. Scores of organizations and political parties will be glad to help you. Heck, if you live in zip code 19073, you can Facebook messenger me, no matter your party affiliation and voting preference, and I'll be honored to drive you to the polling station. Seriously. Unlike a Democratic friend told my wife recently - "don't vote" - I want everyone to be able to exercise their civic duty.

It's a fact that 37,000 mail-in ballots were rejected in our Commonwealth's primary election on June 2nd, which took several weeks to count due to overwhelmed county election offices. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by 44,000 votes. More than 500,000 absentee ballots were rejected nationally in primary elections this year. I have personally experienced my ballot being rejected on one past occasion because it arrived "too late." I've also applied for an absentee ballot that never arrived. Not this election.

A majority of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court - each of whom is a popularly elected partisan - gave Democrats almost everything they wanted, from extended deadlines for the receipt of mail-in ballots (3 days after the election - some states provided even more time), allowing that signatures need not be included for verification purposes, and even requiring the counting of mail ballots days after the election but not postmarked. Since many Pennsylvania counties are now providing pre-paid return postage, the US Postal Service typically doesn't postmark those, according to Republicans on the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees. What could possibly go wrong?

There's one thing that Pennsylvania's Supreme Court didn't give Democrats - the ability to count "naked ballots." Those are ballots that are not placed in a security envelope that is then placed in the mailing envelope sent to county election officials. That, of course, is designed to protect your "secret" ballot. But the Commonwealth's law is so clear, even the court could not allow those to be counted. Of course, Democrats are upset and promise post-election chaos.

As good and prepared as the USPS may be, do not trust voting by mail unless you must, due to travel, or medical reasons. How about scores of "drop boxes" being installed, often subsidized by nonprofit organizations? At least federal law protects USPS mailboxes. Who regulates and monitors these privately-subsidized drop boxes? How will they enforce laws against "ballot harvesting" (collecting and depositing mail-in ballots on behalf of many people) at such boxes?

Some so-called election experts and the media claim, reflexively, that voter fraud is not "widespread." That's because they're not looking. Ballot fraud is hard to catch and harder to prosecute. But it does happen. The Heritage Foundation has chronicled over 1,200 cases of voter fraud in recent years across the United States. And they call that a "sampling."

And for the record, primary elections in WI and MA, among other states, demonstrate that there is no evidence of COVID spread from voting in person.

If you do not vote, there is a chance your vote could be cast by others. It happens. Why do you think hundreds of people who've been dead since 2004 are still voting in places like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago? The opportunities to cheat are enormous. In all, there are nearly 350,000 deceased persons still on voter rolls in 42 states and thousands of them have voted, according to this new study.

Even though one of our sons is registered in Colorado, he's still showing up (and receiving mail) as registered in PA (PA's fault for failing to follow Sec. 8 of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act). I could literally show up and vote for him if I wanted to cheat. For the record, I will NOT do that.

It reminds me of something the late, great Governor of New Jersey, Brendan Byrne, once said. "When I die, I want to be buried in Hudson County, so I can remain active in politics." This is not a new phenomenon.

Vote in person, no matter your party or preference. Please.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Interview with Dr. Robert Mather

 Dr. Robert Mather reached out to me following a recent appearance of mine on the Chris Stigall podcast. He was kind enough to ask for an interview for his own blog, TheConservativeSocialPsychologist.com. Turns out we have some common Oklahoma heritage, which I always appreciate.

I've linked and pasted the interview below, for those who may be interested. I discuss the Senate's role going forward to fill the vacancy left the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I've tried to gently correct a misspelling or mild grammatical error (all my fault).

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Kelly Johnston, 28th Secretary of the United States Senate

Kelly Johnston was the 28th Secretary of the United States Senate, and the second youngest ever selected (1995-1996) to the position. He was born in Edmond, OK and attended the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Early in his career he served as a newspaper reporter and editor in Oklahoma. He held a number of notable Republican administrative positions during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. He gives insightful political commentary at his website (www.againstthegrain.expert/). I had the opportunity to interview him. Here is our discussion.


RM: What was your role as Secretary of the United States Senate? What should citizens know about how that body of government truly operates in governing in our interests?

