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Historic American Art vs. NAZI ISIS People

In the 1930s, the German NAZI party identified “degenerate” art that was supposedly representative of “degenerate” culture, officially unfit for Germans.

Paintings, sculptures, drawings, pottery, books, poetry, you name it, if it had any artistic value, the NAZIs scrutinized it carefully. And if that art did not match the NAZI’s new standards, then it was forbiddden, burned, destroyed, or looted and hidden away, to be ransomed and sold off to future buyers outside of the ‘culturally supreme’ Deutchland.

Entire museum collections and privately owned collections throughout NAZI-occupied Europe were looted, damaged, and or destroyed, because the art did not comport with the new standard these Ultra Germans had created. Priceless artifacts were lost forever, at best melted down for their precious metal value.

If you want to see the long-term impacts of this intolerant approach to art, use www.duckduckgo.com to search the phrase “nazi looted art,” and marvel at the sad results. Real Western culture took a huge hit from the neanderthal NAZIs, and the ill effects are still felt today.

Fast forward six decades to ISIS, the puritanical Muslim movement that uses extreme violence and sadistic cruelty to achieve political domination. A lot like the NAZIs, come to think of it.

ISIS has a thing against most art and even historic artifacts, if they do not fit neatly into the Sharia law that ISIS followers believe in.

Ancient Buddhist cliff carvings, imposing and inspiring…detonated into rubble, by ISIS.

Ancient Assyrian cities, buildings, from the beginning of recorded human history….bulldozed and detonated into shards of broken rock, by ISIS.

Important archaeological digs providing useful history, bulldozed by ISIS.

Entire churches looted of anything of immediate value, then burned down, by ISIS.

Entire museum collections either destroyed, or looted and re-sold on the international black market, by ISIS.

Fast forward just a few years to ANTIFA, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, etc., and now we have priceless American artifacts that belong to the public being outright destroyed by mobs from these groups.

Irreplaceable and beautiful bronze statues of long-dead generals and soldiers are being removed and destroyed either by street thugs enabled by big city mayors, or by the big city mayors themselves.

This is a war on history and art no different than the NAZIs or ISIS.

At the very best, this is simply the mistake of applying new understandings to old history.

Oh sure, the neanderthals claim that these statues are memorials to bad ideas, and sad times, and to some extent there may be some vague shred of truth in that. But to keep these cultural artifacts, these works of high art, is no endorsement of what they may have once captured long, long ago.

Rather, these statues are mute testimonials to our nation’s history, its struggles, and its triumphs. The fact that the Confederacy did not win, due to the intervention and huge sacrifice by hundreds of thousands of Caucasian men from the north, is the real story of these old monuments.

Today we have one American political party that is increasingly at open war with every basic value and idea that undergirds America, as it was founded. These public square symbols are caught up in that party’s war.

That political party has more and more officials doing cheap political stunts, like seizing old bronze statues in the public square, and declaring them “Cherem” (unfit, like ISIS does to the churches it burns), and culturally unfit, like the NAZIs did.

Frankly, there is zero difference between these mayors, and Virginia governor Terry McCauliffe, and the other totalitarian movements that preceded them, like the NAZIs, ISIS, and the Soviets (who tore down beautiful old Russian statues and replaced them with boring, utilitarian statues of Lenin and Stalin meant to project an intimidating political message).

Whether these mayors and governors act unilaterally and use publicly owned machines to take them down, or if they allow their allied street thugs from ANTIFA and BLM to tear them down, while the city police are ordered to make no arrests, it makes no difference.

In the end, these mayors and their violent street soldiers are no different than the worst people in history. But if they win, you can bet they will erect statues of themselves, glorifying their total transformation of America to…God knows what.

Now they are talking about destroying the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. No lie.

I say we make a stand like a stone wall to protect this historic American art, and stop this insanity, stop this assault on America, by these modern day NAZIs and ISIS thugs.

