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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)

Perry County Ground Zero, Round II

Perry County Ground Zero, Round II

By Josh First

Perry County, Pennsylvania, may be a deeply rural and tranquil place with just two traffic lights, but it is Ground Zero for the latest battle over your Constitutional gun rights.

The results of this battle have enormous implications for all Pennsylvanians, irrespective of where they live, because any legal holding will eventually apply not just to one county, but all counties and all citizens.

Unquestionably acting on political goals, the three county auditors recently sued the county sheriff, Carl Nace, demanding that he provide the names and addresses of concealed carry permit applicants his office processes. Nace refused, citing state law which seems crystal clear on the subject.

Much has been written here and elsewhere about this lawsuit and its genesis, so I will not re-trace those steps, but it is valuable to report back on where things stand as of yesterday.

Yesterday a hearing was held in New Bloomfield, Perry County’s seat of local government, on the auditors’ lawsuit against Nace. The hearing was intended to give both parties an opportunity to argue their case before a judge. The three county auditors are the plaintiff, and Sheriff Nace is the defendant.

I sat literally front and center in the court room, accompanied by Carl Fox and Jim Lucas, among many other wonderful citizens, activists, and concerned citizens. Carl Fox is president of the Duncannon Sportsman’s Association, and Jim Lucas is an engineer and well known political activist. Both Carl and Jim are involved in supporting Sheriff Nace and determining the background to the lawsuit. Both men believe the lawsuit has political purposes and goals, and is not some innocent procedural cause in the interest of perfect auditing everywhere.

Attorney Joshua Prince represented Nace, and attorney Craig Staudenmaier represented the three county auditors. The auditors were not present, either at the court house, nor at the hearing. Nace sat with his attorney in the court room.

Judge George Zanic sat directly in front of me with a clear line of sight between us, and I hope he wasn’t put off by my large prescription sunglasses, which I wear to keep summertime migraine headaches at bay, even inside. With my new, white, grizzled beard, wrap-around sunglasses, and unkempt end-of-summer hair, several people I already know approached me to learn who I was. One asked me if I was there for “the opposition,” and then laughed out loud when he realized who I was. That beard is coming off today! And yes, this is an indication that I am having a hard time letting go of the fantastic, if exhausting, summer I spent with my wife, kids, and friends.

Judge Zanic boiled down the entire argument to two points, one in each set of motions filed by each party. Zanic appeared most curious and skeptical about attorney Craig Staudenmaier’s assertions and claims about the need for the information, and the deficiency he says the county audit suffers from without the applicants’ names and addresses. More questions were asked of Staudenmaier than of Prince, and those questions for Staudenmaier were more pointed than those posed by the judge to Prince.

The judge was clearly having trouble understanding the plaintiff’s demand, or the need for the demand in the first place.

Citing general auditing standards, Judge Zanic referred to his own experience as a professional and as a former district attorney. Zanic disagreed with Staudenmaier about what information is necessary for any audit, let alone a county audit that was successfully completed by another firm when the auditors failed to do their own.

Prince did an excellent job in all respects, demonstrating a clear and quick knowledge of the governing statute, related laws, and the facts. Prince was articulate, clearly well prepared, and he stayed with Nace after the judge departed; both men answered questions from citizens and reporters.

Staudenmaier was often halting in his explanations, seemingly confused at times, and he argued in circles, often failing to directly answer the judge’s pointed questions. Some of his answers were rudimentary and elicited grumpy mutters from the audience. As soon as the judge left, Staudenmaier shot out of his seat, grabbed his papers, and fled out the back of the court house, through a hallway and door off limits to the audience. He took no questions from anyone in the court room, nor from anyone outside the court house.

Channels 43 and 27 were there, as was the Patriot News. Kudos to reporter Dennis Owens for pointing out that the auditors were not present at their own hearing, which is unnecessarily costing the county taxpayers a lot of money.  Their absence raises questions about just how seriously they take all this mess they have created.

Uniformed sheriffs and deputies from at least 15 counties were in attendance, in support of Sheriff Nace.

The court room was about 85% full.

“I hope to have a decision for you very soon,” said Judge Zanic.

