Tag Archives: California

Political Strategy Offered to Defeat ‘The Left’ in 2016

By Paul R. Hollrah

To be elected president or vice president of the United States requires a total of at least 270 votes in the Electoral College. Through the strategic spending of other people’s money, especially among minority populations in our major urban areas, Democrats have fashioned an electoral map that gives them a relatively firm base of 22 blue states with a combined total of 257 of the needed 270 electoral votes. Of the remaining 281 electoral votes, they only have to pick up 13 in order to elect a president and a vice president.

Editorial cartoon courtesy David Donar at http://politicalgraffiti.wordpress.com.

Editorial cartoon courtesy David Donar at http://politicalgraffiti.wordpress.com.

Republicans, on the other hand, have a firm base of 23 red states with a combined total of 191 electoral votes, leaving a total of six swing states… Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia… with a combined total of 90 electoral votes. In order for a Republican to win in 2016 and beyond, he/she must carry all 23 of the red states, plus at least five of the six swing states. They could afford to lose either Colorado’s nine electoral votes or Iowa’s six electoral votes, but not all 15. To lose both Colorado and Iowa, while carrying Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, would leave them with a total of just 266 electoral votes, four short of an electoral majority. It appears to be a nearly-insurmountable obstacle for Republicans, but is it?

With a bit of foresight and strategic planning, Republicans could do a great deal between now and November 2016 to mitigate the Democrats’ electoral advantage. In a December 2012 column, Real Electoral College Reform, I analyzed what would happen to the political balance of power in the United States if all 50 states were to adopt the Maine-Nebraska method for allocating electoral votes.

In the Electoral College, each of the 50 states are allotted two at-large electoral votes, one for each of their two U.S. senators, and one vote for each of the state’s congressional districts. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the winner of the popular vote in each state takes all of the state’s electoral votes. In Maine and Nebraska, however, the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote is allotted that state’s two at-large electoral votes, while the remainder of the electoral votes are allocated based on the winner of the popular vote within each of the state’s congressional districts.

If the Maine-Nebraska formula had been in effect in all 50 states in 2012, and assuming that the vote for the presidential candidates of each party would roughly approximate the votes for the congressional candidates of the respective parties in each congressional district, Obama would have lost 115 of his 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney in the 26 states, plus D.C., in which he won a majority of the popular vote. On the other hand, in the 24 red states carried by Romney-Ryan, they would have lost only 39 electoral votes to Obama-Biden.

The end result?  In 2012, instead of a 332 to 206 vote victory for Obama-Biden in the Electoral College, the Maine-Nebraska system would have produced a comfortable 282 to 256 vote victory for Romney-Ryan, an outcome that would have been far closer to expressing the will of the people than the present winner-take-all system.

To understand this phenomenon, one need only look at the county-by-county electoral map of the United States with the counties colored either red or blue. It is reflective of: a) the preference for Republican principles among a substantial majority of the people, and b) the overwhelming size of the vote for the Democratic “sugar daddy” in the inner city precincts. The electoral process is disproportionately skewed by the fact that, in the heavily-populated inner-city precincts, the vote is nearly always 95 percent to 110 percent for Democratic candidates, while in the suburbs and the rural areas the vote is nearly always within the 60-40 range, one party over the other.

If it is true that “all politics is local,” as the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill once remarked, then to replace the current winner-take-all system with the Maine-Nebraska electoral system would help to bring political decision-making much closer to the people because of the increased interest generated in local and congressional elections.

The Maine-Nebraska electoral system would deemphasize the key battleground states such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia and require candidates to campaign in all fifty states. As matters now stand, presidential candidates spend little time in states such as California, New York, Oklahoma and Texas because the outcome of presidential voting in those states is almost always a foregone conclusion. Had the Maine-Nebraska system been in place for the 2012 General Election, Obama would have found it necessary to defend the 15 votes that Romney could have won in California and the six votes he could have won in New York, while Romney could not have ignored the 12 electoral votes that Obama might have captured in Texas.

Liberals and Democrats are notorious for expressing appreciation for whatever they see as being most “democratic.” But is there a chance that Democrats in the bluest of blue states… such as California, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and Oregon… would agree to such a reform once they figured out that the Maine-Nebraska system would cause them to lose a significant number of electoral votes to Republicans, and that the Maine-Nebraska system would all but guarantee that no Democrat could be elected president or vice president for many years to come? Among liberals and Democrats, when it come to a choice between what is best for the country and what is best for their party, the country will always come out on the “short end of the stick.”

