Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My grandmother, the "dreamer"

It was the late Spring of 1892 and my paternal grandmother celebrated her first birthday on a ship crossing the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Her parents left their native Poland to seek a new life in America.  My grandmother was a "dreamer."

One hundred and twenty-five years later, President Donald Trump has told "dreamers" that they are no longer welcome in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  (Dreamers are individuals in the U.S. who were brought to the country at an early age without documentation but have assimilated to U.S. culture and have been educated by U.S. school systems.)


President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June of 2012 after Congress failed to act,  but President Trump has decided to end DACA, ..... maybe.   DACA provided for administrative relief from deportation. It protects eligible immigrant youths who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants: 1) protection from deportation and 2) a work permit.

As of the1930 census, thirty-eight years after my grandmother's ocean journey, she was still not a citizen of the United States, but she became a productive member of US society until her death at the age of 92.  I have yet to find any documentation that she ever became a US citizen, although I believe she did sometime after 1930.

From the day the first settlers sailed up the James River and founded Jamestown in 1607, we have been a country of immigrants. Over the past 400 years, we have seen waves of immigrants seek the dreams of a new life in this great country.

Waves of immigration

The first wave was in the late 18th Century and early 19th.  These immigrants came primarily from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany.  The second wave of immigrants came from the 1820s to the 1860s.  These immigrants also came from European countries, primarily Germany, England, and Ireland.  The third wave from 1880 to 1914 were primarily from Eastern European countries, although the Western states saw a flood of immigrants from Asian countries.  The fourth wave, beginning in 1965 and continuing to present day is primarily from Hispanic countries and Asian countries.

The vast majority of these new immigrants became productive members of our melting pot of a society.  There are those who can only point to the bad acts of a very small minority of immigrants as one of their rationales on severely restricting immigration.  To the contrary of the sometimes hyperbolic rhetoric of the anti-immigration folks,  most major studies have shown a negative correlation between the percentage of non-documented immigrant population and crime rates.

Perhaps the wisdom of songwriter George Jackson provides some simple wisdom to the flawed argument of anti-immigrant enthusiasts.  "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch."

Huddled masses

The United States, at least a majority,  have lived up to the words of the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  

Unfortunately, a sometimes vocal majority have believed and still believe that those immortal words only applied to them and not to those who came after.  They believe and believed the "golden door" should be slammed shut to prevent the "huddled masses" from over running "their" country.  Few beliefs fly more directly into the face of the beliefs that make our country the last refuge of those "yearning to breathe free."

DACA exemplifies the beliefs that make our country what it is.  It is consistent with the beliefs that allowed our nation to flourish and become one of the greatest nations the world has ever seen.  It helped create a country that is the freest society in the world.  It has not been an easy road, because some vocal minorities have thrown roadblocks in the way.

The Know Nothings

Our history is rife with anti-immigrant sentiment, but a particular example from the 19th Century may help us with the way forward.  In the late 1840s and early1850s, a political movement started known as the "Native American" party or just the "American" party, but most commonly know as the "Know Nothing" party.  (The nickname "Know Nothing" party came about because members of the "American Party" would claim to "know nothing" when asked about their political activities.

The Know Nothings were alarmed by an influx of immigration from Europe.  Many of the new immigrants were Roman Catholics, and this did not sit well with the predominant Protestant population.  The party reached its peak in the 1856 election when former President Millard Fillmore garnered 21.5 percent of the national Presidential vote as the standard bearer of the Know Nothing Party.  He ran on a nativist/anti-immigrant platform.

In 1855, a little known Illinois politician and future President Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend:

"I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

Fortunately for us all, the thoughts of Lincoln won the day, and have won the day for most of the 162 years that have passed since Lincoln wrote to his friend Joshua Speed.  Those same thoughts won the day when my grandmother, the dreamer, came to this country, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

We can only hope that the modern day Know Nothings join their 19th Century Know Nothings on the ash heap of history.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mayor Jim Haggerty announces for Magistrate

Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty

Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty today announced that he is a candidate for election to the office of District Judge in court 11-1-05, which serves Kingston and Edwardsville. This seat became vacant upon the retirement earlier this year of District Judge Paul Roberts, who served with distinction for twenty-nine years.
“I look forward to bringing my two decades of community involvement as mayor to the office of District Judge, along with my nearly twenty-seven years of legal experience,” said Haggerty. “I believe that my experience, qualifications, education, and background make me the best-qualified candidate to serve the citizens of Kingston and Edwardsville in this important position.”
Haggerty has served as Mayor of Kingston since 1998, having been elected to five consecutive terms. At a time when local municipalities have struggled with failing budgets and massive tax increases, Haggerty has guided Kingston to financial success with an investment grade double A level Standard and Poor’s credit rating, a lower earned income tax, obtaining over $11.5 million in grants, and fully funding all municipal pension plans. He has also successfully led important community investments and improvements including a $2.5 million reconstruction of the Hoyt Library, design and construction of the $3.4 million central fire station, a $1.5 million upgrade to the Kingston Pool, and over $7.5 million in street improvements. Kingston has also been designated a Tree City USA for twenty consecutive years.
“I have done my best to serve with integrity, a steady hand, and a respect for all of our citizens,” said Haggerty. “I will bring these same important qualities to the position of District Judge.”
Haggerty is a 1983 graduate of Wyoming Valley West, ranking first in his class of 435 students. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) on a U.S. Army ROTC scholarship, graduating with a B.S. in Management Science in 1987. He was awarded his law degree, with distinction, from Georgetown Law School in 1990.
Haggerty has been in the private practice of law for nearly twenty-seven years, the last twenty-two years with his office in Kingston. His practice focuses on helping hard-working families in Luzerne County navigate the legal system. “Although I am a hometown attorney, I have appeared before over fifty magistrates and over forty Common Pleas judges. I have appeared in state and federal courts in over twenty-five counties in four states, and I have handled almost every sort of matter a lawyer can handle. I know how an effective judge runs an effective courtroom, and I will use that knowledge for the benefit of the citizens of Kingston and Edwardsville.”
Haggerty grew up in Kingston, the son of the late James and Judy Haggerty. He later served as a Lieutenant and tank platoon leader in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. He was a First Honor Graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, KY. He is also a graduate of the Airborne Course at Fort Bragg, NC.

“My military experience taught me the importance of preparation, determination, and teamwork. And after getting pushed out of a moving airplane five times by a Green Beret jumpmaster, I am definitely prepared for any challenge.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Alternative Facts

Brooklyn Bridge courtesy of Wikipedia
President Trump says three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 Presidential election.  This explains his 2.8 million vote loss of the popular vote, and now he's launching a "major investigation" into voter fraud.  For those of you who believe this "major investigation" will bear fruit, Buzz is getting out his deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.  He picked it up cheap a few years ago, and he says he's willing to sell it at a loss.

After raising this issue in a tweet late last year, the President, on his own accord, repeated this allegation when meeting with Congressional leaders on Monday.  Perhaps the President misspoke on Monday, so we all waited for the Baghdad Bob of the administration to set us straight at his Tuesday Press Briefing.

Here's what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

“The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he’s stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign,” Spicer said. “He continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.”

When pressed further, Spicer cited some studies which have been thoroughly debunked.  According to, one of the studies cited (Old Dominion University) has even been debunked by its authors, who said their "extrapolation to specific state-level or district-level election outcomes is fraught with substantial uncertainty." 

Now, this morning, the President has announced he will continue "tilting at windmills" with a "major investigation" into voter fraud.

Perhaps the President bases his conclusion on those "alternative facts" to which Kellyanne Conway referred to on Sunday's "Meet the Press."  

This is a major problem.  The late New York Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."  If we cannot agree on the facts, we cannot engage in any useful discussion.

Many supporters of the President will believe almost anything he says, and this is unfortunate.  The tall tales of his campaign are proof of this.  The problem arises when everyone else, including some members of his own party, question the President's veracity.

Senator Lyndsey Graham (R-SC)  said.  "To continue to suggest that the 2016 election was conducted in a fashion that millions of people voted illegally undermines faith in our democracy,  It's not coming from a candidate for the office, it's coming from the man who holds the office. So I am begging the president, share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it."

Some will dismiss Senator Graham as not a true believer in the Trump Revolution, but you cannot dismiss everyone who criticizes you because eventually you will alienate many people you need.  The Republicans only have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, so Trump can't afford to lose but a few Republican Senators.

Facts DO matter.  They are not debatable.  White is white.  Black is black.  Up is up and down is down.  It is the duty and obligation of a free press to call "bullshit" when the President or any elected figure plays fast and loose with the facts.  It is also the duty and obligation of Republicans to call the President out when he uses "alternative facts," even if those alternative facts further the party line.

