Saturday, July 12, 2014

America…Before They Were Republicans

Roger Williams, A Key Into the Language of America. Bedford, Ma.: Applewood Books. (originally published in 1643).

Roger Williams saw Native Americans (whom he called “Natives:) as either “rude or clownish”. Williams believes it was the English “desire to civilize them” He found natives as civil and courteous towards Americans. He wrote what he observed and interpreted about Natives in this book.

It is noted for Lyme, Ct. historians that Williams spoke about religion with Wequash. Wequash is credited as the first Native to convert to Christianity. Williams doubted the degree of the conversation. Wequash lived for part of his life and is buried in Lyme. Ct.

The following are the recorded observations Williams had of Natives:

The Natives found tobacco refreshing and reviving and also useful in curing toothaches.

Natives offered food to strangers. Williams found Natives often were more generous than were Christians.

Natives believed bad dreams were warnings from God. They responded to a bad dream with prayers.

Natives held a brother accountable for a brother’s debt, including murder, If a man murdered someone and fled, his brother could be executed.

Natives took care of fatherless children.

No Natives were beggars.

Natives kept their doors open day and night.

Natives were intelligent and quickly made correct decisions. Williams observed God  “hath not made them inferior to Europeans.”

Natives were capable of wartime treachery. There was a tale of a Native warrior who pretended to desert and then killed the enemy Chief Leader and Captain.

When attacked in war, a messenger would run to nearby settlements and seek assistance.

Williams found Natives as practical.

Natives would pray during droughts and continue praying until it rained.

 Natives had a “revered esteem” for squirrels:,

The Natives believed there is a God would rewarded hose “that diligently seek Him.” Natives believed that the British God created the English people and Earth and Heaven in English. They believed their God created them and their world. Natives believed the souls of murderers, thieves, and liars did not go to Heaven but would “wander restless.”

Natives were unfamiliar with the concept of working six day s and resting on the sabbath.

Natives governed with a monarchy. There were an elder Sachim and a younger Sachim. The elder would not be offended by the younger’s actions while the younger strove to never do anything to displease the elder.

The Sachims were absolute  monarchs. Yet they used gentle persuasion and would do nothing their people would consider adverse Punishments were beatings or executions.

The Natives allowed sex before marriage Marriage occurred upon parental consent and public acknowledgement. Adultery was not permitted. An adulterer would be beaten, something to death.

A husband would pay a dowry to the wife’s parents. If a husband was poor, neighbors would contribute to the dowry.

The Narrigansets usually had one wife per husband A second was sometimes permitted to increase wealth.

The Natives were unaware of the coinage system. They bartered with beads, shell fish, and furs, Many Natives believed the English cheated them when trading, The Natives were willing to take on debt.

The Natives were gamblers. They had dice games that would attract up to thousands. It was believes that holding a crystal-like stone called a Thunderbolt would induct God to help them win.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Republican Hugged a Tree, and He LIked It

Gifford Pinchot. The Use of National Forests. (Washington, D.C.): U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 1907.

Forest Reserves, later called National Forests, were created by Congress in 1891. President Benjamin Harrison, also in 1891, made Yellowstone the first Forest Reserve. Congress took this action to combat senseless cutting of trees, in order to better fight forest fires, and to improve forest timber management. Improper management would lead to decreased timber production.

Survey and field examinations help determine which lands should be designated as National Forests. There were (circa 1907) 195,000 acres of National Forests in the United States with another 5,000,000 acres in Alaska and Puerto Rico.

Housing growth was permitted in a National Forest when it was determined as suitable, A person who wished to build a home in a National Forest would apply to the Forest Service,

Mining and prospecting were allowed within National Forests, Claims and pattens were granted for mining yet not just as an excuse for cutting timber,

The small timber operation received special consideration within National Forests so they could could compete with larger companies, Over 90% of timber sales in 1906 from National Forests were for less than $500. 700 million of board feet were sold and 75 million of board feet were donated for free

There were (circa 1907) 1.5 million cattle and horses and 6 million of sheep on National Forests. A small grazing fee was charged.