KJ: The Secretary of the Senate is the chief legislative, financial, and administrative officer of the Senate. The Secretary is considered the "senior" officer, one of five, confirmed by the Senate, and the only one who is sworn in on the floor of the Senate, in session. The other officers are the Sergeant at Arms, the Secretary for the Majority, the Secretary for the Minority, and the Chaplain. The Secretary is responsible for the legislative process - the Parliamentarian, the Bill and Journal Clerks, the document room, historical office, chief counsel for employment, and more offices (some 19 in all) that fall under his/her jurisdiction. The current Secretary is Julie Adams. Most notable is the first Secretary, Samuel Otis, who still holds the record for the longest tenure in the office - 25 years. A visit to Congress Hall in Philadelphia, next to Independence Hall, features Otis's office just off the grand Senate floor. It is worth a visit for anyone living in or visiting the Philadelphia area.

Not to be overlooked is the role of the chief financial officer of the Senate, and also his/her responsibility for the Senate Office of Security. The Secretary is responsible for the handling of confidential and classified information in the Senate.


RM: Your role in the Senate came while your Majority Leader was running for President. What was Bob Dole like as both a politician and as a man?

KJ: Bob Dole was not only a serious and very hard-working legislator, but he also enjoyed enormous bipartisan respect and demonstrated a unique ability to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats, especially on agricultural and hunger issues (he, with Sen. George McGovern, are the architects of much of our nation's nutrition programs). His remarkable WWII experience, where he was seriously wounded in Italy as part of the 10th Mountain infantry division, shaped and influenced him in many ways - especially his long road to recovery and painful disabilities that have hindered him physically but not deterred him. Because of that, along with his considerable legislative and political skills, he inspired a great many of us.

Interestingly, he was considered an "ardent conservative" when first elected to the House and then the Senate but was considered a "moderate" as his career progressed. Dole could sometimes appear dour and even bit negative on the stump, but behind the scenes, he demonstrated a terrific and quick sense of humor and was fun to be around. He could have been a great stand-up comic (and, often was) Sadly, that reality never really emerged until after his 1996 election defeat. He was one of the most successful Majority Leaders in the Senate's history.


RM: You spent time as a local news reporter and editor in Oklahoma for many years. How has local and national journalism changed over the past 50 years?

KJ: I was a part-time newspaper reporter during my college years (1974-1976) for the Chickasha Daily Express, also serving briefly as the editor of my campus newspaper, The Trend (University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma). Little did I know, but I was auditioning for a job as The Donrey Media Group's state capitol correspondent when I was assigned, in 1976, to cover a campaign visit to Lawton by President Gerald Ford. I won the job, working from our flagship paper, the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise. I would later be promoted as Editor of the Henryetta Free-Lance, then a daily newspaper (sadly no longer). I left the news business for a political campaign in late 1978, then on to Washington, DC. 

I mention all that to provide a frame of reference for my answer: I no longer recognize my former profession. I was trained, both in college and my first jobs, to pursue objective truth and clearly delineate between journalism and editorializing. My news coverage focused on facts and context; I save the editorializing for my weekly column or clearly-marked editorials. I used visuals (photos) as often as possible.

The keywords here are "objective truth," which tragically have been replaced by "narrative." In our post-modern world of subjective truth ("your truth," "my truth,"), so many journalists no longer pursue objective truth but instead focus on their preferred narrative. Major news outlets color or distort their headlines and stories to favor certain narratives over others, and demand conformity from their newsroom and editorial colleagues (so much for "diversity"). And with the advent of social media since around 2008, traditional media have opted to monetize division and focus on niche markets, such as conservatives (FOX) or liberals (CNN). Print media has largely gone all-in for their leftist audiences. However, let me make an exception for "local media," which I find does a much better job at retaining their "objective truth" roots. I have canceled my subscriptions to most major national media, such as the Washington Post and New York Times, and instead turn to the Tulsa World, Daily Oklahoman, Chicago Tribune, and even the Myrtle Beach Sun-Times, among others. I also ignore most of the wire services (especially AP), although Reuters and, to a lesser extent, Bloomberg, retain some objectivity (not always).

This is why, I think, you are beginning to see explosive growth in independent journalism, such as The Epoch Times, "Just The News," and Sharyl Attkisson's "Full Measure" News. Chicago's WGN TV is now going national. People are yearning for objective journalism, I think smarter heads in the media are taking advantage of this opportunity. There is hope.