Image above represents voting for president by county in 2012 presidential election (i.e., Red = Romney, Blue = Obama).

Image above represents voting for president by county in 2012 presidential election (i.e., Red = Romney, Blue = Obama).

So, while we cannot expect to ever see an electoral system in which all 50 states utilize the Maine-Nebraska formula, is there something that can be done now to level the playing field a bit? The answer is yes, and it can easily be accomplished in advance of the 2016 General Election. Here’s what must be done:

At the present time, there are 11 states with a total of 139 electoral votes that were carried by Barack Obama in 2012 which now have Republican governors. Of those 11 states, the states of Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin now enjoy Republican majorities in both houses of their legislatures. What this means is that, if the governors and legislative leaders in those five states understood what could be accomplished, they would take immediate steps to repeal the winner-take-all electoral system and adopt the Maine-Nebraska system. With Republican majorities in both houses of their legislatures, Democrats would be powerless to stop them.

Even if Democrats should win the popular vote in each of those five states in 2016, as they did in 2012, the Maine-Nebraska formula would create a much different scenario than the winner-take-all system:  Instead of winning all 29 of Florida’s electoral votes, Democrats would win 12 and Republicans would win 17; instead of winning all 16 of Michigan’s electoral votes, Democrats would win seven votes and Republicans would win nine; instead of winning all six of Nevada’s electoral votes, Democrats would win three and Republicans would win three; instead of winning all 18 of Ohio’s electoral votes, Democrats would win six and Republicans would win 12; and instead of winning all 10 of Wisconsin’s electoral votes, Democrats would win five and Republicans would win five.

Applying these totals to the expected blue state and red state totals, the Democrats’ expected advantage would increase from 257 electoral votes to 258, while the Republican disadvantage would move from 191 electoral votes to 237. As matters now stand, Democrats have to take only 13 (14 percent) of the 90 swing state votes while Republicans have to take 79 (8 percent) in order to win the presidency. On the other hand, if Republicans in those five states were to adopt the Maine-Nebraska system in the current legislative sessions, Democrats would have to take 12 (28 percent) of the remaining 43 swing state votes to win, while Republicans would have to take 33 (76 percent) of the remaining 43. Taking 76 percent of 43 votes is easier than taking 88 percent of 90 votes.

But what if many of the low-information Obama voters in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin decide to stay home in November 2016, giving Republicans popular vote victories in all five states? After eight years of disastrous Obama-Biden-Clinton-style governance, it is a distinct possibility. Under that scenario, Republicans could put another 10 electoral votes in their column.  Democrats would have 248 electoral votes and Republicans 247 electoral votes before the 43 electoral votes of Colorado (9), Iowa (6), North Carolina (15) and Virginia (13) were won or lost. Democrats would have to win 22 (51 percent) of the remaining 43 swing state votes, while Republicans would have to win 23 (53 percent). The playing field would be substantially leveled.

However, in order to greatly increase their chances of victory, Republicans should not hesitate to target Minnesota, with 10 electoral votes; New Hampshire, with four electoral votes; New Mexico, with five electoral votes; and Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes… all winner-take-all states, and all states that Obama carried with less than 53 percent of the vote in 2012. After eight years of Obama-Biden, at least five percent of the good people in those four states should be anxious for a change.

In the meantime, those readers who live in the states of Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Michigan might wish to place copies of this analysis into the hands of their governors and their legislative leaders. With seven states utilizing the Maine-Nebraska system we may witness the  beginning of a trend as other blue states follow suit. The question is, do Republican leaders in Washington and in the state capitals have the political sense to recognize the advantage they enjoy? Given their past history, we know that they= are not always quick to act when political advantage falls into their laps.  t may be necessary to lean on them a bit.

Paul R. Hollrah is a resident of Oklahoma who writes from the perspective of a veteran conservative politico and retired corporate government relations executive whose life experience includes having served two terms as a member of the Electoral College. Even if you disagree with him, this piece will make you think long and hard.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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Bowling Green Pipeline Rupture Stirs Backyard Fears

EDITOR’S NOTE: After reading recent news about a ruptured natural gas pipeline forcing the evacuation of area residents near Bowling Green, Mo., I decided to share anew a story I wrote and published Sept. 13, 2010, about one Missouri family’s experience with underground pipelines running through their backyard. The family still lives in the home described in the story below, modified only slightly from the original version.