County governments received 10% of National Forest timber sales receipts from timber taken within that county.

The National Forest Services gave local demand for timber first consideration

National Forests were also used for recreation and game purposes.

Rangers (circa 1907) were paid $900 to $1,500 annually. Guards, who assisted five patrol and construction work, earned $720 to $900 annually. 

It Is Said This Democrat Was the Best Republican Governor Pennsylvania Had

Ed Rendell. A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great. New York, N.Y : John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2012.

Ed Rendell began his political involvement putting up “Stevenson for Presient” signs when he was eight years old. He has grown to believe that government exists to serve the people.  He is upset by people who sees government “as the enemy”. That view he believes, is dividing the country and increasing hatred. What people should do is fight for effective government for, as Rendell notes, “you can’t be effective if you’re a wuss.”

Rendell worked as an Assistant District Attorney, rising to Chief of the Homicide Unit, under District Attorney Arlen Specter. Specter “made us believe that our office of 65 attorney and fewer than 200 people were the sole guardians who kept Philadelphia from falling through the gates of hell.” When Emmett Fitzpatrick defeated Specter, Fitzpatrick asked if Rendell would be willing to back away from his “hard line approach” and to use more plea bargains. Rendell refused and resigned, going into private practice.

Governor Milton Shapp asked Rendell to serve as Deputy Special Prosecutor under Bernie Segal to investigate political and police corruption. Fitzpatrick refused to investigate public wrongdoings. The legislature, some of whom where under investigation by this body, cut its funding.

Rendell ran against Fitzpatrick, He campaigned all day including campaigning at night in bars. Rendell had trouble raising funds. He borrowed $10000 for billboards around the city. He won the primary and then the election.

Rendell ran for Governor in 1986. He lost the Democratic Primary to Bob Casey by 56% to 44%. He admits that Casey “was the right man at the righ time and he went on to e a fine Governor.”

Rendell ran for Mayor in 1987 against incumbent W. Wilson Goode. He reflects that this was a “terrible decision” because “my heart wasn’t in it” and “Wilson Goode was a very decent man.” Goode defeated Rendell in the primary and won reelection.

Rendell ran for Mayor in 1991 and was elected.

As Mayor, he agreed to let Buzz Bissinger to be with him at every meeting while he wrote his book “A Prayer for the City”.

As Mayor, he cut waste, renegotiated lease agreements for less rent, closed two trash transfer stations, hired civilians in non-uniformed Police Department positions instead of using higher paid police officers, improved efficiencies and streamlines some government functions, oversaw insurance agreements and obtained lower costs, and improved technology services.

Few city employees were laid off. If jobs switched to a private contractor, he saw to it that city employees were hired. He gave preference to awarding contracts to unionized contractors.

As Mayor, Rendell improved tax collections, gaining $75 million in the first two years and $50 million afterwards by giving overdue tax files to collection agencies or attorney who then kept 18% of what they collected.

Rendell noted that in 1992 Philadelphia city government paid 56 cents in benefits for every dollar in salary compared to 24 cents of benefits for every dollar in salary in the private sector, He sought employee contributions towards their health care benefits.

Rendell was reelected Mayor in 1993 receiving 85% of the vote.

Rendell ran for Governor. He notes he was still a political outsider as 51 of Philadelphia’s 67 ward leaders supported Bob Casey, Jr. As Rendell is pro-choice and Casey is pro-life, he sent a letter with a voter registration change of party form to get proc-choice Republicans to switch to vote for him in the Democratic Primary. This helped him win the primary by 56% to 44% for Casey. Rendell then defeated Mike Fisher in the general election.

As Governor, Rendell sought to limit handgun purchases to one per month. The NRA lobbied hard to stop this.

Rendell increased programs for education including kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. This, though, led to a nine month budget deadlock with the Republican majority legislature yet he is glad he won many gains for children.

Governor Rendell increased investments in economic development and in infrastructure. He invested in green energy jobs, His programs helped move Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate to two percentage points below the national average.