RM: I have had the chance to spend time with former Governor George Nigh, who was governor during your time covering the Oklahoma State Capitol as a reporter. Despite having different political views than me, Governor Nigh is extraordinarily entertaining. What were some of the central issues from your time covering Oklahoma politics during the oil bust? Was Governor Nigh effective in working in a bipartisan manner?

KJ: I love Governor Nigh. I first met him when I had a one-on-one interview in 1977 early in my days as a wet-behind-the-ears state capitol news correspondent for Donrey's 12 newspapers in Oklahoma, and Nigh was Lt. Gov., a position he would serve in for 16 years if memory serves. A gracious, approachable, positive, and gregarious person, he was always delightful. Nigh was an "old fashioned" Democrat; culturally and socially conservative, as Oklahoma was then and remains, but knew how to take care of Democratic constituencies and work with the business community. He hated polarizing politics, eschewed controversy, and always tried to find a common denominator. I remember voting for him every chance I had, and the newspapers I worked for always endorsed him.


RM: The United States Senate procedures will take center stage in the coming months after the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What do we need to know about the operations of the Senate to understand what is coming?

KJ: The Senate's role here is actually very straightforward, as outlined by the Constitution: The President is empowered to nominate to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court, and the Senate gets to decide whether to confirm or not, or even whether to consider the nomination. There is no law or "rule" that restricts when such nominations can be made or confirmed (during a two-year Congress). Any other considerations (whether to hold a confirmation vote before or after an election) are purely political.

There have been 29 Supreme Court vacancies in election years in our country's history. Presidents have nominated someone in every instance, and the Senate, on 17 occasions, have confirmed them. Sometimes they have rejected them, and most recently, in 2016, they chose not to act. The Senate follows historical precedent, except when it doesn't. Given that the Senate majority (at present) is of the same political party as the President, I fully expect a nomination to be made, and the Senate to act on it with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee and, possibly, a vote by the full Senate either before or after the election, during a planned "lame duck" session. Ultimately, it is about who has the votes. We will soon find out.

Friday, September 18, 2020

On the Passing of Notorios RBG - Her Record, and What Happens Next

I’m combining a couple of posts here: one on my very non-political tribute to the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, then a link to a podcast I just recorded with pal Chris Stigall, that also featured noted townhall.com columnist and podcaster/broadcaster Kurt Schlichter. 

Like many Americans, I mourn the loss and pay tribute to the life and accomplishments of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a few days, I will share thoughts on the Senate and politics going forward, but this is no time for that. 

I know many of you saw, as my wife and I did, “On the Basis of Sex,” the biopic on Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We may watch it again. So should you. It is a terrific movie.

Pondering her legacy, I revisited the story of the law case that made her famous, especially since she had no prior courtroom experience. While I loath Wikipedia, their description of her landmark case is worth repeating, below. It beats anything she did on the Supreme Court, where I find her legacy a bit less attractive. I’ll leave it at that.

Consider, she helped a man overcome a sexually discriminating tax case in the 10th Circuit (Colorado). Posted below:

“In 1970, Martin Ginsberg (Ruth’s husband) brings Moritz v. Commissioner, a tax law case, to Ruth's attention. Charles Moritz is a man from Denver who had to hire a nurse to help him care for his aging mother so he could continue to work. Moritz was denied a tax deduction for the nursing care because at the time Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code specifically limited the deduction to "a woman, a widower or divorcĂ©e, or a husband whose wife is incapacitated or institutionalized". 

“The court ruled that Moritz, a man who had never married, did not qualify for the deduction. Ruth sees in this case an opportunity to begin to challenge the many laws enacted over the years that assume that men will work to provide for the family, and women will stay home and take care of the husband and children. She believes that if she could set a precedent ruling that a man was unfairly discriminated against on the basis of sex, that precedent could be cited in cases challenging laws that discriminate against women—and she believes that an appellate court composed entirely of male judges would find it easier to identify with a male appellant.