Let's hope that the next four years is not a 24/7 "Bullshit" call.  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bright Shiny Objects

Courtesy of
Buzz has a cat named Mnuchin, pronounced Munchkin, like the little characters from the Wizard of Oz, but spelled like Donald Trump's new Secretary of Treasury nominee, Steve Mnuchin.  

When Buzz is not crunching numbers on the Univac 3000, he's playing with Mnuchin, either using his red laser pointer or using some other bright shiny object to get Mnuchin to run around the room chasing the distraction.

While Buzz was getting Mnuchin to climb the walls, it reminded me how Trump has played the press and the American public with "bright shiny objects."  Whenever the press cycle has moved away from him, or more importantly, has moved to scrutinize one of his many questionable statements or positions, Trump gets out his laser pointer -- an off-the-wall tweet.

Conflicts of Interest

The perfect example is when the New York Times published a lengthy article about Trump's plethora of business interests throughout the world, many of which raise troubling conflicts of interest with being President.

The Times reported, among other things, as we all know, Trump has repeatedly said he is under audit from the Internal Revenue Service.   The IRS will be under direct supervision of the Trump administration.  The Trump International Hotel has a contract with the General Services Administration, whose operation again will be under the direct supervision of the Trump Administration.  Deutsche Bank is in negotiations with the Attorney General's office over mortgage abuses, which may result in a $14 billion penalty. Trump owes millions of dollars to Deutsche Bank.  The list goes on and on.

Richard Nixon on the law

Trump initially responded to the conflicts by taking a page from the book of Richard Nixon stating basically "when the President does it, that means it is not illegal."  He has since told us that he will hold a news conference sometime in mid-December with his children, where he will address the issue, but not before he tweeted about flag burning.

Flag Burning

"Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do there must be consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail," Trump tweeted.

Despite the fact that the issue of criminal punishment for flag burning was settled by the United States Supreme Court in 1989 (Texas v. Johnson) and in the subsequent failed attempt to pass a Constitutional amendment, the question is still a third rail issue.  The Supreme Court decision, joined by conservatives the late Justice Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, held that flag burning was constitutionally protected free speech, and the proposed Constitutional Amendment didn't make it out of Congress.

For the next day or so, no one was talking about the conflicts of interest.  The buzz was over Trump's flag burning tweet.

In fact Buzz just received an email from the American Legion reviving the Constitutional Amendment prohibiting flag burning.  As of the time of posting, 83 percent supported an amendment in the American Legion survey.

So the bright shiny object worked again.  The conflict of interest story was pushed to the back burner.  This wasn't the first time we chased Trump's bright shiny object, and Buzz and I are afraid it won't be the last.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Trump Mandate

Courtesy of

The results of the 2016 Presidential Election came as a surprise to many of us, Buzz and I included, but does President-Elect Donald Trump have a mandate.  We asked Buzz to run some numbers to start.

Presidents who lost the popular vote, but won the Presidency

John Quincy Adams -- 1824

There is no record of the popular vote prior to the election of 1824, but what a year to start counting.  In the election of 1824, there was only one major political party --- the Democratic-Republican Party.  The Federalist Party of George Washington was by now on the ash heap of history.

There were no primaries and no conventions, so four Democratic-Republican candidates appeared on the ballot.  Here are the results:

Andrew Jackson               99 EV        153,544 votes
John Quincy Adams         84 EV         108,740 votes
William H. Crawford         41 EV           40,856 votes
Henry Clay                       37 EV          47,531 votes

Since none of the candidates received a majority of the electoral votes, the election of the President was thrown into the House of Representatives, of which Henry Clay was the Speaker.  The Twelfth Amendment provides that the House of Representatives will select the President among the top three candidates in electoral votes.  Each state gets one vote.

When the election was held in the House, Adams won 13 states, Jackson won 7, and Crawford won 4, thus Adams was elected.  In what would become known as the "corrupt bargain," Clay threw his support behind Adams.  In return, Clay was appointed to the stepping stone office of Secretary of State by Adams.  (Adams, James Monroe, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson all held the position prior to being elected President.)

Rutherford B. Hayes -- 1876

In an election that ended Reconstruction in the South, Samuel J. Tilden, the Governor of New York received 4,288,546 votes or 50.9 percent. Ohio Governor and former Union Civil War General Rutherford B. Hayes received 4,034,311 or 47.9 percent.  Tilden thus became the only person ever to receive a majority of the popular vote and lose the Presidency.

