- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



The unprecedented presidential race just past got the lion’s share of the attention from voters and the media. But this election also left us in a Pennsylvania frame of mine.

That’s not a good thing.

It was emblematic of our state’s political culture that candidates for two of the three statewide row offices on the ballot had to make an issue of how they would free those offices from the taint of corruption.

In the race for attorney general, the candidates had to wrestle with the imprisonment of disgraced former Attorney General Kathleen Kane for official misconduct. That arguably wasn’t even the most worrisome shadow hanging over the office.

Kane’s fall came amid another scandal centering on lewd, sexist and racist emails that raised questions about the integrity of the state’s justice system itself.

And the two candidates for state treasurer faced the specter of cleaning up that office. Their predecessors left quite a mess.

The last elected treasurer, Rob McCord, resigned in 2015 before pleading guilty to trying to extort campaign cash. Another former treasurer, Barbara Hafer, faces federal charges of lying to investigators about payments she received from a now-indicted Chester County businessman.

But at least in those races, the political parties fielded promising candidates. We’re optimistic that the winners - Josh Shapiro for attorney general and Joe Torsella for treasurer - will follow through on reform.

The real low point in Pennsylvania’s election was the con job the Legislature pulled off to trick voters into raising the mandatory retirement age for state and local judges.

The ballot question was about raising the age from 70 to 75, but that’s not what the question said and voters almost certainly would have rejected it if it had. Instead it asked voters if they favored setting a retirement age of 75 - with no mention of the current limit of 70 - leaving many to believe they were voting to create an age cutoff where none existed.

The measure passed by less than 2 percentage points. It was clear in conversations and on social media that a good many voters had been bamboozled.

Remember that the same issue, in the form of a question that did mention the existing retirement age, was pulled from the primary ballot last spring. In other words, legislators just delayed the vote by one election so they could rig it in favor of the judges.

That means 19 judges statewide who turn 70 this year, including Erie County Judge John Garhart, can extend their careers. Garhart said he will stay on the job, which pays $176,572 a year.

We have no particular quarrel with Garhart. But the reprieve for him and the others resulted from a dishonest political trick, Pennsylvania style.

- Erie Times-News



In speeches offered in victory and defeat on Wednesday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton reminded Americans of one of the great truths of our nation:

When the arguing is done, when the elections are over and the votes are counted, we are all Americans. We are the inheritors of a great and noble experiment in representative democracy.

And with Donald Trump’s election as the nation’s 45th president on Tuesday, Americans must once again honor that legacy, fought for and won with the blood of our sons and daughters.

This is the time to set aside differences and wish him well, as another grand American tradition - the peaceful transition of power - begins.

He is facing no small task.

While Trump won the Electoral College, Clinton as of this writing, is leading in the popular vote.

But if some of the Clinton faithful plan to fight rather than support the incoming administration, we’d remind them of their candidate’s own words on Wednesday.

Clinton said Americans owe Trump “an open mind and a chance to lead.”

In these polarized times, when it’s easy to believe that many Americans are living on separate planets, we must rise up to accept the request Trump made during his magnanimous victory speech.

“For those who have not supported me in the past, I’m reaching out to you for guidance and help in unifying our great country,” he said.

But loyalty to the nation and respect for the office of the president ought not to be construed as issuing a blank check.

But when Americans find themselves in disagreement over proposals made by the new President-elect, they must work to resolve those differences with as little acrimony as possible.

If Trump’s election is proof of nothing else, it is proof that Americans have tired of the gridlock on Capitol Hill; have grown weary of an unresponsive federal bureaucracy and believe their voices are not heard in the halls of power.

It’s not enough to merely say “No,” and not offer a solution. Active participation in a democracy demands that we provide workable alternatives in areas where we find ourselves in disagreement.

In return for this support, Americans have every right to demand a government that treats each citizen, regardless of race, creed, religion or economic station with absolute dignity and absolute respect.

Those aren’t mere words. They’re enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which reads, in part: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

So we gather today in optimism that the President-elect will honor those values and be given the space to pursue his goals within those ideals.

- PennLive.com



Documenting yet another disturbing shortcoming of the rebuilding efforts that America has combined with its war on terror, a new government report says that after pouring $868 million over the last 15 years into Afghanistan’s education system, there’s ample basis to question Afghan officials’ student numbers.

