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The Trumping of the Republican Party

A guest opinion from John V. Buffington

Insurgent Ignorance

There is new proof of American Exceptionalism. A candidate who has adopted the persona of an egotistical, bombastic, protectionist,  belligerent, immoral, mendacious ignoramus has reached the point of threatening the very existence of the Republican Party. Now that Donald Trump has deluded a large plurality of naive voters who have had a say in the Republican nomination process to date, his agents have assured the Republican National Committee that everything that he has said so far is a joke.

Senator Cruz, on the other hand, represents a well-established segment of the GOP. Nihilists and racists emerged from their holes as soon as it became apparent that a black man might become president. They love the idea that their candidate will never compromise. Not with Democrats, not with Republican party leadership, not with anybody who isn’t dedicated to starving the federal government, shutting down every support for anybody who isn’t rich and beating up on immigrants.

Pennsylvania Republicans who would like to go on putting up possible candidates after the inevitable debacle in November will, of course, vote for governor Kasich in the primary on April 26th. That, however, is not enough.

If you want to vote for the actual nomination of Senator Cruz in the belief that bringing government to a halt is desirable, exactly one candidate on the second congressional district ballot for convention delegate is committed to your choice.

If you think that the vote in our district in the beauty contest will go your way, one candidate for delegate has pledged to vote for whoever gets the most beauty contest votes.

If you like Trump you may want to follow the recommendation from his campaign to vote for the other five candidates, who have refused to commit to a candidate on the first ballot.

If you enjoy assigning your franchise to political bosses you will vote for that same list of political cyphers.

If you favor Governor Kasich, either because someone who has actually done stuff in office other than break furniture might work out a bit better than a crazy person, or because you think that he is the least bad choice, you will want to write in “none of the above” on the portion of the ballot pertaining to convention delegates.

If you would like to wrest your franchise from party buses, writing in “none of the above” is your best option.

Our country has recovered from worse than Trump and senator Cruz can dish out and it will do so again this time. Without Trump in the race, one of the more conventional politicians would be the clear nominee by now and would have a good shot in November. The lingering question now is whether there will be enough of a Republican presence to contest mid-term elections in 2018 or some new coalition will begin to form by then or Democrats will just walk away with nearly all of the marbles. Please make your choices on April 26th carefully.

I consider myself a recovering Republican. We Republicans fairly consistently embraced a libertarian view on social issues until Ronald Reagan, our first divorced president, drew the Evangelical Right into the party during the 1980 campaign.

If Trump and Senator Cruz succeed in destroying the Republican party as we know it, a period of Democratic party dominance will ensue, of course.

If I live long enough to see the emergence of a socially libertarian, fiscally conservative party with a realistic restorative view of international Affairs, I will Jump right In.

Author’s Note
This article is the first in the series that will continue until after the Republican National Convention and or until Trump’s dark brown pile ceases to fester on our National white sofa.
John V. Buffington

All readers are welcome to submit opinions or rebuttals.  Email







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Joe Menkevich to Appear Before the Historical Commission

Joe Menkevich is the ultimate historical researcher  He won’t let you say he is a historian because that implies more than what he does.  What he does is dig through documents files archives and pictures to get at facts.  He has been working on documenting the Byberry African American Cemetery.  This cemetery is an orphan.  It sits unmarked and almost forgotten up on Townsend Road in Northeast Philadelphia near Benjamin Rush State Park.

He will be making his case to have this property included in the city list of historic places at the Historical Commission meeting this Wednesday at 9:30 AM.  You can read his nomination documentation at his link.  This is a public meeting for anyone who would like to attend.

Below is a letter of support from John Buffington which argues why this is important to all of us.  It is good to remember that we have our own orphan cemetery right here in Frankford down at Wilmot Park on Meadow Street.

Remarks Prepared for the Historical Commission of Philadelphia

 September 16, 2015

My name is John Buffington. I do neighborhood history rather like Joe Menkevich.

I know a bit about Orphan Cemeteries.

Four generations of several sides of my family rest in a rural Cemetery in South Alabama. My ashes will be there too eventually.

Both of my grandmothers, during near impoverished widowhood, managed to scrape together a modest amount every year to contribute to the informal system for caring for the resting place of the people that they loved.

We buried one of my grandmothers quite close to the fence that runs alongside a 2 Lane State Road.

A few years later the Alabama highway department anticipating the need to someday widen the route from Montgomery to Mobile, condemned additional right of way on both sides of that road.