The electoral count stood at 165 votes for Hayes and 184 votes for Tilden, one shy of a majority.  20 electoral votes were contested from four states.  Congress created a fifteen member electoral commission, which ultimately voted 8 to 7 to award all twenty contested electoral votes to Hayes.  Hayes was elected the 19th President.

Benjamin Harrison -- 1888

Twelve years later, Benjamin Harrison defeated incumbent President Gover Cleveland, 233 EV to 168 EV, but Cleveland won 5,534,488 votes (48.6 percent) to Harrison's 5,433,892 votes (47.8 percent.)  Cleveland would avenge his loss four years later, and thus become the only person to serve two non-consecutive terms as President.

George W. Bush --  2000

The election of 2000 came down to, in the words of the late Tim Russert, "Florida, Florida, Florida."  The election of the "hanging chad" was eventually decided by 537 votes in Florida when the United States Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, with no precedential effect, stopped a Florida recount.  George W. Bush defeated Vice President Al Gore 271 to 266 EVs.  (One elector from Washington, D.C. abstained.)

Gore received 50,999,897 popular votes (48.4 percent) to Bush's 50,456.002 popular votes (47.9 percent.)  Bush went on to be re-elected by a majority popular and EV in 2004 over Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in 2004.

Donald Trump -- 2016

Donald Trump will now be the fifth person elected President without winning the popular vote.  Currently, he is losing the popular vote somewhere in the neighborhood of 61.5 million (46.7 percent) to Hillary Clinton's 62.8 million (47.7 percent.)  He currently leads the EV count 290 to 232, with Michigan's 16 electoral votes probably going to Trump.  There are still a few million votes yet to be counted, primarily in California.

So when all is said and done, it looks as though Trump will end up with a little over 46 percent of the vote.

Mandate or no?

Bill Clinton

Former Senator Bob Dole (the Senate Republican leader at the time said ,  "(h)e didn't get a majority," Mr. Dole said in an interview shortly after the 1992 Presidential election. "The country obviously didn't want Bush, but they weren't ready for Perot and they had plenty of doubts about Clinton. They want change. Well, we want to be responsible and deliver change, whatever that means, but we're skeptical, so we'll wait and see."

Clinton did receive a majority of the EVs, 370 to 168, but only received a purality of the popular vote.  Clinton defeated incumbent George H. W. Bush 43 percent to 37 percent in a three way race.  Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote.  

Clinton came to office as a new centrist Democrat, and attempted some liberal policies (Hillarycare, among them,) but got quite a wake up call in 1994, when the GOP picked up 54 seats in the House and 8 seats in the Senate, to gain a 35 seat and a 4 seat majority in the House and Senate, respectively.  Clinton suffered through a GOP Congressional majority for the rest of his Presidency.

Clinton pivoted, and much to the dismay of many liberals, governed from a center left position.  He changed the welfare system as we knew it, signed the Defense of Marriage Act, and also signed the 1994 crime bill, among other not so liberal legislation.  Clinton realized that the "mandate" he received in 1992 wasn't that much of a mandate.

George W. Bush

George W. Bush began to reach across the aisle after being sworn in as the 43rd President in 2001, No Child Left Behind education reform among the bi-partisan measures he steered through Congress.  Much of that changed after 9/11, when the country forgot about the 2000 election and turned their eyes to national security.  

In 2005, after his defeat of Kerry, Bush was unable to use his "political capital" to radically reform Social Security.  So even when you win a majority of the popular vote, moving the Washington establishment is not an easy task.

Trump's mandate

So can Trump turn a 46 percent popular vote pluraity, albeit a clear electoral majority, into a mandate?  Considering, the election of 2016 is only nine days away, and he has not even named one cabinet member, it is too early to tell.

Republicans in Congress have waited eight long years to reverse the Obama revolution, and remember it is much easy to be the loyal opposition than it is to govern.  It is also important to remember that the GOP is not a singular force.  Where the GOP had a common enemy in the Democrats and Obama, they may not be all on the same page with Obama gone and the Democrats in the minority in both Houses of Congress.

We have already begun to see some cracks in the wall, no pun intended.  Republicans, Trump included, have been chanting "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act  (Obamacare) since its adoption in 2010, but the "replace" component is anybody's guess.  Trump said multiple times during the campaign that he would "repeal and replace (Obamacare) with something terrific."