“Ruth meets with Mel Wulf of the ACLU to try to enlist their help, but he turns her down. Ruth flies to Denver to meet with Moritz, who agrees to let the Ginsburgs and ACLU represent him pro bono after Ruth convinces him that millions of people could potentially benefit. After reading the draft of the brief, Dorothy Kenyon, who was cold to the idea at first, meets with Wulf in his office and convinces him to sign on. The Ginsburgs and Wulf file an appeal of Moritz's denial with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Department of Justice Attorney James H. Bozarth asks to be the lead counsel for the defense. He does a computer search to find all of the sections of the US Code that deal with gender. His defense will contend that, if section 214 is ruled unconstitutional, that will open the door to challenge all of America's gender-based laws. Ruth, having no courtroom experience, does poorly in a moot court, and Wulf convinces her to let Martin lead off arguing the tax law, with Ruth following up with equal protection arguments.”

She won. The rest, as they say, is history. RIP, RBG.

On a related note, my friend Chris Stigall is one of the most agile podcasters I know (and I know so many!). He is one of the nation’s top political podcasters and broadcasts live both on WNTP 990 (a Salem station) in Philly every weekday morning and, soon, his former station, KMCO (Cumulus), in his native Kansas City. 

He reached out tonight to include me along with the legendary Kurt Schlichter to discuss the ramifications of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing. I am reluctant to discuss the politics so soon after her passing (hours!) - bad manners - but since I’ve gone public, perhaps a few of you may find interesting my ruminating (some would say, ruminents) on the machinations that may be likely at work in the US Senate, where I have a little experience. I have no inside inside knowledge of the real “Game of Thrones” underway in the Senate as we speak. Speculative, on my part.

Enjoy at your leisure. And you really should subscribe to Chris’s podcast on iTunes. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Bad Week for a Fair Election in Pennsylvania

 This was a bad week for election law developments in the election "ground zero" Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. But we can't say we didn't see it coming.

First, the State Supreme Court, popularly elected in partisan elections and sporting a 5-2 Democratic majority, unilaterally rewrote state election law and dictated that mail-in ballots may be received 3 days after the election, so long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3rd, which of course is election day.

Second, they bought the arguments of establishment Democrats and struck the Green Party's presidential nominee from the ballot. In 2016, Green Party nominee Jill Stein captured 49,000 votes; Trump won the state's electoral votes by a 44,000 vote margin. It is not hard to figure out why Democrats wanted to eliminate that choice for Pennsylvania's voters.
In and of themselves, none of these actions seem unreasonable. If the Green Party failed to meet ballot qualifications, they shouldn't be allowed on the ballot. Fair enough. And the signature issue may depend on whether counties simply put these ballots aside and give voters a chance to correct or defend their signatures, as many other states do. I'm fine with that.
But let me tell how you this might work. Just this week, we received a slick mailing at our home from the Republican Party. It was an absentee ballot application mailed to our youngest son, who hasn't lived or voted here for 4 years and is in fact registered in Colorado.
Other than the fact that I am an ethical person who wishes not to skirt the law, I can now forge Garrett's signature on the application, the subsequent ballot, and know that his ballot may not only be counted but can't be discarded without some contact with us to ensure that it is his ballot. That of course would not only be wrong, but illegal. We will not do it. But see how this works? Further, if counties are overwhelmed with mail ballots, are they equipped to contact voters, one by one, to allow them to address the signature issue? Maybe in rural "red" counties, but probably not here in blue Delaware or Montgomery Counties.
The Republican state chairman, Lawrence Tabas, reported recently that he received not one but three ballots, mailed to his Philadelphia home when applying for an absentee ballot. Philadelphia, of course, is a very blue city. Pennsylvania's voter rolls are a mess, and quite possibly in violation of the National Voter Registration Act's Section 8 on maintaining voter roll integrity. No matter to the courts here in Pennsylvania.
As for the first issue - allowing ballots to be received 3 days AFTER the election, you can imagine how mail-in ballots will be tracked by both parties, via county courthouses, up to and through election day. Would you be surprised to learn of mail ballots that suddenly appear on Nov. 6th but lacked the postmark because of a postal "error?" You can hear the plaintiffs before the judge now: "these voters (?) should not be disenfranchised because of the mistakes of the US Postal Service." Expect Louis DeJoy's name to be evoked. You know it is coming. We will never know why these ballots were not postmarked - if, of course, they ever made it to the Postal Service (get my point?).
And, of course, what if the counties can't keep up with processing because of the overwhelming number of mail ballots? It happened during the June 2nd primary, where the Governor extended the deadline for receipt of the ballot to several more days after the election (again, assuming the postmark by election day.
Here's my bottom line. If Trump doesn't win Pennsylvania on election day by at least 100,000 votes, The Democrats will find a way to juice the vote by mail system to turn the tide - you know, the "Red Mirage" theory. That is why they want to delay counting mail ballots - to see how many they need. That is why they are placing, perhaps illegally, "drop boxes" that are unregulated, compared to USPS boxes, which are protected by federal law. That is why they don't want to have ballots inconvenienced by voting officials checking to make sure signatures are verified. They know what they're doing. They've done it before.
Fortunately, Trump doesn't need Pennsylvania to win the Electoral College, but that would give him no margin for error elsewhere.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What’s Really Going On With the Bob Woodward - Donald Trump “Interview” (Hint: Book Sales)