PA’s Keystone Fund: Symmetrical Program in an Asymmetrical Political World

If there is one rule or overarching principle that taxpayers want applied to how their hard-earned money is spent by government bureaucrats, it is symmetry.

If taxpayers put money in, they expect to get money, or value, back out.

Gasoline taxes? Show me the newly paved highway! Etc. Real simple symmetry.

This is the most elementary social contract between citizens and their self-selected governments, and today ain’t Ninth Century Europe, where armed tax collectors come knocking and begin turning the humble home inside out in search of hidden wealth to take, er…collect.

Today, when the government takes your money by threat of coercive force, you grudgingly turn it over, expecting to at least see some benefit from it.

At budget time is when the legislature and the executive negotiate over how the collected resources of a state or nation are going to be spent. Right now it is budget time in Pennsylvania, and there are no guarantees. Neither the governor nor the legislature has my trust.

Both are up for re-election.

In the middle of it all we have the Keystone Fund, Pennsylvania’s conservation engine. The Keystone Fund is used to run most of Pennsylvania’s “Ranger Rick” – style conservation programs. State parks, state forests, land acquisition, new kiosks, etc. Good stuff. Worthy stuff. The kind of stuff that makes the taxpayer say “Hey, I finally got my money’s worth back!”

The Keystone Fund is funded by taxpayers, but also in large part by the net returns from timber and natural gas sales from public lands. There is an appealing, nearly holy symmetry to any government program that uses money from its own programs to pay for its own programs.

It is the way government should be run!

Now, the Keystone Fund is at risk because it is a symmetrical program living in an asymmetrical political world populated by career politicians who disburse public funds to win public favor, and votes.

Instead of returning the proceeds from timber and gas sales back into the very natural resources that produced them, we now see the likelihood that elected officials will use this income stream to buy off their favorite constituencies. So they can get votes, and get re-elected.

How sad to see one of the very few examples of good public policy, the Keystone Fund, fall victim to something so crass, vulgar and common as an elected official.

To quote Mark Twain: “I think I can say, and say with pride that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.” (Speech 7/4/1873)

I am a happy PA Game Commission partner

For the past ten years, we have enrolled 350 acres in Centre County with the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s public access program.

We pay the taxes on the land, the PGC patrols the land, and the public hunts and traps on the land. From personal items left lying on the ground, like underpants and beer cans, it is clear that some members of the public are using it in more creative recreational ways.

Cleaning up these things is part of the burden we bear to provide the public with nice places to hunt and…”picnic.”

Because our land is surrounded by State Game Lands, it made sense to open it to the public.  We were approached to lease it as a private hunting club, and we have resisted that for all these years.  We recently sold 100 acres to PGC, and we wanted it to be a seamless experience for the public, used to walking in on a gated road and immediately hunting.

Overall our experience has been positive.  Yes, we get frustrated by people leaving trash behind, when they could easily put it in the vehicle they brought it in with. But we take great satisfaction knowing that the majority of visitors are exhilarated to be there, and they use the land respectfully.

Our family is proud to help other Pennsylvanians have a beautiful place to hunt and trap, so that these ancient skills can be passed on to younger generations.  We are proud and pleased to partner with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

 

On Being a Dinosaur

I am a dinosaur.

In so many ways, my beliefs, ideals, values, education, outlook, hobbies, lifestyle, and behavior seem as outdated and as uncommon as the dinosaurs that died out long ago.

Put another way, I am one of the Last of the Mohicans, certainly not THE last, but one of a dwindling group that sees the world differently than the corrosive pop culture fed daily to Americans by Hollywood.

And I am proud to be this way, to be a patriot, to exalt individual citizen rights and liberties above government intervention, to take risks and make sacrifices in a free market capitalist society that rewards hard work and penalizes laziness.  American Sniper, Act of Valor, and Lone Survivor are the only movies that moved me in many years because I believe in military heroes, although the Lord of the Rings productions are highly entertaining.