Here is my take-away:

1) A person can draw their own conclusions about the quality or necessity of elected officials who take taxpayer money, who initiate unnecessary and expensive litigation, and who then do not show up in public or even at their own hearing. You cannot kick the hornet’s nest without getting stung, and then complain about it, but that is what these three auditors are doing. What they have said, and what their spokesman attorney Craig Staudenmaier has said, is that these three feel unhappy about the negative reactions their citizens have had over this lawsuit. Some counties do not have auditors, and it seems that the three in Perry County have proven they are either unfit or not needed. Perry County should either eliminate the office of county auditor, or vote these three out of office.

2) Perry County should do everything it can to determine who is behind the auditors’ lawsuit, including determining who paid Staudenmaier. This should be done to determine what political forces are in play (CeaseFirePA? Bloomberg? Soros? The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania? A local elected official?), and why they are present, and also let’s see if the people who started this expensive mess can then be held accountable and pay for it out of their own pockets.

3) Perry County should prepare to recover any costs or legal fees associated with this lawsuit, whether from the three auditors or from someone else who may be accountable. I think that Joshua Prince is representing Sheriff Nace for free, but no one should have to spend time defending someone from a frivolous lawsuit at their sole expense.

 

 

Appeasement is evil, because it allows evil to triumph, and other reflections of the past week

This has been both a rewarding and tough week for me.

Like many, I believe more in ideas than party allegiance.  America stands for something, and the ideas at its foundation are a form of religious belief for me and many others; no surprise there, as America’s Judeo-Christian Biblical roots are well established.  So, my loyalties lie with people who stand for something good, and I am opposed to people in public office who either stand for money alone, or for fluff.  An elected official who will not roll up his sleeves and fight like a demon for my beliefs, for traditional American values, is not someone who is going to get my support.

The Eric Cantor self-destruction story in Virginia is all about this same thinking.  It is what permeates the “Tea Party” movement.  It is a basic gut-check of what is simply right, and what is obviously wrong.  Politicians like Cantor do not have that same gut-check ability, or they long ago lost it.  They then lost me and a lot of others, too.  As painful as Cantor’s loss is, it is also very rewarding: The American People are not asleep, and David Brat’s win is hopefully the beginning of a grass-roots effort to establish control over American borders.

Obama has clearly abandoned border protection, and he is using fake, officially invited refugees to make the case for open borders, the dilution and end of American democracy, and the end of American capitalism.  No elected Republicans seem capable of standing up to him.

On the foreign front, Appeasing evil people is aiding and abetting evil people.  Thus, appeasement is evil.

Failing to confront evil, especially an evil that has its eye on you, is either due to mental disability, or to a self-hypnosis masquerading as superiority.  Self-sacrifice trumps survival to appeasers, who casually disregard that many other people are then taken over the cliff, too.

Contemplating what drives Obama and his supporters has been dishearteneing, because I cannot fathom it, despite growing up surrounded by far-left liberals.  His supporters are not asleep, and they also cannot explain to me what about him and his actions they like, on balance with those they dislike. When we discuss issues, liberals immediately fly into a rage, have fits, and if it is a Facebook debate, they “unfriend” someone they’ve known for thirty five years, a phenomenon I hear repeated by others.  This is not a good sign.

For example, ObamaCare is overwhelmingly unpopular to Americans and it is failing across the board, but that hasn’t stopped his supporters from promoting it.

The Veterans Affairs scandal is an incredible indictment of the administration, but his supporters cannot concede on it.

The Benghazi cover-up is just a “political charade.”  But Americans were abandoned to violently die there, while their cell phones and radio pleas for help were listened to by indifferent administration officials.  In any nation this is either criminal or incompetent, and yet…no concessions.

The world is on fire, with Syria, Iraq, Russia, Ukraine, and large parts of Africa falling apart after huge, decades-long Western and American investments of money and dead.  Or, in the alternative, these places are now re-assembling into sources of evil that we will eventually have to confront once again, under circumstances that at that time are disadvantageous and more costly to us.

Obama’s foreign policy, his “re-set,” is so obviously a catastrophe, that it makes one wonder if he really secretly wants this destruction.  After all, the boundaries of the modern Middle Eastern and African nations were established by European powers, and we know how much hate Obama has for those Western democracies aka “colonial powers.”

Obama seems to be at war with America and Western civilization, and his supporters are either under some odd messianic spell, or they are in cognitive agreement with him.