 My friend, Chris Stigall, a popular conservative radio host and podcaster here in Philadelphia, posted another of his excellent Townhall.com columns today on the latest broadside against President Trump. You know, the claim that Trump killed people by downplaying coronavirus. That’s what nutty media and their gullible consumers are saying. 

Thing is, I know Bob Woodward. Not well, nor is he a “friend.” But we’ve had interactions that I suspect he might remember (at least one). After all, I’m in one of his books.

Like a lot of other (most) communications and journalism students in the mid-1970’s, I was enamored with “Woodstein” journalism that helped bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon. In part, it inspired me to pursue a career in journalism after I graduated college in 1976, which I did for a couple of years with the Donrey Media Group in my native Oklahoma. I had been editor of my college newspaper, the USAO “Trend.” I worked part-time for the local newspaper, the Chickasha Daily Express, and upon graduation at the tender age of 20, found myself at the flagship newspaper in Bartlesville, OK, where I was both a local reporter and state capitol correspondent for all of Donrey’s 12 (mostly small) newspapers in the state. I finished my career with a stint as managing editor of the Henryetta Free-Lance, before jumping into politics.

Scroll forward about 10 years, when I’m now in Washington, DC, working for the National Republican Congressional Committee. He wrote something, somewhere, that I found incorrect, or out of context (I can’t remember, sadly). I wrote him a letter to express my dissatisfaction. He actually wrote back with a hand-written note, no less. “You deserve a response,” he started the note. That really impressed me (this is obviously before email). Somewhere, I think I still have that letter. 

Scroll forward another 10 years. I’m just departed from my favorite position ever, Secretary of the US Senate. Bob publishes another one of his biennial books, in 1996, titled “The Choice.” He chronicles, in his usual detail, the 1996 Dole vs. Clinton presidential campaign from that year. I found myself mentioned - basically, how I got my job as Secretary. It was entirely accurate. I suspect my friend Scott Reed, who had been Dole’s campaign manager, was Woodward’s source. I was never contacted, but no matter, all good. I consider it an accomplishment to have made it into a Woodward tome. I should add it to my resume.

You’ll find me on page 171

Scroll forward another 15 years or so. I’m on the board of the Canadian American Business Council, and I’m invited with a few others to brief him for an upcoming speech in Vancouver on US-Canadian politics and relations. He impressed. Woodward is a master at making people feel comfortable and extracting the most candor and information from his “subjects.” He is the master interviewer and journalist, even now at age 77. Formidable and impressive.

That’s a long way of saying that I have no problem with Woodward’s interview with President Trump. I have no problem with Trump agreeing to be interviewed by Woodward. And, most importantly, I have no problem, nor do I see any real news value, in the allegedly “bombshell” report that Trump sought to “downplay” the coronavirus as it invaded our country, courtesy of China’s Communist government. 

First, I commend Woodward for releasing the audio transcript of the interview. It puts things in context, which so much of the “blue check” leftist media doesn’t provide. And, sadly, some of my friends here took the media bait. Thus are these times, when the real pandemic is Trump Derangement Syndrome. The last thing a President should is create a panic (or a Vice President, as Joe Biden did back in 2009 when the H1N1 virus emerged. The Obama White House was forced to do damage control when Biden encouraged people not to travel on airplanes, and more. I’ll post a link to that story a bit later). 

