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THOMAS Fleming, former president of the Society of American Historians, recently shared in the Wall Street Journal a little personal history.

Fleming's father was a right-hand man of Jersey City Mayor Frank "Boss"  Hague, who bought elections  in the 1930s and 1940s. He knew all the tricks — vote-buying, imported "floaters" who went from precinct to precinct to vote, and zombie voters.

"My grandmother Mary Dolan died in 1940,"

Fleming wrote, "But she voted Democratic for the next 10 years."

Cheating was rationalized as ethnic groups battling "the dirty rotten stinking WASP Protestant Republicans of New Jersey," he wrote. World War II, in which he served with men of different backgrounds, changed his view.

"Later I became a historian of this nation's early years — and I can assure President Obama that no Founding Father would tolerate the idea of unidentified voters," Fleming wrote.

Fleming remains a Democrat, but he warns:

"I have to laugh when I hear current-day Democrats not only lobbying against voter-identification laws but campaigning to make voting even easier than it already is. More laughable is the idea of dressing up the matter as a civil rights issue . . . "

Looking out for the less fortunate can still be a force, Fleming said,, "but that force, and the Democratic Party, will be constantly soiled and corrupted if the right and the privilege to vote becomes an easily manipulated joke."

Photo identification of voters is in both parties' best interests.

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DON Perdue, D-Wayne, chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee, wants higher taxes on beer and cigarettes to fund drug treatment centers. This runs counter to a vow by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin not to raise taxes.

Perdue favors a doubling of the existing 1-cent tax on a can of beer and a 50-cent increase per pack of cigarettes. He would also consider liquor and wine tax hikes.

"I know that I may be the only guy left standing out there that's going to get his brains kicked in

because it's a tax," Perdue told Mannix Porterfield of the Register-Herald in Beckley.

"But you've got to be honest about it. What is causing our health problems in the state? Substance abuse. Over-utilization of tobacco."

Substance abuse is a problem, but as freshman Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, noted "the problem is almost all due to the abuse of prescription pain medicine."

Taxing a small group to finance a public project is the wrong approach.


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THE pending resignation of Aubrey McClendon as chief executive officer of Chesapeake

Energy comes amid a federal investigation of $840 million in personal loans to the only CEO the company has known since its inception in 1989.

The combination of the investigation and the

precipitous drop in the price of natural gas thanks to a boom in supply pushed the company to lose 43 percent of its market value last year.

A shareholder revolt by Carl Icahn and O. Mason Hawkins changed the board of directors enough to force McClendon out.   

The company posted $1 billion in losses in the first three quarters of the year (fourth quarter results are pending) and its debt rose to $16 billion.

Despite the lousy financial results and the federal investigation, Bloomberg News reported that McClendon's severance package includes $34 million in

accelerated vesting of restricted stock that he was awarded previously, and about $12 million in cash severance and benefits.

Goodness. Just another case where a board of

directors failed to do its job and let a charismatic CEO  walk all over it.

The first duty of boards is to make sure the boss puts the organization ahead of his personal finances.


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WORRIED that polar bears face extinction, writer Zac Unger moved to Churchill in Canada, where polar bears outnumber

people, to write a book about the bruins. 

What he found was not what he expected, he told NPR.

"There are far more polar bears alive today than there were 40 years ago," Unger said, adding: "In 1973, there was a global hunting ban. So once hunting was dramatically reduced, the population exploded.

"This is not to say that global warming is not real or is not a problem for the polar bears. But polar bear populations are large, and the truth is that we can't look at it as a monolithic population that is all going one way or another."

That's encouraging. By the way, Unger's book is

titled, "Never Look A Polar Bear In The Eye."


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THE debate over "climate change," as "global warming" used to be called, has been long and inconclusive. Dire predictions from its believers often have not panned out.

One fact that all sides can agree on is that climate change research is an industry.

The General Accounting Office reported that Congress spent $106.7 billion on climate change research from 2003 to 2010. The federal government spent $79 billion on climate change technology research and tax breaks for green energy.

Spending more than $10 billion a year is a lot of money, even by Washington standards.



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