Thursday, October 20, 2016

Carbon County votes matter

I’m guessing that Donald Trump will win Carbon County.  The county fits the demographic of Trump supporters–older, whiter, not many college grads.  Although the support for Clinton is climbing rapidly, I’m still predicting a Trump win.

Nonetheless, the Clinton campaign is working hard to turn out Clinton voters in Carbon.  Why?  Because the race is a state-wide race.  Every Clinton vote the campaign nets in Carbon County is added to the statewide total.

At the same time Clinton is not campaigning much in Massachusetts or Alabama.  Why not?  As of today, she will win Massachusetts and lose Alabama.  It doesn’t matter if she increases her vote total in Massachusetts or in Alabama because the electoral college operates on a state-by-state basis.  

This means candidates only campaign in the “battleground states” like Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Florida.  Suppose, however, we elected presidents by popular vote.  If Clinton received more votes in Alabama or Massachusetts, those votes would be added to the national total.  

Every vote in every state would count.  Elections would become truly nationwide.  No voter would feel left out.

Tomorrow:  Some problems with a nationwide presidential vote.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Doyle Heffley and Act 13

Act 13, the Oil and Gas Act, contained a provision that physicians were not allowed to disclose “trade secret” chemicals to patients who had exposure to fracking fluids.  Act 13 also said that if a spill occurred at a gas drilling site, only public water supply owners had to be notified.  Private well owners did not need to be told.  Act 13 also said that eminent domain could be used to take private land for gas storage.

Last month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out these portions of Act 13.  

I wonder what Rep. Heffley thought about this court decision.  After all, he voted for Act 13.  Maybe I’ll ask him tomorrow night at the Makhija-Heffley debate at Penn’s Peak, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The beginning of agriculture

Archeologists have uncovered a 10,000 year-old village in Jordan, where people lived in stone houses, made sculptures, and buried their dead.  Inhabitants of the village, named Ain Ghazal, raised barley, wheat, chickpeas, and lentils.  Some villagers were gone for months at a time herding goats and sheep.  

The Near East seems to have been the cradle of agriculture.  Using DNA analysis, scientists have learned that people from India to Ireland have ancestors from that area.  

We are still not sure if agriculture began just one time, or if various groups independently invented it.  One thing on which the geneticists and archeologists agree is that agricultural knowledge crossed the Bosporus about 8000 years ago, and then spread across Europe, where hunter-gatherers had existed for about 30,000 years.

I am amazed at what we can learn.  I am also amazed that it took us about 10,000 years to completely screw up our planet, and some of us aren’t even aware of that fact.

If you want to read the whole article on this topic, it is in today’s New York Times.  See Carl Zimmer, “The First Farmers,” p. D1, D6, in the Science Section.  Here’s the link:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rigged election

Trump’s right.  It’s rigged.

It is gerrymandered.  In Pennsylvania the Democratic congressional candidates will receive far more votes than the Republican candidates, but they will probably net fewer than half the congressional seats.  This is one of the main reasons the Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives.  Republican state legislators have gerrymandering down to a science.

It is money-based.  Trump does not have as much money as he claims, but he did have enough to fund his initial primary race.  PACs funnel enormous amounts to campaigns, the Koch brothers fund races down to the state legislative level, and political contributions affect all aspects of American politics, from the Pentagon to Rep. Heffley’s “opioid” bill.

It relies partially on voter suppression.  In state after state Republicans undertook efforts to depress turnout by Democrats, instituting onerous ID laws, an end to early voting, and requirements that American citizens must produce proof that they are citizens.  Courts have recently overturned a number of these voter suppression laws, but Republicans are not giving up.  

It is a state by state election.  In 2000 Gore had a million and a half more votes than Bush, but Bush won the electoral college.  If Trump wins, it won’t be because he has the most popular votes, but because he won the most Electoral College votes.  

Yeah, it’s rigged.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yard signs

Almost any professional campaign consultant will tell you that yard signs are not important.  People steal them, direct mail and television are far more effective, and, the ultimate mantra is, “yard signs don’t vote.”

They do get stolen.  In a two-mile stretch of Pohopoco Drive, we had five Clinton yard signs.  On Friday night three of them were stolen, including one from my front yard.  The two that weren’t were far off the road.  

Nonetheless, as a campaign worker in the trenches, I can tell you that campaign consultants are wrong about yard signs.  They are important for two reasons.

The first is that volunteers want them.  It is a way to show public support for a candidate that is impossible in any other way.  If the signs aren’t provided, the supporters feel ignored.

The second reason is that it makes supporters feel good.  I think one of the reasons Trump is as popular as he is in Carbon County is because everywhere you drive, you see his signs.  A friend of ours who came down from Long Island to campaign for Clinton said , “This must really be Trump country.”  She based that on the number of yard signs.  The Clinton campaign has provided almost none; the Trump campaign was already passing out free signs at the Carbon County Fair and the Redneck Festival.

Most of the few Clinton signs you see in Carbon were purchased by the county party, not provided by the Clinton campaign.  The one you saw at Forest Inn that read:  “Trump, make America grope again,” was a homemade one that lasted only about a day before someone stole it.

When the campaigns do not provide signs (and yes, I’m also talking to the McGinty campaign), supporters feel like they are being ignored, which they are.  So, to all the consultants out there:  Signs don’t vote, but people do, and the people would really like some yard signs.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lehighton Halloween Parade

I marched in the Lehighton Halloween Parade today.  Our contingent had a very large wooden donkey on a pickup truck with along with signs for the Democratic candidates.  We had six marchers, including Ron and Lois, who came down from Long Island to campaign for Clinton.  I walked behind the truck holding a Clinton/Kaine sign.  

I was expecting a lot of nasty comments, but I got far more cheers, thumbs up, and applause than I did boos and catcalls.  I have a feeling that a lot of women along that route, once they get into the voting booth, are going to vote for Clinton, even if their husbands are Trump supporters.  After all, in the booth, no one can see how you vote.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pennsylvania lags behind

There’s a headline that could be used for so many posts–on public infrastructure, ease of obtaining absentee ballots, reform of property tax, quality of the state legislators, quality of secondary education, etc., etc., etc.

In August the New York Times ran a map of where the action was in government reform.  The article looked at current “vote reform efforts,” a relevant topic with our presidential election less than a month away.

The article listed four types of reform.  The list included lawsuits against gerrymandering on racial or partisan grounds, gerrymander reform efforts, a push to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens’ United ruling, and ballot initiatives on clean money.  South Dakota was listed for three of the four.

Pennsylvania was not listed for any of the reform efforts.  On the other hand, neither were Mississippi, New Jersey, South Carolina, or West Virginia, if that makes you feel any better.