When a federal regulatory commission ordered Philadelphia city government to build a water treatment plant to improve oxygen content for fish, Rendell observed that the fish were not dying He stated he “won’t comply and if the judge winds up putting me in jail for contempt I will end up being the mayor who went to jail for refusing to spend $125 million of his taxpayers money to build a third treatment plant to make fish more comfortable.” The plant was not built.

As Governor, he learned how to give and take with his Republican majority legislature. He achieved some of his education program goals while allowing Republicans to obtain an accountability bloc grant program they favored that gave local school districts more say in how they spent their funds.

Governor Rendell sought a $2.3 billion economic stimulus plan financed by bonds. Many Republican legislators, knowing tax exempt non-profits did not benefit from bond being tax exempt, urged that they receive upfront financing for construction improvements. Many Republicans legislators wanted to create a Commonwealth Financing Authority that could politicized some projects. Rendell opposed the authority yet knew if he did not accept the authority the entire package was dead. He knew when to fold and he agreed to a compromise that included the authority.

Rendell believes the nation needs to improve its infrastructure. It needs to do this before further deterioration escalates costs. American ports are falling behind ports in other countries. He seeks improving our freight rails to move freight off of congested roads and to reduce vehicular carbon dioxide emissions.

Rendelll views politicians who sign pledges not to raise taxes as not considering the consequences. He sees them as he real political “wusses”.

Rendell believes legislatures were “wusses” when they refused to back his play for a 2.5% surcharge on Blue Cross and Blue Shield health care plan premiums in order to pay for specialist physicians’ insurance premiums. He notes Blue Cross and Blue don’t pay state taxes. He believes legislators gave into special interest lobbyists. Forced to find revenues from someplace, the legislature enacted a 25 cent per pack tax on cigarettes.

The legislature also refused to add a $6 annual surcharge on electric bill to pay for alternative energy services. The Commonwealth thus had to pay,

Rendell believes government can create jobs by decreasing business taxes, workers’ compensation costs, and health care costs as well as creating predictable regulatory programs

Rendell states politicians who are “wusses” are those who don’t give credit to a rival, won’t admit a mistake, won’t answer media questions, are unable to disagree with their base voters, won’t debate, won’t stand behind their positions, won’t speak to protestors, often change positions just to win votes, distance themselves from troubled alies, take credit for something they didn’t did do or even did the opposite,

Rendell recommends allowed absentee voting at political party caucuses, electing the President by popular voe, and limiting he impact of issue advocacy groups,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Autobiography of a Senator Who Was Mostly Republican, Most of the Time

Arlen Specter with Charles Robbins. Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing as We Know It. New York, N.Y.: Thomas Dunne Books, 2012.

Arlen Specter was upset that “the rise of extremists---in both parties---replaced tolerance with purity test.”

Specter entered politics as a Democratic committeeman in Center City Philadelphia. He later became an Assistant District Attorney. He worked on prosecuting Teamsters officials. His convictions gained the attention of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Specter was offered and accepted the position of Assistant Counsel on the Presidential Commission investigating the assassination of President John Kennedy.

Specter was planning on running for State Senator. The Democratic ward leaders voted 3 to 2 for Louis Johanson instead. Johanson wold later be convicted in the Abscam scandal.

Specter prosecuted Magistrates, a part of the judiciary heavily that was heavily politicized. Specter then wanted to run for District Attorney. The Democratic City Chairman told him “We don’t want another Tom Dewey”, meaning that party officials wanted a District Attorney they could control.

Specter offered to run as a Republican. He insisted to Republican leaders that he would make no patronage promises. He ran while remaining a registered Democrat, which had some political advantages as Philadelphia’s registration was majority Democratic. Specter was endorsed by the Americans for Democratic Action.

Spectier believed the incumbent District Attorney Jim Crumlish was “failing to crack down on crime or corruption”. Crumblish ran his campaign with “Payola Palace regulars”, Specter declared.

The Republican leaders obtained financing for Specter’s campaign, raising $550,000. Specter defeated Crumlish 52.5% to 47.5%.