No one had standing to speak for our dead.

My grandmother now lies in highway right-of-way. If the highway department decides to widen on our side of the road, her grave may be desecrated.

Eventually descendants of the folks in that cemetery got together and organized “The Buffington Cemetery Trust”. We got our federal tax exemption and conducted a fund drive.  I was the founding chair of the Board of Trustees. When I wrote the trust indenture, I stated our intention to maintain and protect that cemetery forevermore.

Then I took the Trust indenture to the Conecuh county courthouse and recorded it in the land records.

Now if anybody ever wants to mess with that cemetery, they know who they have to call.

I also wrote organizing documents and served as chair of the Knowlton Preservation Committee.

When the last standing country house designed by Philadelphia’s greatest architect, Frank Furness, went on the market, neighbors and preservationists and Furness devotees were alarmed to learn that the leading proposal for reuse would have taken most of the site for condominiums, utterly depriving that fabulous building of its remaining context.

The mere existence of an engaged organized constituency, coupled with the legal protections that this great city has put in place, headed off development plans until Jack Conroy, the world’s most acute caterer, came along with a plan that made the most of the architectural asset and sacrificed only the orchard (for parking), a single cut in the rear of the building for a door, and part of the view from the rear.

Twenty-five or so people who immersed themselves in that matter bless the name Conroy and the existence of legal strictures on the development of historic properties every time Knowlton is mentioned.

I want to be on the mailing list whenever the independence or budget of The Philadelphia Historical Commission is threatened.

Who speaks for recognized African-American cemeteries? Doug Mooney mostly.

Who speaks for the restless dead who lie in unlisted ground like Byberry African American Cemetery, Hart Cemetery and Wilmot Playground?  Right now that would be Joe Menkevich.

I know several African Americans who know that their families have been in Frankford longer than my family has been in south Alabama.  They are as proud of their heritage as I am of mine.

My fond hope is that Joe is not the only person who cares about orphan cemeteries of many anonymous souls who labored and served in colonial Philadelphia. I hope that this application will be the catalyst for organizing to speak for the dead. I am ready to write another set of organizing documents. I will hope for a call.

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How To Vote in Favor of the Future

The following is John Buffington’s personal opinion and does not represent the opinion of the Frankford Gazette.  However, we do encourage everyone to vote on May 19th.

I have asked the Gazette to republish Grid Magazine’s endorsement of Judge Nelson Diaz for Mayor because it provides a good basis for decision in a highly competitive race.

This mayoral primary is somewhat unusual by recent standards.  This time there are good reasons to vote for and against all of the leading candidates.  There has been more light than thunder in the campaigns.

The publisher of Grid brings in an issue that hasn’t come up much, if at all: which candidate is most likely to move our city toward a more sustainable future.  All of the campaigns have had a shot at the question and Judge Neslon Diaz (number 10 on the ballot) looks like the candidate who takes that question most seriously.

The endorsement from Grid Magazine is at this link.

John Buffington


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Life and Death in PA Part II

Political Commentary by John Buffington is another installment in a series.  His opinions are entirely his own.  If you have an opinion to share, email the editor

The second battle for the survival of the Commonwealth starts now.

Recently in this space (follow this link) I pleaded for a sufficient voter turnout to expel Governor Corbett. And to deliver a convincing message – that we are not Saudi Arabian peasants, and we object to our health being sacrificed to enrich a rapacious crowd of natural gas drillers.

I got what I wanted on that front. We delivered a “crushing, humiliating, record breaking repudiation” of the incumbent governor. However:

The forces of good health for Pennsylvanians lost on another front. The forces in favor of turning Pennsylvania into a natural gas plantation won convincingly, statewide, on the makeup of the state legislature. Now we face even more powerful pro-plantation majorities in House and Senate than before.

The reason for the ambiguous outcome of the first Battle for the Survival of the Commonwealth is that the forces of good health (and environmental quality, by the way) had allies in the gubernatorial campaign that have other priorities in legislative campaigns. Such as:

An awful lot of people voted to expel Governor Corbett because of his arrogant, dismissive, Scruge-ish attitude toward public education. Devotion to public education is not peculiar to urban liberals; there are conservative Republicans right here in Philadelphia who are appalled by the under-funding of our school district. Moreover:

There are tons more conservative Republicans up-state who are appalled by the current trend away from public education. If they don’t happen to live in one of the zones where the water is already poisoned by fracking, they will have voted on the education issue on the gubernatorial front, but maybe on other issues in legislative races. And:

Then there are the Penn State voters, the real fiscal conservatives, the evangelical anti-pornographers and the people who can’t stand arrogance. (All successful politicians are arrogant, but the best are good at hiding it, like Bill Clinton.)

