Voter Fraud – the Way It Used To Be

For an illustration of how to steal an election, let’s go back seventy years, to Lyndon B. Johnson’s successful 1948 Texas primary campaign for the U.S. Senate.

The 2018 mid-term elections are already history-making, and not just for illustrating the gaping political divide between urban and rural voters. Republicans have been bleating for years about rampant voter fraud, while working diligently to prevent citizens from voting and when unsuccessful in that to stop votes from being counted. Turns out that the few documented cases of actual fraud involve Republicans.

Remember North Carolina? That’s the state whose GOP-controlled legislature, in a lame-duck session after the 2016 election, passed a bill limiting the governor’s powers. The lame-duck Republican chief executive signed the bill before vacating his office for the newly-elected Democratic governor who had beaten him in the election. (Fast-forward to 2018: Wisconsin and Michigan have just done the same thing.)

Republican fraud in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district 2018 election was so blatant and so egregious that the state’s Board of Elections—made up of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent, responsible for tabulating and verifying every ballot – voted unanimously not to certify Republican Mark Harris’s purported win. Republican lackeys had gone door-to-door in the district collecting mail-in ballots, claiming authority to gather and deliver them as a service to voters.

For an updated, blow-by-blow sequence of NC’s yet-to-be-decided congressional election go to ballotpedia.com.

 For an illustration of how to steal an election, let’s go back seventy years, to Lyndon B. Johnson’s successful 1948 Texas primary campaign for the U.S. Senate.

In his third term representing Texas’s 10th congressional district, LBJ suffered an ignominious defeat in a 1941 special election for the Senate. He retained his House seat, running unopposed in the next three elections. The House though, was a dead end in Johnson’s mind; his ambition reached far beyond being a congressman. In 1948 he ran again for the Senate.

The important election was the primary. Southern states were solidly Democratic and had been since Reconstruction. The general election would be a formality. Former governor and living Texas legend Coke R. Stevenson was LBJ’s main opponent in the three-way race. Steven won the election –Johnson was second – but did not receive the required majority of votes. A runoff election was scheduled.

 Johnson campaigned in frenzy, crisscrossing the state in the“Flying Windmill,” a rented helicopter with his name emblazoned on its sides.He drew crowds by simply landing an aircraft that most residents of rural towns had never before seen.

The initial tally gave Stevenson a narrow victory. A few days later an amended count from Jim Wells County in southern Texas gave Johnson 202 additional votes, providing him with an 87-vote margin of victory. George B. Parr – banker, rancher, oilman – considered the “Emperor of South Texas” and a Johnson supporter, controlled elections in more than a dozen south counties, but not Jim Wells County. Had he controlled Jim Wells, LBJ may have won without the controversy.

The amended count from Precinct 13 – Jim Wells County – showed, oddly, that voters had cast their ballots in alphabetical order, had signed in with identical handwriting and used the same pen. Some were not eligible to vote or were out of the county on Election Day or were dead. Jim Wells’s officials produced neither the actual ballots nor the ballot box. (The votes and “Box 13” have never been found.) Democratic officials – in those days, political parties ran the primary elections – declared Lyndon Johnson the winner. LBJ easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election. Johnson entered the Senate carrying his new nickname: “Landslide Lyndon.”

Johnson soon became the unchallenged “Master of the Senate.” John F. Kennedy chose him as his vice-presidential running mate in the 1960 election. He moved into the White House after JFK was assassinated in 1963. A year later he won the presidential election by a genuine landslide.

LBJ famously said, after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that he had steered through the Senate, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.” Republicans have since controlled the southern states for two generations and counting.

Robert A. Caro provides a riveting account of the 1948 election and the general political climate in southern Texas in Means of Ascent, the second volume of his The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

#MeToo Meets the Cold Outside

It seems to make little or no difference where on the sexual-harassment continuum bad behavior falls.To Kirsten Gillibrand, fellow senator Al Franken’s sophomoric joking was as egregious as any act committed by the career criminal currently occupying the White House. Her unrelenting demand that Franken resign resulted in the loss of an intelligent legislator who came to hearings well-prepared and knowledgeable. (Remember his questioning of Attorney General appointee Jeff Sessions?)

Christmas 2018: radio stations around the country have removed the perennial winter song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their holiday playlists. #MeToo proponents have labeled it the “date-rape song,” as the lecherous guy tries to convince his lady visitor to stay with him so he can continue with his despicable intents.

I first heard the song in the early sixties. My father brought home an LP titled Beauty and the Beard by New Orleans trumpet-player Al Hirt. The album featured Hirt singing duets – no holiday songs– with Ann-Margret, including “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (Ann-Margret reprised her performance thirty-eight years later with Brian Setzer on his Boogie Woogie Christmas album.)

Songwriter Frank Loesser won an Academy award in 1949 for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” featured in the movie Neptune’s Daughter. In the film Ricardo Montalban appeals to Esther Williams to stay with him, arguing that the weather is too snowy for her to leave. What seems ironic in today’s milieu, the song was a replacement for the tune “I’d Love to Get You (On a Slow Boat to China).” MGM censors interpreted “get” as “have,” meaning sex and would not allow it.

Ms. Williams appears to be able to make her own arguments and reach her own decision. While coy, the woman is in control here.

The song has been recorded by dozens of artists: Ray Charles & Betty Carter, Steve Lawrence & Edie Gorme, Bette Midler & James Caan, Lou Rawls & Dianne Reeves, Suzy Bogguss & Delbert McClinton, Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, LadyGaga & Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Willie Nelson & Norah Jones… well, you get the idea. (Later versions of the song found various replacements for the line, “Well, maybe just a cigarette more.”)

If you want to be outraged, try this 1962 recording, devoid of innuendo – that  could be titled “Ode to Harvey Weinstein,” – by Kay Martin & Her Bodyguards, from the album I Know What He Wants For Christmas… But I Don’t Know How to Wrap It! 

Paradise Lost

The environmental expert currently occupying the White House was quick to assign responsibility for wildfires burning in California. Using the venerable Republican strategy of blaming the victim, he tweeted:

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.”

In fact, these fires are fueled mostly by grass and chaparral; forest land, not so much.

“Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost…. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

In fact, California each year sends more dollars to D.C. through federal tax payments than comes back into the state via Federal spending. (As is the case with most “blue” states.)

My former hometown, Santa Rosa, was devastated by wildfire in 1964. Continue reading “Paradise Lost”








Privatize Profits, Socialize Losses

The last half-century has shown us four things that come with Republicans in power:

  1. Exploding deficits. (“Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter,” quoth Darth Cheney.)
  2. Scandal (Not a blow-job-in-the-White-House scandal, but a major outrage, e.g. Iran-Contra, Valerie Plame.)
  3. Invasion of a country perceived to be unable to defend itself. (Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan/Iraq)
  4. Taxpayer bailout of financial industry after meltdown brought on by repealed regulation. (Savings & Loan, Derivative Trading)

The current administration has already given us numbers 1 and 2; number 3 is in the works. As sure as Mitch McConnell is democracy’s gravedigger, number 4 is coming.

Continue reading “Privatize Profits, Socialize Losses”








Influenza Centennial

A hundred years ago, November 11, 1918, the armistice ending four years of fighting the Great War was signed. Armistice Day was later renamed Veterans Day. The Great War became known as World War I to differentiate it from the even greater war that broke out in 1939, a little more than twenty years later. WW I killed 8.5 million combatants, another 28 million wounded or missing. Add to that a million or so civilian deaths. The end of the war did not mean people stopped dying, however.

Continue reading “Influenza Centennial”