Meanwhile, pop culture would have every American equally unhappy, equally deprived of their rights and liberties, equally planted on a couch eating junk food and watching mindless TV shows that are at war with the underpinnings of Western Civilization.

(A short, hard-hitting article about Hollywood’s destructiveness by one of its most famous writers is here.)

And I am also an old-fashioned “Hook-and-Bullet” conservationist, a hunter, life-long gun owner and fisherman, an NRA member and even more so, a FOAC member who means it when I say “You can have my guns when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

But did I mention that conservation is a huge part of my identity? You know, farmland preservation, wildlife habitat protection, forest land acquisition for public ownership, and wilderness areas where I can hunt, fish, camp, and hike without seeing or hearing another human being for as long as I am out there.

And why is it so hard for so many traditionalists to see that traditional American values are directly tied to, and derive from, rural landscapes? And that our remaining rural landscapes are precious fragments of the great American frontier, on which our national identity and Constitution were forged?

So why wouldn’t a conservative want to conserve those rural landscapes that gave birth to his identity and values, that enshrine Constitutional rights and self-reliance?

For some strange reason, an increasing number of gun owners are not hunters, and do not really show that they care about wildlife populations or wildlife habitat, or about land and water conservation.  When I attend meetings at different sportsmen’s clubs, like Duncannon Sportsmen, and I hear the Conservationist’s Pledge, my heart wells up and I nearly get as teary-eyed as when I hear the national anthem, or the Pledge of Allegiance.  It doesn’t help that most of us in the room are sporting lots of white in our beards and on our heads.  The next generation seems to have taken a lot for granted, because all of the battles we fought decades ago bore such abundant fruit.

All this makes me a dinosaur, and although I recognize it, I am not happy about it.  I feel like I am watching the greatest nation on Planet Earth disintegrate under my feet, and it scares me, makes me sad, and makes me want to do what I can to try to prevent it from happening.

I do not want traditional American values to go extinct, like the dinosaurs, because although those values may not be in vogue right now, America was founded on them and the nation cannot successfully continue on without them.

An open letter to Patrick Henderson

Dear Patrick,

Years ago, you were a sweet kid from Western Pennsylvania, beginning your career in the state legislature.  Working for state senator Mary Jo White and the senate environmental resources committee gave you lots of opportunity and exposure to political issues, outside issue groups, and the overall political process, including the executive branch.  You were smart, interested, thoughtful, and principled, and although we occasionally disagreed I really enjoyed working with you….. way back then.

But something changed.  You changed.  You seem angry, hateful, even.  Even towards people who have done nothing to you, at least that they are aware of; although I write this for myself, I write knowing that many other individuals have experienced the same unfair, undeserved treatment from you.

Your role in the Governor’s Office the past few years seems to have been largely dedicated to using state government to settle old scores with real or imagined “enemies” of yours (they were not Tom Corbett’s enemies, that’s for sure, although after you alienated them they aren’t up for helping Tom now), or to create new vendettas as you demonstrate that you have influence over government functions.  For now.

At Governor Tom Corbett’s inaugural back in early 2011, you treated my wife Vivian rudely, to her face, despite her sweet nature and she having never met you before.  She did not deserve that.  Was it your way of getting at me, trying to  hurt me, one more time?  Whatever your purpose, it was petty behavior unbecoming someone in your senior, public role.

It is difficult to accept that you have become this way, but it has become a universal truth in Harrisburg that you are, in fact, angry at the world and determined to get even with everyone in it, whether they are guilty (of what?!) or innocent.

I suspect a lot of this negative change is a result of your cocoon-like experience inside the Republican Party, where you have been sheltered from the real world for your entire career.  Like all of the other professional staff on the Hill, in both parties, you merely must meet a technical standard, not a performance standard.