Buzz and I are all for "terrific," but your opinion of "terrific" and our opinion of "terrific" may be quite different.  We think "terrific" should include free deep muscle massages from a talented masseuse with every colonoscopy, but including that in a replacement law might be problematic.

Obamacare has some very popular provisions.  People like that fact that insurance companies can't throw you into an expensive high-risk pool for having a pre-existing condition or deny coverage all together, and that children can remain on their parents' insurance policy until they're 26.  They are also very happy with the subsidies which make health insurance much more affordable.

Trump has never really specified what really "terrific" means, although he has said that he supports "single payer" in the past.  As far as the Republicans in Congress, they run the gamut from repealing and replacing it with nothing to some type of modifications that involve unspecified "free market" solutions.  When there's a pig in the parlor, burning down the house to rid yourself of the pig is rarely the best solution.

We also see problems pursuing policies that would include building a "wall" and making "Mexico pay for it," appointing a special prosecutor to "lock up" Hillary Clinton, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, and "bomb and take oil from ISIS."  They may just be campaign hyperbole, but this subtlety may be lost on a lot of people who voted for Trump.

A good portion of the American electorate has voted for change, but there are a million different definitions of what that change encompasses.  

One of the major dilemmas of running a campaign that is rich on platitudes and short on substance is that platitudes are hard to convert into actual policy and legislation.  Make America Great Again may be a great slogan to put on a hat, but it's difficult to translate that into legislation, especially when it means something different to almost everyone who hears it.

Buzz and I will wait and see.  We will withhold judgment for the moment, but we will also be waiting for our free massages.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Make America Great Again

The philosopher William Martin Joel once said, "the good ole days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."  Now that Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States, Buzz and I have been pondering to what era in American history Trump believes we should aim to return.

Many conservatives are fond of the good old days, so let's take a look back at eras to which we can return to make America great again.

The early days of the Republic.

At the time of the adoption of the Consitution in the late 1780s and early 1790s, political and civil rights weren't that great.  Only White property owning males could vote.  So if you were a woman or you didn't own property or were not white, voting to elect your leaders on federal, state, or local levels was not an option.  

In 1798, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts.  Among other things, these laws  allowed the President to imprison and deport non-citizens who were deemed dangerous or who were from a hostile nation.  It also criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government.

The Antebellum Era

Prior to the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery or involuntary servitude, 3.9 million African Americans were slaves, and thus didn't have the rights given to the rest of us.  American Indians, the "Americans" who greeted all of us when we got off the boat, weren't granted American citizenship until 1924.

The upcoming Industrial Age was dawning, so the rudimentary labor laws, like an eight hour work day, were still decades away.  The Food and Drug Administration, which started regulating the food we eat and the conditions under which it was processed didn't come into existence until 1906.

The Roaring 20s

A lot of people look back to the 1920s as the good ole days, but things weren't that good.  Women did get the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, but there was virtually no safety net, and Wall Street investors specialized in unregulated insider trading. The social safety, with Social Security, unemployment insurance, among other programs were a decade away.

If you wanted a beer or a scotch or even a glass of wine, forget it.  The temperance advocates had amended the Constitution in 1919 to prohibit the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of intoxicating beverages.  It wasn't until 1933 that the "noble experiment" ended with the passage of the 21st Amendment.

The "Happy Days" of the 1950s

Many people harken back to those idyllic times of the Cunningham family and the Eisenhower Era of the 1950s as a time when America was great.  Well, again, if you weren't a White American, forget about equal rights in the South and many American cities.

The South began adopting Jim Crow laws beginning in the 1870s.  African Americans were second class citizens.  They had their own segregated and inferior schools, they were forced ride in the back of buses, they had their own water fountains, and were excluded from even being customers at many businesses.  Violent crimes by Whites against African Americans were rarely prosecuted, and even when they were, the result was an acquittal by an all White jury.

Even in the North and the rest of the country, restrictive covenants in real estate deeds prohibited the sale of real property to African Americans, Jews, and many other minority groups.  Chicago, New York, Boston and other Northern cities still had laws and policies that discriminated against minorities.

We were also engaged in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and since the Soviets developed the atomic bomb in 1949, the threat of nuclear war was an everyday fear.  Elementary school students practicing get under their desks in Atomic attack drills.

The Sixties

Changes in laws in the 1960s greatly expanded individuals rights, and the safety net expanded, but we lived through some horrific events.