Specter then changed his registration to Republican despite urging from Sen. Joseph Clark that he remain a Democrat.

Of the 51 Assistant District Attorneys, Specter kept about a third, immediately fired about a third, and kept a third with transfers. He then recruited new Assistant District Attorney from top law firms. He hired on merit.

The Republican leaders asked Specter to run for Mayor in 1967. Incumbent James Tate had a 26% approval rating. A poll showed Specter was leading Tate by 70% to 30%. Specter ran for Mayor.

Tate has police raid taprooms owned by Democratic ward leaders to make them beholden to him in supporting him. Police Commissioner Edward Bell resigned in protest. Frank Rizzo became the new Police Commissioner.

Specter refused to promise to reappoint the popular Rizzo. He also refused to support state legislation for state aid to parochial school, stating it was unconstitutional. These stands lost him support. After the election, he would be proven correct when the U.S. Supreme Court declared state funds for parochial schools was unconstitutional.

Tate won by 11,000 votes out of 700,000 cast.

Specter won re-election as District Attorney in 1969 by 100,000 votes.

Specter agreed to be Chairman of the Pennsylvania Committee to Reelect Nixon. This would prove unpopular after the Watergate scandals. Specter believes this contributed to his loss for re-election as District Attorney in 1973 by 28,000 votes to F. Emmett Fitzpatrick.

Specter ran for Governor in 1978. He lost the primary to Dick Thornburg. He notes he was one of three candidates from southeastern Pennsylvania whereas Thornburg was the only candidate from western Pennsylvania, which helped Thornburg win.

Specter ran for Senator in 1980. The Republican State Committee supported its Chairman, Bud Haabestad. Specter won the primary with 36% of the vote to 33% for Haabestad. Specter won on to defeat former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty 50.5% to 48%.

In the U.S. Senate, Specter often worker in a bi-partisan manner. Specter observed that Senators then often crossed party lines to work together. He joined Sen. Ted Kennedy in fighting for hate crime legislation as they “are uniquely destructive”. He helped convince 17 other Republicans to support the bill’s passage.

In 1978, there was the election of numerous anti-government conservatives. When Republicans won a majority of the Senate in 1981, liberal Republicans were soon gone. Southern Democrats were replaced by conservative Republicans. Bipartisanship “vanished’, Specter noted.

In 1981, Sen. Mark Hatfield proudly described himself as a “liberal”. The was the last time Specter even herd a Republican Senator describes oneself as a liberal.

For 28 years, Specter shared weekly train rides with Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.

When Specter became Judiciary Committee Chairman, he worked with Ranking Minority Member Sen. Pat Leahy. He gave Leahy equal numbers of character witnesses on Supreme Court nominees, which was unusual. Usually these number were split two to one in favor of the majority party, Specter wrote that he strove for fairness.

Sen. Barack Obama approached Specter and asked him “If a Jewish kid from Kansas can carry Pennsylvania, how can a black kid from Kansas carry Pennsylvania?” Specter advised he campaign in small towns to impress voters. Obama did that in opposing Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania Primary\.

Dick Thornburg remained bitter from criticisms Specter made of him for supporting Haabestad. Thornburg ran against Specter for the 1992 Republican Senate nomination. A poll had Specter leading Thornburg 52% to 40%. Thornburg later withdrew from the race.

President Reagan stated he would not campaign for Specter if Specter would not vote for the MX missile. Specter refused. Specter did vote for the MX missile yet told Reagan not to raise any money for him. Specter defeated Rep. Bob Edgar for reelection by 56% to 43%.

Specter was concerned Reagan’s Star Wars plan. Reagan stated it would be shared with the Soviet Union so mutual assured destruction would exist. Specter advised Reagan that Congress would need to approve that. Reagan responded with a joke about condoms Specter wondered if Reagan then had early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Redistricting plans in states began making Congressional seats safer for incumbent in both parties. The political battles of ideology then moved more towards the primaries.