Meeting a technical standard means that you, and other professional party people paid by the taxpayers, must merely show up for work and stay out of trouble with your elected boss.  If you were held to a performance standard, then you’d be in a world of trouble.  Other than using your public position to hammer away at “enemies,” what performance for the public have you achieved on the taxpayer’s dime these past three and a half years?

Taking risks, making sacrifices, meeting real deadlines, making personally uncomfortable decisions — none of these are part of the professional life on the Hill, although I am confident that you or others in those roles (even friends of mine) would disagree.  We taxpayers who underwrite your salary see it differently.

As a public servant, Patrick, you are subject to writing like this.  You may hire an attorney to try to get this off the web, and I sarcastically wish you good luck with that.  I stand behind everything written here, as you well know, and if I am pushed to do so, I can certainly provide any necessary evidence to support it.

Good luck with your career, Patrick.  Unless you are recycled back into the Republican Party, and God knows I really hope you are not, because I think you are a huge liability to our party, you are destined to work in the private sector.  Here is some valuable advice: Don’t treat people in the private sector the way you treated them when you were in the public sector.  You won’t last five minutes.  Other than that, I hope you enjoy your family and show humble appreciation for all of the good things that God has bestowed upon you.

–Josh

PA Senator Mike Folmer on our pension crisis

Pennsylvania’s Pension Crises

by Mike Folmer, PA State Senator

August 21, 2014

President Kennedy said: “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

Pennsylvania’s failure to address its public pension problems recently resulted in another downgrade of its bond rating: from Aa2 to Aa3. According to the rating agency Moody’s, “. . . the expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania’s ability to regain structural balance in the near term.”

Consider where Pennsylvania’s Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) was prior to 2001 changes enhancing benefits: $9.5 Billion surplus and a 123.8% funded ratio (100% is an appropriate ratio). Using the most recent actuarial valuations, the funded ratio for the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and PSERS (using an optimistic 7.5% annual asset return assumption) was 59.2% and 63.8% respectively. Further declines are expected.

Pennsylvania’s private sector has predictable and affordable pension costs while providing employees with competitive retirement benefit packages. Over 70% of these firms have defined contribution plans for new hires with average employer costs ranging from 4% to 7% of payroll. (All private sector defined benefit plans must eliminate any deficits over time – often as short as seven years).

Ignoring such facts has resulted in unsustainable plans in states from New Jersey to California. Cities like Chicago and Detroit face bankruptcy because of public pension costs.

Courts have said public pension benefits once earned are protected by Pennsylvania’s Constitution: Article I, Section 17, “Impairment of Contracts.”

I’m not part of the legislative pension system as I believe Article II, Section 8 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution doesn’t provide for elected officials’ pensions: “The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise.”

This same provision is why I also return my legislative cost of living adjustment: “No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term.”

Nonetheless, I’m regularly asked why Pennsylvania underfunds its public pension plans. Taxpayers fear proper funding policies will result in districts increasing property taxes to pay pension contributions. Schools say the alternative is cutting programs or increasing class sizes.

Failure to contribute at least the actuarially recommended contribution transfers ever-mounting debt to future generations. The combined liabilities of SERS and the PSERS are over $50 Billion – and growing. These costs are the fastest growing state budget line item.

Separate from proper plan funding are new GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board) accounting and reporting standards to assess current and future pension obligations. Unfunded liabilities will now be reflected on school districts’ balance sheets and the underfunding issue will be further highlighted. Increasing numbers of municipal and school audits will be flagged due to GASB 67 (“Financial Reporting for Pension Plans”) and GASB 68 (“Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions”) standards.

In 2009, legislation (which I opposed) was enacted attempting to address Philadelphia’s public pension problems: a temporary 1% Sales and Use Tax increase. This “temporary” tax was subsequently extended. Purchases in Philadelphia include an 8% Sales Tax. However, Philadelphia’s pension liabilities have continued to grow. Like Pennsylvania’s infamous “temporary” 1936 Johnstown Flood Tax, this tax continues to exist and continues to grow. Ironically, Philadelphia is being flooded with pension liabilities.