Markers are mandatory after passage of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

Markers are mandatory after passage of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

Though natural gas pipeline explosions like the one that leveled a neighborhood and left several people dead in San Bruno, Calif., Sept. 9, 2010, are rare, having petroleum product and natural gas pipelines running through her yard still makes Shelley Miller of St. Peters, Mo., nervous and scared.

“I started shaking from the inside out,” said Miller, then 47, describing how she felt upon watching initial news reports about the blast.  “The first thing I thought was, ‘That could be us.’”

When Miller says “us,” she’s not just talking about members of her immediate family.  Instead, she’s referring to more than 75 of her neighbors who have pipelines running through their properties in the sprawling Brookmount Estates subdivision in the St. Charles County community of 58,000 located a few miles west of St. Louis.

Miller and her husband Ray bought their modest three-bedroom home in the winter of 1993 and moved into it in January 1994.  At the time, they had one small child and no idea that any pipelines were running through their backyard.  It was during the fall of 1995 that they learned they had a fuel pipeline running a few feet below the surface of their backyard.

When Shelley Miller moved into her home in 1994, pipeline markers were not required.

When Shelley Miller moved into her home in 1994, pipeline markers were not required.

During an interview at her home less than 24 hours after the California blast, Miller recalled how she found out about the existence of that then-unmarked pipeline.

“We found out that Williams Brothers pipeline had a pipeline back here,” she said, explaining that the company had sent letters to owners of approximately 75 other homes in the subdivision to notify them that the company would be conducting tests of a 9.5-inch natural gas pipeline.  Soon after the testing, company workers put a marker on Miller’s fence to indicate the location of the pipeline — less than 25 feet from the rear wall of her home.

“But I didn’t think too much about it,” she said, adding, “It’s a residential neighborhood in a populated city.”

Her fears increased during the fall of 2003 after a man from Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., came to her home.

The man, Miller explained, asked if he could see her backyard to get an idea of where the trees were.  His company was going to be cutting down and/or trimming trees to make the easement more visible from the air for flyover-inspection purposes per guidelines of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.  That legislation stemmed, in part, from security concerns after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I brought him into the backyard, thinking that was the same pipeline company that I already knew was here,” Miller said.  Before the man’s visit ended, she learned Explorer owned a different pipeline in her yard, this one 24 inches in diameter and carrying gasoline, diesel and jet fuel at a flow rate of more than 14,000 gallons per minute at 825 psi.  Soon after the visit, she also learned she had two more pipelines — both owned by Conoco Oil Company — adjacent her yard that had been in the ground since 1931, bringing to four the total number of fuel pipelines behind her home.*

After receiving notices from Explorer about the tree-trimming efforts, neighbors along the pipeline begin to talk and ask each other questions, prompting Miller and a friend to go door to door to take the pulse of the neighborhood.  In July 2004, they began airing their concerns during meetings of the City of St. Peters Board of Aldermen.  And they got results.

“They did take action and listen,” Miller said, noting that board members made some moves to improve the safety of the pipelines in the city.  For instance:

• One new ordnance stipulates a minimum 25-feet barrier be maintained between newly-constructed housing and existing gas and/or hazardous liquid pipelines;

• A second ordnance requires the city be notified of any excavation near fuel or hazardous liquids pipelines; and

• A third requires disclosures be made in connection with real estate transactions involving property located along such pipelines.

While the board members’ actions have done much to assist future and prospective homeowners along the pipeline and throughout the city, Miller thinks more needs to be done to help people who purchased property near the pipelines in the past without being informed about the pipeline’s existence.  After all, it was the actions of city officials in 1971 that lead to the current situation, according to Miller.

Miller has collected stacks of documents while educating herself on the pipeline issue.

Miller has collected stacks of documents while educating herself on the pipeline issue.