But here’s my point. We see this pattern every two years. Woodward writes a book. He is published by Simon & Schuster, a highly successful publisher. They want to pump book sales. What better way than to leak salacious tidbits, often out of context, to garner clicks and reads courtesy of gullible or malevolent media (in this case, the Washington Post, but not exclusively), especially right before an election? I couldn’t have planned it better myself. Just read attorney John O’Connor’s book, “Postgate,” on the details of “Deep Throat” and ex-FBI deputy director, the late Mark Felt’s “coming out” (O’Connor was Felt’s attorney). Detailed and very revealing. Woodward aggressively protects and promotes his interests. Most successful people (and corporations) do.

When we finally read Woodward’s book, “Rage,” (and I’ve read nearly all his books, including his most recent, “Fear”), you can bet that it will leave a different perception, with nuance and context missing from the blue-check Twitter media. 

I think even Bob Woodward would agree, in spite of his new wokeness.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Senator Ben Sasse is Right - It’s Time to Repeal the 17th Amendment

 U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, running for reelection and a Ph.D. historian, has proposed something I’ve been supporting for awhile now - repealing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment, which provided for the direct election of US Senators, was one of several “progressive era” Constitutional amendments, adopted in short order, a bit more than 100 years ago. Most people, I’ve discovered, have no idea that Senators where once chosen not by popular election, but by state legislatures.

The 16th Amendment instituted the income tax. The 18th Amendment instituted the prohibition of alcohol. Big winners there, all three (the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th, so there’s that). As for his other suggestions in his Wall Street Journal article, I’ll pass on them for now (not a fan of ending standing committees, and broadcasting proceedings, despite its flaws, is welcome transparency). 

I get why Congress and most states adopted the 17th Amendment. Previously, Article I of the Constitution provided that state legislatures chose US Senators. But the inability of state legislatures to agree on a Senator created a constant vacancies, as documented by the Senate’s Historical Office here

“(The framers) expected that senators elected by state legislatures would be freed from pressures of public opinion and therefore better able to concentrate on legislative business and serve the needs of each state. In essence, senators would serve as “states’ ambassadors” to the federal government. Unfortunately, problems with this system soon arose, particularly when state legislators failed to agree on a Senate candidate, causing frequent Senate vacancies. By 1826 proposals for direct election of senators began appearing, but it took reformers nearly a century to achieve this constitutional change.”

How has that worked out? The states picked some pretty good Senators prior to the 17th Amendment. Daniel Webster (R-NH); Henry Clay (Whig, KY); Charles Sumner (R-MA); Steven Douglas (D-IL); and future President Andrew Johnson (D-TN), among other famous (and now infamous) Senators. 

And people would still campaign for the job. Remember the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate? Their electorate was the Illinois State Legislature as Douglas’s 6 year term came to end, and he sought reelection. The selection of Senators was, frequently, very public business. 

The problems leading to vacancies should be able to be fixed with state legislation proscribing how Senators are chosen. State legislatures (and legislators) are not what they used to be. Legislatures with split partisan control would be a problem, but that can fixed by having a Senator from each major party (or, an independent). 

The advantages would mostly center around restoring the role of the states in the governance of our nation. As Ronald Reagan famously stated in his 1981 inaugural address, the states created the federal government, not the other way around. So much state authority and responsibility has seriously eroded over time, as we’ve seen with the near neutering of the 9th and 10th Amendments (although they’ve certainly found their footing during the coronavirus epidemic, often excessively).  And Senators would not need to spend all their time fundraising for multi-million dollar political campaigns. They could actually, you know, have more time to do their real job. 

Of course, none of this going to happen soon, and you can bet Democrats will oppose it since 60% (or, 59) of the state legislative chambers are controlled by Republicans. Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is non-partisan. 

But let the debate begin. We all have a lot to learn and repair, because the Senate is truly dysfunctional, and with the inevitable termination of the filibuster in future years, it will have truly lost its organizational purpose.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Learn History By Visiting Local/County/State Parks - Especially in Pennsylvania

 The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, one of the original 13 colonies, has its shortcomings and challenges. But one of its greatest attributes is its wonderful series of township, county and state parks. They are remarkably abundant where we live here in southeastern PA, both in Delaware and Chester Counties (and I know that Montgomery and Bucks County are equally blessed), despite being a heavily populated area. 