In 2010, another law was passed to address Pennsylvania’s pension issues. Act 120 made some benefit changes for new employees, including: raising the vesting period to 10 years from five, reducing the multiplier to calculate retirement benefits (to 2.0% from 2.5%), increasing the retirement age for new employees to age 65, eliminating lump sum payouts of employees’ contributions and interest upon retirement, and limiting maximum retirement benefits to 100% of final actual salary.

But, Act 120 also continued the practice of underfunding, which further deferred state and local pension contributions to future years through “collars:” below recommended actuarial levels, which reduce public pension funding by about $1 Billion to $2 Billion annually. Such sustained underfunding has resulted in numerous credit downgrades. This is why I also opposed this measure.

Supporters of the status quo urge the General Assembly to allow Act 120 “time to work.” However, since passage of Act 120, pension liabilities have grown to $50 Billion from $41 Billion; the original assumptions of Act 120 have shown Act 120 has failed to attain its goals.

This $50 Billion deficit is growing by over $10 Million a day – over $3 Billion a year. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth, municipalities, and schools are allowed by law to underfund these plans by about $1 Billion to $2 Billion a year. Every 0.5% reduction in SERS and PSERS assumed investment returns adds approximately $7 Billion to their combined unfunded liabilities. If PSERS would compute its unfunded liability using market value of assets, this change alone would immediately add about $8 Billion to the deficit.

Failure to both properly fund these plans or move new hires to a defined contribution plan will only make matters worse (the claims of unaffordable transition costs are vastly overstated). Taxpayers should fear higher taxes to continue to fund public pensions. Public employees should fear their continued solvency.

There is a cost for inaction.

Fifty years of designated wilderness

Two weeks ago marked the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act.

It applies to federal designation of remote areas, not to states. States can create their own wild areas, and some do. States closest to human populations and land development seem to also be most assertive about setting aside large areas for people and animals to enjoy.

I enjoy wilderness a lot. Hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring are all activities I do in designated wilderness.

Every year I hunt Upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains, in a large designated wilderness area. Pitching a tent miles in from the trail head, the only person I see is a hunting partner. Serenity like that is tough to find unless you already live in northern Vermont, Maine, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming or Alaska. It’s a valuable thing, that tranquility.

This summer my young son sat in my lap late at night, watching shooting stars against an already unbelievably starry sky. Loons cried out all around us. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves on the birch trees above us and caused the lake to lap against our rocky shore.

Only by driving a long way north, and then canoeing on a designated wilderness lake, and camping on a designated wilderness island in that lake, were we able to find such peace and quiet. No one else was anywhere around us. We were totally alone, with our camp fires, firewood chores, fishing rods, and deep sleeps in the cold tent.

These are memories likely to make my son smile even as he ages and grapples with responsibilities and challenges of adulthood. We couldn’t do it without wilderness.

Wilderness is a touchstone for a frontier nation like America. Wilderness equals freedom of movement, freedom of action. The same sort of freedoms that instigated insurrection against the British monarchy. American frontiersmen became accustomed to individual liberty unlike anything seen in Western Civilization. They enshrined those liberties in our Constitution.

Sure, there are some frustrations associated with managing wilderness.

Out West, wilderness designation has become a politicized fight over access to valuable minerals under the ground. Access usually involves roads, and roads are the antithesis of a wild experience.

Given the large amount of publicly owned land in the West, I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t some bartering that could go on to resolve these fights. Take multiple use public land and designate it as wilderness, so other areas can responsibly yield their valuable minerals. Plenty of present day public land was once heavily logged, farmed, ranched, and mined, but those scars are long gone.

You can hike all day in a Gold Mine Creek basin and find one tiny miner’s shack from 1902. All other signs have washed away, been covered up by new layers of soil, etc. So there is precedent for taking once-used land and letting it heal to the point where we visitors would swear it is pristine.