Penn State voters had lots more against Mr. Corbett than his handling of the Sandusky debacle. He came into the government with a clear animus against state colleges and universities and especially Penn State.

Real fiscal conservatives do not approve of politicians who sign “no new taxes” pledges and then leave money on the table, as Governor Corbett did, while education and infrastructure went begging.

There will have been some votes against Mr. Corbett from folks who are particularly offended by the use of state computers by state employees on state time to transmit pornography. It does speak to neglect of duty by the then Attorney General.

Finally on the arrogance thing, Tom Corbett is no more arrogant then Ed Rendell, say. but Mr. Rendell is a master of coalition building and delights in it. And he has an avuncular style that hides the rapacious jackal that hides beneath the surface of nearly every wildly successful politician. Mr. Corbett will undoubtedly do just fine going into litigation in private practice and letting his predator teeth show.

This variegated group of interests, on top of hard core portion of regular Democrats that turn out when there’s no presidential campaign, was sufficient to turn out Tom Corbett, but it is not a coalition. The coalition needs to be gathered now. Immediately. Because it is imperative that anti-fracking forces influence the selection of key players in the Wolf administration. If we wait to get organized until after inauguration day we will face a cabinet that expects to implement Gov. Wolf’s plan to promote a 5% extraction tax and maximize that revenue to support public education.

So, at best, public education would improve so that new graduates would understand that they need to move out of state before they become serfs of a gigantic natural gas plantation with sickening water and air.

But, realistically, that won’t happen. if public health advocates and environmentalists don’t come to terms with public education advocates, and Governor Wolf’s plan goes to a state legislature that is controlled by pro-fracking forces in BOTH houses, and health and environmental groups either oppose the plans of sit on their hands, the Wolf plan will fail and the legal context for fracking will remain as is. So the slide toward a vast uninhabitable field of natural gas wells will continue – but the pace will escalate. Because the richer the natural gas exploiters get, the more they will spend on elections and lobbying.

Pennsylvania’s fracking disaster cannot be stopped in the near future. If all of the various virtuous interests pull together, the best that we can achieve, for now, is mitigation.

I expect that the management of the natural gas production companies is the usual assortment of MBAs, finance experts, and general purpose opportunists. The commonality among them would be avarice.

The commonality of the virtuous forces that need to become a political coalition is entirely different. Nearly everybody needs to make a living of course but teachers, nurses, governmental and public health activists and environmental scientists choose to sacrifice the prospects of riches for a sense of mission. And family farmers. Hardly anybody does small farming because they have to anymore; they love their land and their role. Even doctors. The average physician may have a bigger gross income than most of the rest of the virtuous, but if you adjust for the cost of education, insurance, and interest, its not that much out of line.

That’s what we have to build on. The politics of escalating catastrophe, of course. But also the politics of selflessness.

There is time to turn this around, but not a lot. I am going to contact everybody that I can think of who might be an important player, sympathetic to standing up to the destruction of our Commonwealth. Then I’ll be back in this space with some specific suggestions for prompt action. Please let me know if you want to help.

About the author: John Buffington is a retired lawyer living in Frankford. His undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia was in Government. For several years he was a Director of the Conservation Council of Virginia, a coalition of 43 different organizations with environmental quality as their primary or a secondary mission, ranging from the Sierra Club to the Farm Bureau and the League of Women Voters. Subsequently he was a director of a similar coalition, the Committee of Pennsylvania Environmental Groups. Those experiences informed the organizing ideas in this article.

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Life and Death at the Polls

Political Commentary by John Buffington is another installment in a series.  His opinions are entirely his own.

If you plan to die within three years, have no descendants living hereabouts, and don’t care about anybody else either, perhaps you needn’t bother to vote in the governor’s race on November 4th.  I plan to do everything that I can to live more than another three years, so I am going to vote and do all that I can to get others to vote too.  Because:

Governor Corbett is engaged in a well-publicized project to turn Pennsylvania into the Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas.  And it is working.  Pennsylvania is now second only to Texas in natural gas production.  However:

Texas imposes a hefty extraction tax, so that the citizenry gets some payback.  Like three other states that are among the top five producers.  Only Pennsylvania lets the plutocrats keep the proceeds, except for a modest charge to cover some of the short term local damage.  So:

In this Commonwealth our patrimony has been sold for a pittance.  We are being robbed with the collusion of people supposedly elected to protect our interests.