Over this wonderful Labor Day weekend, my much better half and I explored two parks we’ve never visited. The Willows, a Radnor Township park about 5 miles from our house, and ChesLen Preserve, a 1,200 acre privately owned but publicly accessible (no entrance fee, as they charge for nearly EVERYTHING in Delaware) in western Chester County (between Marshalton and Longwood Gardens, for those who know the area). 

The Willows is a fantastic park. The first photos below come from that great facility. We found ourselves lost and wandered through a couple of beautiful neighborhoods in a tony section of the Main Line (St. Davids), and had to make our way past an old bridge under reconstruction along Darby Creek. But worth it.

ChesLen is interesting. Not as enjoyable, since it is mostly a corn, soybean, and hay farm adjacent to the West Branch of the Brandywine River, kind of like walking through Iowa (with more hills), but nonetheless a treasure of the area. We chose not to visit the “Stargazing Stone” used by the a couple of gentlemen named Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (you know, The Line) to do boundary work. So much history. And it was the site of a “poorhouse” for indigent children and adults, when it was established in 1798, which signaled a massive improvement over the way these people were treated - and previously abused - by society. There’s a “potters field” where many of them were buried, “known only to God.” 

I was surprised to discover that this land was used by the owners of the legendary King Ranch in southern Texas to fatten up short-horn cross breeds on the lush fields of the area. 

And after 18 years here, we have many more parks yet to explore. And I marvel at the life-time residents of this area (which are legion) who are blissfully unaware of, and have never visited, these beautiful and historic jems. So much we should learn from history, and it’s easily accessible. 

I only regret that more of our friends haven’t made our way here to explore this region with us. There’s not much like this in overcrowded and overdeveloped northern Virginia.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Does President Trump Really Want His Supporters to Vote Twice?

 The usual suspects are outraged over the President’s off-the-cuff suggestion in North Carolina this week that “vote by mail” voters also show up at their polling place on Election Day to make sure their vote is actually counted.

Of course, the usual suspects are yelling (literally) that Trump is encouraging people to “vote twice,” which of course is illegal.

Here’s what this poorly researched and written story misses, especially here in PA. But chances are your state’s law is relatively similar (unless you’re in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada or another genuinely “vote by mail” state, where you cannot “vote in person”).

I have voted absentee here in PA all but twice in my now 18 years of residency. After all, I have been out of the state on Election Day every time, either in NJ, and a few times in Canada or Washington, DC. 

So I know the process very well. I mail my application (now available easily on line, but both major parties do a nice job of sending absentee ballot applications, and I’ve already received one from the Pennsylvania GOP). A couple of weeks before the election, the ballot arrives (it now arrives much earlier, thanks to recent changes in the law), with all kinds of instructions, the envelope into which I place my ballot, and the other, larger envelope into which I stuff my envelope-containing ballot. I sign the outside of the envelope so the local officials can compare my signature with the one on file (an integrity procedure that many Democrats in PA are trying to get rid of. I can only imagine why). 

The instructions state this very clearly (I paraphrase): even if you vote by absentee, you must vote in person if you are able, on Election Day. That law/requirement has not changed. That’s because here, mail-in ballots are returned to your precinct. If you show up on Election Day after voting by mail - as I did once - they immediately pull your ballot and destroy it (no, I wasn’t trying to vote twice).

It has been long-standing policy, at least here in PA, to strongly encourage voting in person. And it makes sense. Now, of course, our Democratic governor and his sycophants in the legislature are pushing to begin counting mail ballots several days before Election Day, and permit ballots to arrive several days after the election. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this invites mistakes if not fraud (voting twice, etc.).

The biggest reason for voting on Election Day is, of course, ensuring the integrity of your ballot. Ballots are lost in the mail (about 1.5% every election) and several hundred thousand primary ballots just this year have been rejected, usually by voters who fail to follow instructions (such as failing to place the ballot in the “secret” envelope, making illegal marks on the ballot, or failing to sign the outside mailing envelope where required). Another reason: how many times have last minute issues - like October debates - changed your awareness and perhaps your vote? I realize few if any votes will be changed this election, but do you really want to foreclose that opportunity, given how fast moving and developing these issues arise?