Out East, where we have large hardwood forests, occasionally, huge valuable timber falls over in wilderness areas, and the financially hard-pressed locals could surely use the income from retrieving, milling, and selling lumber from those trees. But wilderness rules usually require such behemoths to stay where they lay, symbols of an old forest rarely seen anywhere today. They can be seen as profligate waste, I understand that. I also understand that some now-rare salamanders might only make their homes under these rotting giant logs, and nowhere else.

Seeing the yellow-on-black body of the salamander makes me think of the starry night sky filled with shooting stars. A rare thing of beauty in a world full of bustle, noise, voices, and concrete. For me, I’ll take the salamander.

Court testimony proves criticism of Corbett natural gas policy is partisan, unfair

If you have been following the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund lawsuit against the Commonwealth, over its natural gas policies on public lands, then you’ve no doubt been reading the testimony of former political appointees from the Pa Gov. Ed Rendell administration.

The lawsuit is being ably reported in the Patriot News.

Former DCNR secretaries DiBerardinis and Quigley have testified that their boss, Governor Ed Rendell, was the one who dropped the natural gas extraction bomb on the State Forests in his gluttonous rush to gain as much money as he could to fund his wild history-making over-spending.

I won’t bother to repeat their testimony here, but it is not pleasant.  They are not covering up for their former boss.  Instead, they are laying it all out there, describing how the public interest was subverted by greed and political malfeasance.  These are two good men, devoted to the public interest.  Kudos to them.

Here’s the thing: Rendell is a Democrat.

Here’s the thing: Then, and now, Rendell was not roundly criticized for his public land gas drilling policies by the very environmental groups who represent themselves to the public to be non-partisan, fair-minded, honest brokers on environmental policy and issues.

Instead, in extreme contrast, since even before his first day in office, Governor Tom Corbett has been vilified, excoriated, badmouthed, cussed, maligned, and blamed for everything that is wrong, and right, with the public policies he inherited from the Rendell Administration.

And this gets to the point here: A lot of the heat that is created around environmental policy issues is accompanied by very little light.  That is because most environmental issues are innately politicized, and partisan, before a valuable discussion about their merits can be had, in the public interest.

In other words, the by-now old narrative goes like this: Republicans always stink on green issues, and Democrats are always blameless little innocent blinking-eyed babes on environmental issues, even when they are wearing the red devil suit and sticking Satan’s trident deep into the public’s back.

In the interest of good policy, this partisanship must end.  The mainstream media, run by liberals, is only too happy to carry on this unfair, inaccurate narrative.  But conservatives can overcome that if only they will cease ceding the battlefield to the partisan groups who roam it at will.

Instead of cavalierly writing off everyone who cares about environmental quality as an “environmental whacko,” which is the standard conservative reaction, and it is wrong, recognize that environmental quality is important, but what is also important is how one goes about achieving that goal.  This critical policy nuance seems to be lost on most conservatives.

Also, call out the Statists/ Socialists who mis-use environmental policy as a means to achieve their larger Marxist goals of wealth redistribution.  These people are not ‘environmental whackos’, they are anti-American socialists who have hijacked an important issue and commandeered it to suit their larger purposes.

Want to win?  Want good government?  Want fair coverage of political issues?  Then fight back!  Meet these folks on their own battlefield, and defeat them using good policy that is grounded in science and public-interest goals.  The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund lawsuit court room testimony is an excellent place to begin this fight.  It is loaded with ammunition in the interest of honesty, accuracy, and fairness.

 

Voter Access, Public Funding of Private Elections…

I so totally agree with the gist of this opinion piece by our local newspaper of record, the Patriot News:

By Matt Zencey, May 15, 2014

Tuesday is Primary Election Day, and every year when it rolls around, I’m reminded of this unpleasant fact: Tax-paying Pennsylvanians who don’t belong to a political party are forced to help pay for an election in which they are not allowed vote.