“In 1971, Charlie Adams was a big developer in St. Charles County,” Miller explained.  “It turns out that Charlie Adams was not only the developer, but Charlie Adams was also the chairman of St. Peters’ planning and zoning (commission) at the time.”  Though city records fail to reflect any formal approval of the Brookmount Estates development plan by members of the commission after it was presented for consideration Nov. 10, 1971, the fact that the subdivision stands today indicates the plan received no less than tacit approval of the city.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that documents obtained by Miller show Adams, through his company R.G.S. Construction, also signed a right-of-way agreement with Explorer Aug. 6, 1971, nearly three months before the commission meeting.**  That agreement made it possible for Explorer to run the pipeline through the subdivision before homes were built there.

Though Miller doesn’t think any laws were violated when development plans for Brookmount Estates made it through the city’s planning and zoning commission, she said she believes bad moral decisions were made and that city officials should right the wrong that happened almost 40 years ago.

“Their predecessors were responsible and, just as a president assumes the previous president’s mess,” she said, “the city aldermen do the same.”

Asked what she would like to see happen in St. Peters in the wake of the California disaster, Miller didn’t mince words.

“I would like to see every homeowner walking into that city hall together and saying, “This is your mistake, you allowed this to happen, you permitted it to happen and, after having seen what happened (in San Bruno), we don’t want any part of it.  We want out.”

Miller points to a spot on a map where four pipelines converge in St. Charles County, Mo.

Miller points to a spot on a map where four pipelines converge in St. Charles County, Mo.

Miller noted that she’s aware of at least three other subdivisions in St. Peters are dissected by pipelines.  According to the National Pipeline Mapping System, at least a dozen pipeline companies operate in St. Charles County, and many of those pipelines carry product from the Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Ill., 40 miles to St. Peters and points west.  That means the issue of pipeline safety isn’t limited to St. Peters, and it isn’t going to go away soon.

Editor’s Notes: *Originally installed to carry crude oil, gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, the 9.5-inch natural gas line in Miller’s backyard is no longer owned by Williams Brothers.  Now, it is owned by Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, Inc., of Owensboro, Ky.  **I attempted to locate Adams for comment.  Along the way, I was told by more than one source — but could not confirm — that he had passed away.  According to the Missouri Secretary of State’s web site, his company ceased operations in 1983.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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Believed Innocent, Man Could Leave Prison After 36 Years

Imagine the prospect of being released from prison after spending 36 years behind bars for a crime you did not commit. Sixty-nine-year-old Michael Hanline might get to find out what that feels like next week.

According to news reports like this one, the Ventura (Calif.) County District Attorney’s office announced Tuesday that new evidence had resulted in a judge overturning the conviction — highlighted in the California Innocence Project video above — that had sent Hanline to prison in 1980 after he was found guilty of first-degree murder in J.T. McGarry’s 1978 death.

In this article (below), CIP offers more details of events related to Hanline’s case:

On October 22, 2010, after a lengthy evidentiary hearing and complete review of all of the evidence in the case, United States District Court Magistrate Judge Andrew Wistrich issued a report in Michael’s case, recommending that his conviction be overturned. Judge Wistrich emphasized how the prosecution, investigators, and Robertson had colluded to violate Michael’s constitutional right to have exculpatory information turned over to the defense. Judge Wistrich wrote, “The prosecution was so successful in violating the trial court’s orders and its constitutional obligation that by the time the exculpatory evidence came to light – nearly three decades later – many of the important witnesses had died or disappeared . . . Permitting the prosecutor to engage in this sort of gamesmanship with impunity signals that the constitutional rules established in Brady and its progeny are merely ‘pretend rules’ that need not be taken seriously.”

Collusion between investigators and prosecution attorneys? Violating a defendant’s Constitutional rights? The wrongs alleged to have taken place during Hanline’s case appear strikingly similar to those that took place during the court-martial of Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart during three days in August 2009.

Once an elite Green Beret and highly-decorated combat veteran, Stewart sees no light at the end of his tunnel and finds himself living under a cloud today, branded as a sex offender for life after being convicted on sexual assault-related charges and sentenced to eight years behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He lives under a cloud as the result of being falsely accused by a then-28-year-old German woman who, according to testimony given by her friends during a post-trial hearing, lied several times while on the witness stand during Stewart’s court-martial.

To learn more about Stewart and why this man who served his country with honor should have never been prosecuted or convicted, order and read Three Days In August.

To provide financial assistance to Stewart and his family, click on the “DONATE” button at SaveThisSoldier.com, a website built and managed by Stewart’s dad, himself retired after more than 30 years of service in Air Force Special Operations.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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