So, I have soured on voting by mail, at least in this election. Again, the issue isn’t necessarily the US Postal Service (based on Federal Election Assistance Administration data, some 28 million ballots have been lost “in the mail” nationally in the past four federal elections), but poorly maintained voter rolls by states, including PA, NJ and many others, who probably haven’t fully complied with Sec. 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 on voter roll maintenance. In addition, as we saw in PA during our primary election on June 5th, local election boards are easily overwhelmed and may not be prepared for a deluge of mail ballots. Do you really want to take that chance?

After all, aren’t most of you working from home these days?


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Confession of a Mail-In Vote Fraudster (Not Me). It Happens. Learn How and Vote In Person.

 The debate over voter fraud, or the potential for it from increasing reliance on "vote by mail" (where you're mailed a ballot you didn't ask for) and "absentee ballots" (where you requested a ballot to be mailed to your home, work, or elsewhere), is highly relevant for the Nov. 3rd election.

A couple of reasons for that. First, several Democratic governors, especially in New Jersey and Nevada, have instituted "vote by mail" systems, despite the potentially dubious condition of voter rolls in those (and other) states. I am not aware that New Jersey has invested much, if anything, to clean up its voter rolls, very much unlike states who have long employed vote by mail systems (such as Colorado, Washington, and Oregon).
But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand how many things can go "wrong" with your mail-in ballot once you place it in your mailbox. If your ballot even makes it to your mailbox. After all, in California, "ballot harvesting" is perfectly legal. That's where someone, usually a paid political organizer, offers to pick up and deliver your ballot. Democrats used this to capture 5-6 previously GOP held congressional seats in 2018. Fortunately, it is illegal in over 40 states and should be.
And having worked in some 35 US House and Senate campaigns in 25 states over 25 years, I've seen evidence of voter fraud, especially in Texas and Louisiana, from congressional and Senate elections in the 1980s. All of my friends who have campaign experience (often more than me) can share stories.
But don't rely on our anecdotes or the Heritage Foundation's superb website that documents well north of 1,000 confirmed cases of voter fraud. Just read this amazing story in the New York Post from a couple of days ago that documents the myriad of ways an unnamed Democratic consultant, apparently from New Jersey but who has employed his "tactics" in New York and Pennsylvania, how local and even state elections can be influenced, even stolen, by several fraudulent means.
This post, largely ignored by most of the media is a bit long, but if you care about the integrity of our elections, the sanctity of your ballot, and are deciding whether to vote by mail or in person, you should educate yourself. I've heard of most, but not all of these schemes. Even I learned a thing or two that I was not aware of.
Know this: If the election is within 1,000 votes or so, and the more local the better, the election can and may be stolen. This post explains how. I've seen it done in states like Minnesota (Coleman v. Franken), Indiana (McIntyre v. McCloskey), and in a special election that I worked in Texas First Congressional District in 1985 (Hargett v. Chapman). And you should ask a few of my friends who worked the Bush v. Gore Florida recount in 2000 about some of their experiences. I wasn't there, so I won't share them here. But, wow.
My Democratic friends (if I still have any) dismiss accusations of voter fraud, and besides, Republicans do it, too! (very rare, but true), But GOP sleaze is usually limited to forging signatures on nominating petitions or bribing postal officials to delay sending out Democratic candidate mailings until after the election (yes, I'm aware of the NC 9th District shenanigans in 2018 involving a sleazy bipartisan consultant in one county. Justice was served).
They say there's "no evidence," and certainly not enough to influence an election. The fact is that voter fraud is very hard to catch and even harder to prosecute. Trust me: it happens more than you know. Just ask yourself why so many people continue to vote beyond the grave in places like Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and even Denver. Why do you think the late Governor of New Jersey, Democrat Brendan Byrne, once said that when he died, he joked that he wanted to be buried in Hudson County so he could remain active in politics?
If it is close, Democrats have an obvious strategy. Keeping counting until they win. Change the recount rules if you must; focus on counting absentee ballots from Democratic areas where voters made mistakes with their submissions but focus on "voter intent" and demand they not be disenfranchised for their mistakes (funny how it seems only Democratic absentee voters make such mistakes).
If it is not close, they can't steal it.