Auditors from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction visited 25 schools in Herat province. Afghan officials claimed those schools’ average enrollment was 2,639 students. The auditors observed an average of just 561, or 23 percent of what Afghan officials claimed, according to NBC News.

The Afghan government funds Afghan schools, but with money donated by other nations - and with the United States as the biggest donor, using U.S. taxpayer dollars. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which has claimed Afghan enrollment supposedly rising more than eightfold since 2002 as evidence of progress, says so few site visits aren’t sufficient to substantiate the suspicions raised by the auditors.

Add as well that auditors found many of those 25 schools crumbling, lacking even reliable electricity and clean water, and it’s hard to not think that the same sort of corruption that has bedeviled U.S. nation-building in Afghanistan, generally, bedevils its schools, too.

And if that’s the case, the real question is why America continues to spend so much of Americans’ money there, to so little positive effect.

-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review



Tragically, nothing has slowed the headlines in the Susquehanna Valley or nationally regarding drug overdoses. One potential precedent-setting case out of Snyder County offers a potential pivot point in this difficult fight as the Valley deals with its 34th confirmed or suspected fatal overdose of the year.

Last week, a 34-year-old Montour County man was found dead with a hypodermic needle still in his arm and others found at the scene. According to county coroner association data, nearly 10 people a day overdosed in Pennsylvania in 2015, and there are no indications it’s going to be different in 2016.

Also last week, 25-year-old George Botticher waived a preliminary hearing regarding his alleged role in the overdose death of a Snyder County man this summer. That means the felony charge of drug delivery resulting in death will head to trial. Botticher is accused of providing heroin to John-Michael Arcuri, who was found dead from an overdose in his home in July. The case is similar to one in Columbia County, in which a 30-year-old Bloomsburg man is accused of providing heroin to a Danville man who died.

As we’ve said before, these cases are difficult to prosecute, simply because the direct connection between supplier and user can be difficult to prove. Evidence is also tough to come by, but in the Columbia County case, police were able to link the dealer to the Danville man through cell phone records.

That’s not always the case, however.

“There tend to be some challenges in these types of cases,” Montour County District Attorney Angie Mattis said. “I’ve already seen cases where the scene has been cleaned up before the coroner gets there. As you might imagine, friends and some associates of some of these individuals don’t tend to talk because they tend to be users themselves.” Additionally, Mattis said the stigma that comes with drug abuse also keeps potential witnesses quiet.

But when will it be enough?

These two local cases offer a possible game-changer in this battle. More charges - and convictions - could lead to a public shift, eliminating more potential barriers to slowing this out-of-control epidemic.

- The (Sunbury) Daily Item



As it turns out, the presidential election was not “rigged” in the manner President-elect Donald Trump had warned of repeatedly during the campaign.

Actually, it was rigged more than 200 years ago when the Founders created the Electoral College, for reasons that no longer exist.

Trump won in the Electoral College but lost in the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton, just as President George W. Bush won in the Electoral College in 2000 while losing the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore.

Clinton and Trump already were on the record against the continuing use of the Electoral College system long before Tuesday.

In 2012, when it briefly seemed possible that Republican Mitt Romney would win the popular vote while President Barack Obama won in the Electoral College, Trump tweeted: “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”

As the long and agonizing recount of Florida’s vote unfolded in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore race, Clinton said in an interview: “We are a very different country than we were 200 years ago. I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it’s time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president.”

The Founders created the Electoral College in one of a series of creative maneuvers to create a country despite the fundamental divisive question of slavery. Northern states had few slaves but many male landowners who were eligible to vote. The south’s voting population was small. In an infamous compromise, the Constitution allowed for each slave to be counted as three-fifths of a white person for the purpose of the census. The census, in term, determined congressional representation. And, the Electoral College consisted of one vote for each congressional district and two more for the state’s senators. The formula also suited smaller states who worried about being denominated by more populous states under a federal system.

The system enabled Virginia to dominate early presidential elections and the system still hews to smaller, older, white populations.

Because there was no mass communication during the early days of the republic, the system made some sense because it localized the national election. But that circumstance also has gone by the board.

Going to a popular vote would not be problem-free, but it would be more democratic. Suddenly, a Republican voter’s tally in California or a Democrat’s in South Dakota would be meaningful in the national total, for example. And candidates would have to stop focusing on only on states where electoral votes are “in play.”

Trump won fair and square under the system in place. But as he and Clinton have acknowledged, that system is not the best one. It’s time to reconsider the Electoral College.

- The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens’ Voice


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