Specter in 1995 announced he was running for President the next year. He noted he had conservative views of the balanced budget, line item veto, and the death penalty. He was the only pro-choice on abortion candidate running for the Republican nomination. Howard Stern supported him. His campaign did not last long and he withdrew.

Specter ran for re-election in 1998. Attorney General Tom Corbett and State Sen. Melissa Hart considered challenging him for the Republican nomination. Both decided not to run. Specter easily defeated State Rep. Bill Lloyd in the general election, as Lloyd was unable to raise much money.

The abortion issue polarized the Senate, Specter believed. Democrats began supporting only pro-choice candidates. Republican began supporting only pro-life candidates.

Pat Toomey in 2002 challenged Specter for the Republican nomination. Toomey ran opposing earmarks, even for his own Congressional district. Toomey was essentially supported by the Club for Growth, the primary funder of Republican candidates other than the Republican Party. Club for Growth was also the nation’s fourth largest corporation in the 527 tax exempt status for issue advocacy groups that do not endorse candidates.

Dick Armey, who later became leader of the Tea Party, stated Toomey’s race was the beginning of the Tea Party.

Specter noted that Pat Toomey initially was elected to Congress in 1998 as a pro-choice candidate running against several pro-life candidates. Toomey later changed his position.

President Bush, Senator Rick Santorum, and the AFL-CIO supported Specter’s reelection. Specter spent $10 million on the race while Toomey spent $5 million Specer ran the primary with 50.8% to 49.2% for Toomey, or by 17,000 votes out of over one million votes cast. Specter went out to defeat Rep. Joe Hoeffel in the general election by 53% to 42%.

Specter believed the Senate Judiciary Committee should vote on judicial nominees within 30 days and the full Senate should vote within another 30 days.

Specter believed Supreme Court sessions should be televised, except for any cases where televising would violate due process.

Specter discovered that prosecutors, in their case against Sen. Ted Stevens, failed to meet requirements of turning over to the defense exculpatory evidence. Specter believed this was prosecutorial misconduct. Sen. Stevens died in a plane crash. The Justice Department later announced that the prosecutors had failed themselves.

Specter defended Democratic Rep, John Murtha. Murtha had been approached by Abscam operatives yet Murtha mentioned only transactions that were legal Murtha was not prosecuted. Some criticized Murtha’s involvement. Specter found Murtha “law abiding and ethical”.

Specter opposed a 2008 proposal for a $700 billion stimulus plan. He preferred the market decide. He also observed the Republicans offered no viable alternative to  Obama’s plan except for Sen. John McCain’s plan for $450 billion in tax cuts, which Specter supported.

Specter fought for increased funding of $10 billion for the National Institute of Health (NIH). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered to increase the NIH budget in return for voting for the stimulus plan. Specter replied “I’m not trading any votes. I never have, and I never will.”

Specter felt Reid unfairly blocked Republican amendments. He believe Democrats should have put up votes on the amendments. Instead, Republicans were forced to use filibusters.

Specter then worked on crafting a $780 billion stimulus program that reduced the then previous stimulus proposal by $110 billion. His proposal upped the tax cut to being 36% of the costs of the stimulus as opposed to the House version of tax cuts being 22% of costs. Former Sen. Santorum urged Specter not to vote for the package. Santorum warned that doing so would incite a challenger for the Republican nomination. Specter voted for the stimulus. Pat Toomey switched from running for Governor to running for the Senate.

Specter found the stimulus was effective. The auto industry rebounded. Banks repaid loans, some of them with interest. The economy slowly recovered.

Specter switched to being a Democrat. Specter had barely won the Republican Primary for U.S.  Senator in 2004. After that, an estimated 200,000 moderate Republicans in Pennsylvania switched their party registration to Democrat. Specter realized that was enough of voters prone to vote for him that these switches would prevent him from winning the Republican Primary in 2010. He joined them in switching to Democrat.

Specter entered the Democratic Primary with a double digit lead against Rep. Joe Sestak. Specter’s approval rating was 65% and his favorability rating was 56%. He was endorsed by the Democratic State Committee, AFL-CIO, and the Black Clergy.