You can’t vote for candidates Tuesday unless you are a registered member of a political party that has candidates on the ballot.

I wrote a column last year complaining about this injustice that is inflicted on politically independent Pennsylvanians. It’s a system that isn’t going to change anytime soon, because the power-brokers who make the rules are the same people who benefit from taxpayer subsidies of their party’s candidate selection process.

In last year’s column, I wondered whether this arrangement violates Pennsylvania constitution’s requirement of “free and equal” elections. What’s “equal” about an election, funded by tax dollars, where a duly registered voter has no say in which candidate wins?

Now it’s true, as I wrote back then, that the U.S. Supreme Court clearly says political parties have a First Amendment right to determine who may vote in “their” political primaries.

The question is whether political parties [THAT ARE PRIVATE ENTITIES] have a First Amendment right to force you [THE PUBLIC] to pay for their candidate selection process.

I don’t think so.

If you are going to participate in a primary election that you help pay for, you are forced to affiliate with a political party. That violates your First Amendment rights.

Pennsylvania’s closed primary election delivers a tax-subsidized government benefit to two preferred political organizations – the Democratic and Republican parties.

All of us are paying so they can pick their candidate who will enjoy a huge government privilege – one of two guaranteed spots on the general election ballot. (Pennsylvania law also makes it extraordinarily difficult for a third-party to get its candidates on the ballot.)

It doesn’t have to be this way.

California recently adopted a much fairer primary election system by voter initiative.

All candidates of all parties appear on a ballot available to all registered voters within the relevant district. The top two vote getters move on to the general election in the fall. The winners could be two Republicans, or two Democrats, one of each party. A so-called minor party candidate might even win a spot on the fall ballot.

This way, taxpayers are not forced to subsidize a process that’s stacked in favor of two political parties. And it’s clearly constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly saidthat a non-partisan primary that is open to all voters and allocates spots on the general election ballot falls squarely within the First Amendment.

But good luck getting such a system here in Pennsylvania. Unlike in California, the poo-bahs who hold political power in Pennsylvania have denied voters the power to pass their own laws by statewide initiative.

On this one, we have to try to persuade legislators and the governor to do the right thing and reform a system that has put them in power and keeps them there.

I’m not holding my breath.

Matt Zencey is Deputy Opinion Editor of Pennlive and The Patriot-News. Email mzencey@pennlive.com and on Twitter @MattZencey.

http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/05/is_pennsylvania_closed_primary.html

For You, Land Dedication this Sunday

This Sunday at 1:00, in Clark’s Valley, Dauphin County, a wonderful ceremony will be held to dedicate a mile-long stretch of Clark’s Creek to the public.  Sold by Flemish Down LLC at a bargain sale price to the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, the pretty property was then flipped to the PA Fish & Boat Commission so that the public can fish and hunt on it until the next glacier comes through.

I had a hand in it.

I remain confused by fellow Americans who see land conservation as some sort of sinister plot, a “land grab,” and other negative epithets.  These same people have no problem with open land being converted to concrete, a permanent alteration of an otherwise functioning system that spews clean air and water without anyone lifting a finger.  If converting to concrete is good, and maintaining as a functional system supporting human life is bad, then I have to say that logic and reason are not behind the opposition.  These are mutually exclusive perspectives.

Put another way, if open land is bad, and developed land is good, from where do we get our food, water, and air?  Is land really only good and valuable if it has been developed?  Can humans replicate the free air- and water-producing services of open land?  No?

Other benefits of this land protection include stable stream banks, wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, public recreation, and so on.  Thanks to the generous Blum + Cameron family, the public now has a quiet place to picnic, fish, hike, and look at.  Last year we documented dozens of native wildflowers there, and to me, they alone are reason enough to keep this property open; I have yet to meet a human (common, easy to find) who looks or smells as good as a pink lady slipper, trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, or bluett (all uncommon, hard to find).