Tom Wolfe proposes an extraction tax, which makes him preferable to the current industry puppet.  It would be nice if he also showed some concern about the health issues.  Such as:

The sudden surge in natural gas production is produced by fracking, which includes injecting highly toxic chemicals into a bore-hole to bust up shale way underground, so that gas will gush to the surface to be collected, transported, and consumed to generate electricity or heat.

Some of the deadly fracking junk gets burped back up along with the gas, collected, and transported for disposal.  Sometimes disposal means injection into another bore hole in Ohio, so that it becomes a problem for the people in Ohio, not us.  Other parts of the poisonous crud gets delivered to local sewage treatment plants, where it kills some of the bugs that are essential to treating normal sewage and becomes a problem for whoever is downstream.  But wait, there’s more:

Some of the contaminated goo escapes collection and makes its way into fractures in the underground stone.  It eats ever bigger passages down there, gradually contaminating an ever expanding portion of the water table.  And:

The water table is the reservoir from which people draw water, by means of household or municipal wells.  Then real people use water contaminated by toxic sludge for drinking and cooking.  And real people get sick.  Today.  Real people are being poisoned today by Governor Corbett and his natural gas industry allies.  It gets worse:

Complaints about poisoning are investigated by staff members in the Health Department.  The usual investigators have been instructed to kick complaints upstairs, to political appointees.  The Department denies that anybody has been poisoned.  Moreover:

The toxic fracking chemicals are a trade secret.  Doctors who treat poisoning victims are allowed to know what the junk is that is making their individual patients sick, but they are prohibited from telling anybody else, which puts another cork in the effort to develop a public health approach to a public health problem.  Not just willful indifference; this is going to become mass poisoning.  And it’s not just poisoned water:

Once the gas is produced it has to be transported by pipeline to points of use or export–a city like Philadelphia being a prime destination.  Natural gas is natural poison.  Pipelines leak.  Watch for lots of respiratory problems coming to your hometown soon.

Philadelphia area legislators couldn’t stop this atrocity, so they—Democrats mostly, but also some conscientious Republicans–cut the best deal that they could: there’s a temporary moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River watershed.  That’s why we can’t taste it in Philadelphia yet.  However:

When ruthless politicians and greedy plutocrats conspire to get more powerful and richer, it is going to escalate and hurt an ever larger portion of the public until we get to the polls and throw the rascals out.  Don’t bet your grandchildren’s health that the conspiracy won’t get to the point where our water is undrinkable too, and they will get richer and more powerful while our air becomes poisonous.  By the time we are tasting and smelling poison in Philadelphia, this may be the State of Saudi–Plutocrat Gas Production.

Polls have been showing Governor Corbett losing to candidate Wolfe.  But the gap tends to close at the end.  If this particular rascal is thrown out, he will be the first incumbent governor ever defeated here.  We need to be absolutely sure that that happens.  Moreover:

It isn’t good enough just to defeat Governor Corbett.  We need to deliver a crushing, humiliating, record-breaking repudiation.  We need to make every legislator understand that we reject being robbed and poisoned.

We are not hapless peasants in Saudi Arabia.  We do not have to resign ourselves to abuse.  People fought and died in the American Revolution so that we can turn out on November 4th and speak up.  Women raised hell in the 1890s and 1910s so that women today would get to vote on November 4th for their own health and the future of their children.  African Americans raised hell in the 1950’s and ‘60’s so that African Americans today can go to the polls and say no to yet another abuse.

Please, let us all join hands and change the future of our Commonwealth.

John Buffington

About the author:

John Buffington has no connection with the Tom Wolfe campaign, the Democratic party of Pennsylvania, or the Democratic party of Philadelphia, other than voter registration.  He was registered Republican until recently.

Mr. Buffington was an enforcement attorney in the newly created Environmental Protection Agency under Republican President Richard Nixon.  Then he served as the first Regional Counsel in Region III in Philadelphia of the US Department of Energy.  He was then Chief Counsel for the Governor’s Energy Council, under Republican Governor Dick Thornburgh.  Then he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Delaware, studying “Ethics and Energy Policy” under grants from the Exxon Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

He has worked as a volunteer in 14 political campaigns, 12 for Republicans, one for a Green Party candidate, and one for a Democrat.

In a recent article in this space he endorsed Republican Matt Wolfe for City Council.