Specter met with Senator Reid. Reid had previously written that Specter “is always with us when we don’t need him.” Specter asked to keep his seniority. Reid agreed. Specter noted this was the same commitment Reid had made when Sen Jim Jeffords switched from Republican to Democrat.

Specter opposed card check where a union obtaining a majority of employees signing a card supporting the union would require the employer and union into binding arbitration. Specter felt this violated the secret ballot.

Even though Specter had been labeled as organized labor’s biggest supporter in the Senate Republican Caucus, he was not as pro-labor as were other Democrats. Sester had a 96% lifetime voting record favoring AFL-CIO positions whereas Specter had a 61% lifetime rating. The AFL-CIO endorsed Specter yet did not campaign hard for him.

52% of the voters polled stated they did not know enough about Sesak to have a feel for him. Specter was the main issue in the primary. Sestak claimed the White House made an offer to him if he would withdraw. Specter pressed for Sestak to provide details yet he declined.

Sestak defeaed Specter in the primary, Toomey then defeated Sesak in the general election by 51% to 49%.

Specter believed “if activated and motivated to vote, mainstream American can steer the country to sensible centrism”.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Is There a Way We May Blame Obamacare for This?

Edna J. Carmean. The Blue Eyed Six. Lebanon, Pa,: Sowers Printing, 1981,

This book describes, including many details taken from court trial transcripts, of what was likely the first case of murder for insurance payments in U.S. history. It was also noted for being the first case with six first degree murder charges stemming from one indictment.

This case involved a type of life insurance known as assessory insurance or cooperative cooperative or was known as “graveyard” insurance. It was designed to insure that someone with little financial means would have the means for burial. A benevolent association was created. When an insured died, the association members who pay the person holding the insurance claim. There was no legal requirement that the association member pay a death benefit or an assessment and thus could leave the association at any time. When members left as association, other members often soon followed in also leaving. It was frequently that only those who received benefits early in the process who gained from holding such a policy.

Pennsylvania created its state Insurance Department in 1873. State law prohibited the Insurance Department from any control over “graveyard” insurance. All that was required was the assessment company had to obtain a state charter.

Insurance Commissioner J.M Forster was opposed to graveyard insurance. He declared “It is claimed that the system is analogous to the system of Mutual Fire Insurance which had been so successful in this state. There is no real resemblance between the two. The one is insurance against a remote and improbable event, the other is based upon an event certain to happen...In a mutual fire insurance company, the policy holder has the guarantee of premium notes, which can be converted into a lien upon real estate. In cooperative life insurance, the insured have no other guarantee than the said faith of an associates who may be unknown to each other.”

Forster tried to have the law changed so that cooperative “graveyard” insurance could be legally regulated. A law was passed in 1876 yet special interests reduced what Forser sought such that there was little practical oversight. The law only required that at least ten people be required to form such an association and that the association required the approval of the Attorney General and the Governor.

In 1878, there were 19 assessment life insurance companies in Pennsylvania. The Insurance Department noted they had poor bookkeeping records.

Israel Brant, Charlie Drews, George Zechman, Henry Wise, and Josiah Hummel took out graveyard insurance policies on Joe Raber. They were then accused of having him killed, with assistance from Franklin Stichler, order to collect the insurance money.

The trial attracted much media attention. As each defendant had blue eyes, they were labeled “the blue eye six.” A physician testified that Raber was found drowned with no violent marks on his body. He found no evidence that anyone drowned Raber. Joseph Peters claimed he saw Drews and Stichler drown Raber.

The defense argued that Peters was upset because Stichler had an affair with his wife. They further argued that Peters, an Army deserted, could not be trusted to tell the truth.

The six were convicted and sentenced to death. Zechman’s conviction was overturned on appeal. Some jurors stated they believed Zechman was guilty yet felt the death penalty for Zechman was too severe.

Drews and Stichler later confessed. Stichler’s confession, printed after his death, claimed all six as well as others were involved in the scheme. The five convicts were hung.