Is America headed for a civil war over these differences?  The current state of debate is not encouraging, where liberals espousing an all-controlling, all-knowing, all-seeing Big Brother Orwellian society seem to relish IRS and NSA abuses against fellow citizens.  They do not realize or accept that to most Americans, this is a form of slavery, and no, they will not live under slavery.

I think I am going to go have a nice cold beer and work in the garden.  In the rain.  The David Brat win / Cantor loss is going to have to buoy my spirits for the coming days.  Have a great weekend!

Is it time to recall PA AG Kane?

In 2012, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane campaigned on being fresh, new, unconnected to party politics.  She challenged the ultimate Republican insider, and crushed him by a good 15%.  Kane became Pennsylvania’s first Democrat AG only because so many Republican voters defected from the GOP and voted for Kane.

Within six months into her four-year tenure, signs were evident that she was not this politically dispassionate, politically disconnected professional and fair-minded arbiter she represented herself to be.

Rather, it became clear that she was politically correct (dogmatically liberal) and willing to use the AG office to score partisan political points, going so far as to choose not to enforce or defend state laws with which she personally disagrees.  That right there is pretty much the end of democratic government, when elected officials stop enforcing laws they personally disagree with.  Democracy only works if everyone agrees that whatever the law is, it is, and it is the law of the land until it is changed.

Kane’s icing on the cake was to cold-stop an investigation of four Democrat elected officials in the Philadelphia area.  Kane does not deny that the four had been caught on tape or video taking bribes. One of the officials can be heard saying “Well, happy birthday to [me]!” as he pockets a wad of illegal cash.

In what stinks of political favoritism, Kane simply made up a lame excuse and stopped the ongoing investigation of obvious official corruption.

When Kane was called out about it by the Philadelphia Inquirer, a newspaper unused to criticizing Democrats, she showed up to a meeting with the paper’s board with her libel lawyer in tow.  A subsequent show of legal force and more open threats of a lawsuit against her critics, by Kane, has only made things worse for her.  But she is not backing down.  Mind you, the Inquirer merely reported the facts; the paper did not ascribe motive or allege that Kane herself was part of the cash scandal.  So it is hard to see what kind of libel suit this elected official thought she was going to actually win.  Intimidation was her first and last approach, however, which tells you all you need to know about her very low quality as an elected official.

Additionally, Philadelphia City DA Seth Williams, a Democrat, has criticized Kane for ending the investigation.  Seth and I were close friends while students at Penn State, and yes, he is an active Democrat, and he is also a straight shooter.

Now, Kane says she supports another newspaper’s open records effort to get the documents about the terminated investigation.  Well, actually, after opposing it, Kane only now supports releasing “certain” documents; you know, the documents that support her position.  The investigation’s documents that will cast her political activism in a bad light, well, they should remain sealed, she says.

Governor Tom Corbett may well be a one-term governor, which presently it appears is his sad destiny, if the polling data is even close to accurate.  Well, folks, let’s make this Kathleen Kane a half-term AG.  She is incompetent, she is politicizing Pennsylvania’s established laws, and she is using blunt force legal intimidation to blunt honest criticism of her official job performance.  Let’s start a recall of AG Kane, and get someone in that office who is a plain vanilla enforcer of The Law, as that role is supposed to be.

In an ideal world, party affiliation should not matter in the AG office.  I myself am partial to the potential AG candidacy of Ed Marsico, Dauphin County’s present District Attorney.  Marsico is an honest guy, a hard working guy, and has shown few partisan inclinations in his day to day work of making Dauphin County a safe place to live and work.  Marsico would be a big enough improvement over Kane to warrant a recall effort against her.  Surely there are other professional-grade DAs out there, too, who also would qualify to fill out the remainder Kane’s term.

Let’s get that recall effort started and Pennsylvania’s law enforcement back on track.

UPDATE: How on earth could I forget? Kane is having some difficulty investigating the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, where cash gifts and other toxic ethics violations have occurred recently.  Now….why would Kane have such a tough time bringing to bear her full weight on such obviously corrupt violations of Pennsylvania laws?  Why, it would not perhaps happen to be the presence of KANE TRUCKING contracts with the PLCB, right?  The KANE TRUCKING contracts with the PLCB are worth millions of dollars to Kathleen Kane, personally.  Got it.  Fox guarding the henhouse here.  Good old fashioned corruption, at least on the face of it.  Time to end this sick experiment, and send Mrs. Moneybags Kane home.