Our older citizens finally got government healthcare in the form of Medicare, so they actually could enjoy their golden years with better health.  The Supreme Court greatly expanded individual rights in the area of rights of the accused, free speech, voting rights, and personal freedom.  Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, along with a laundry list of social safety net programs.

We lost President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King to the bullets of assassins. We were engaged in a war which would claim the lives of almost 60,000 young Americans, most of whom were brought into the Vietnam conflict via the military draft.  Corporations continued to pollute the air, the land, and the entire environment, because the Environmental Protection Agency wasn't created until a few years into the Nixon administration.

The Reagan Years

Tax rates were actually higher during the Reagan years, especially for poorer Americans, than they are today.  We were still spending billions and billions of dollars on a massive defense build up to defeat the Soviet menace, and the administration was illegally selling arms to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.

LBGT rights were still twenty years away.  Whereas the Supreme Court cleared the way for interracial marriage in the 1960s, gays and lesbians would have to wait another couple of decades to marry the one they loved, or even visit them in a hospital or make medical decisions for their partners.

Buzz and I think America is pretty great right now, and looking back to a mythical bygone era of greatness is foolhardy.  We should not look back for a greater America, but should look forward to a better, and dare we say, even greater America.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

There's liberal, there's extreme liberal, then there's Allison Schwartz

Thank you Governor Tom Corbett for explaining the political spectrum to us and who sets tax rates in the Commonwealth.  We were not aware that if you keep going left on the political spectrum that you end up at Congresswoman Allison Schwartz.  We also were oblivious to the fact that Pennsylvania's Secretary of Revenue sets tax policy and rates and is responsible for job creation.

In a series of negative advertisements in Corbett's re-election campaign, Corbett has decided to play fancy and loose with the truth.  We sort of expect this with politicians, especially when it comes to negative advertising.

In a quote generally attributed to the late Senator Hiram Johnson (CA-1917-1945,) Johnson said the truth is the first casualty of war.  Buzz and I believe that the truth is the first casualty of negative advertising.

The comments about the Schwartz are obviously political hyperbole aimed at ginning up the conservative base.  Conservatives hate liberals, and the more liberal someone is the more reason to vote against them, give money, and tell all your friends that a real God-hating, high taxing, criminal coddling, over regulating, Obama loving socialist is out to destroy the country again.  The problem with the Tom Wolf characterizations are they are a little more than political hyperbole.  They are at the very least incredibly misleading, if not outright lies.

The realclearpolitics average has Tom Wolf leading the Democratic pack by about 27 points, at just under 40 percent, with Allison Schwartz a distant second, just over 10 percent.  The other two Democrats, Rob McCord, is in the high single digits, and Katie McGinty, is close to the margin of error.  Although the November match-up polling is a bit dated, Corbett is losing badly to all four Democrats in hypothetical match-ups.

We have to give Corbett credit.  Even though Schwartz has little chance of winning the primary, starting off his radio ad with the word "liberal" gets the conservative GOP base buzzing.  If you can, it's always good to start off your ads with something that's going to get the listener listening.

The radio ad then hits the other conservative hot button --- taxes.  Although the Department of Revenue's own web site states the department's purpose as  "The department’s mission is to fairly, efficiently and accurately administer the tax laws and other revenue programs of the commonwealth to fund necessary government services," that doesn't stop Corbett from implying that the Department of Revenue sets and lobbies for tax rates.

 "Our taxes went through the roof" when Wolf was the "state's top tax collector," says the ominous voice on the radio.  Not actually true.  No broad-based taxes were raised during Wolf's 18 months in office.

Corbett doesn't stop there.  He then explains that Tom Wolf, as Secretary of Revenue killed jobs in Pennsylvania with his "high" taxes.  Wolf was Secretary of Revenue from April, 2007 until November, 2008, a time when the national economy was in a free fall as a result of the collapse of the home mortgage industry. Corbett then takes credit for creating jobs (at least in the television ad) during his term in office, a time when the entire national economy began to climb out of the recession.

Politifact rates the ad Mostly False.  USA Today says this about the ad.  "Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett compares his record on taxes and jobs with that of Democratic challenger Tom Wolf in a new TV ad called "Toy Story." It should be called "Tall Story" for its multiple deceptions."

Can we expect more?  To quote Bachman Turner Overdrive, "You ain't seen nothing yet."