A Yahoo Primer on Yellow Journalism

An August 5, 2019, headline on the Yahoo News homepage read, “How a criminal investigation in Georgia set an ominous tone for African American voters.”  The lengthy article was written by Jon Ward, a former political correspondent at HuffPost.  Ward currently serves as Chief Political Correspondent for Yahoo News.

In its August 25, 2014, announcement of Ward’s move from HuffPost to Yahoo, POLITICO is quoted as saying that “Yahoo is in the midst of an effort to turn the heavily trafficked site into a legitimate news organization.”  Having read Ward’s story on the Georgia vote fraud investigation, it appears Yahoo still has a bit of work to do before reaching their goal. 

The vote fraud story is centered in Quitman, Georgia (pop. 3,850), a rural community situated on the Florida state line in Brooks County, midway between the Alabama state line and the Atlantic coast at Savannah.  In many respects, Brooks County is a throwback to the Deep South of the 1865-1955 era.  In 2014, of the 4,556 county residents who voted, 2,903 were whites, and 1,653 were African Americans.  All but a few county residents were Democrats.

Quitman is the county seat of Brooks County, named in honor of notorious South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks.  As Ward describes Cong. Brooks, he was a member of Congress who “infamously beat Sen. Charles Sumner within an inch of his life on the floor of the Senate, in 1856, for his criticism of slavery.”

What actually happened, and what Ward glosses over, was that Sumner, a Republican senator from Massachusetts, was making a speech on the Senate floor condemning the May 21, 1856 ransacking of Lawrence, Kansas, a small abolitionist community, by a force of some 800 pro-slavery Democrats, mostly recruited in neighboring Missouri, a slave state.  Several people were killed, the local anti-slavery newspaper presses were destroyed, and several buildings, including the Free State Hotel, were burned to the ground.    

Shortly after the invasion of Lawrence, Senator Sumner delivered a fiery speech, condemning slavery and the denial of Kansans’ right to self-determination by pro-slavery Democrats.  As he spoke, Brooks crept up behind him and struck him over the head with a cane, knocking him unconscious.  And while it is fashionable today for leftists to attack statues and memorials of noted American patriots, of all political persuasions, none have seen fit to remove the plaque honoring Preston Brooks in Quitman, Georgia.

The Quitman vote fraud controversy began in the early morning hours of December 21, 2010, when Nancy Dennard, the only black member of the Brooks County school board, was arrested at her home in Quitman and taken away in handcuffs.  A number of Dennard’s African American friends and political allies were also arrested.  In all, the authorities arrested a total of 12 people, charging them with 120 separate felonies.  As Ward describes the controversy, “To Dennard and her allies, who became known as the Quitman 10+2, the reasons for their arrests were simple.  They were black candidates who won an election in the Deep South, upsetting a white-dominated power structure.”

That assessment is only partly true.  Yes, Dennard and her political allies had upset a 145-year-old power structure that had been run by whites Democrats since the close of the Civil War.  What Ward fails to explain is that, in the process of upsetting that old power structure, laws had been broken. 

Ward tells us that the Quitman case “provided fodder for Republicans around the country who argued that voter fraud is a significant problem, despite a lack of evidence of any widespread or large-scale examples.”  That denial is right out of the Democratic Party playbook.  The truth is, vote fraud is such a significant problem that to deny it is to purposely overlook it and to excuse it.  Ward goes on to charge that then-Georgia secretary of state, now governor, Brian Kemp, “has been one of the most aggressive politicians involved in purging voters from the rolls.”

In making that charge, Ward is merely doing the Democrats’ dirty work.  His charge that new anti-fraud laws make it “harder to vote, especially for poor and non-white voters,” is false and totally unworthy of a credible journalist.  If challenged, Ward would be unable to name a single US state that has not made it as simple and as easy as humanly possible to register and to vote.  The act of registering and voting is the same for everyone, no matter the age, gender, race, or political affiliation of the voter. 

Ward tells us that, “Kemp and his aides often spoke of how they were ‘fighting to protect the integrity of our elections.’”  That is precisely what they were doing, although Democrats, black and white, use every conceivable device to create opportunities for vote fraud and to defeat reforms.  Democrats even go so far as to oppose every state law requiring voters to show photo IDs before voting, providing some proof that they are who they say they are.  

In a Senate floor speech on February 7, 1894, prior to final passage of the Repeal Act of 1894,  Senator George Hoar (R-MA) said the following:  “Wherever there is a crevice in our protection of the freedom of the ballot there you will find the Democratic Party trying to break through.  Wherever we have left open an opportunity to get possession of an office contrary to the true and constitutional will of the majority there you will find that party pressing; there you will find that party exercising an ingenuity before which even the great inventive genius of the American People, exerted in other directions, fails and is insignificant in the comparison.” 

Hoar concluded by saying, “Mr. President, the nation must protect its own.  Every citizen whose right is imperiled, if he be but one, when it is a right of national citizenship and a right conferred and enjoyed under the Constitution of the United States, has the right to demand for its protection the entire force of the United States until the Army has spent its last man and the Navy fired its last gun.  Most of us have nothing else than the right to vote…. The urn in which the American casts his ballot ought to be, aye, and it shall be, as sacred as a sacramental vessel.”

All that is necessary to expose the hypocrisy behind Democratic opposition to photo ID laws is to suggest that, instead, we require voters to dip a pinkie into a vial of indelible ink after voting, as is done in many emerging democracies of the Third World.  This would prevent would-be double voters from voting again and again in multiple venues.  It’s hard to imagine what argument Democrats would offer in opposition to that safeguard, but they would be certain to oppose it and their argument would be a creative one.  As for Ward’s concern that Kemp has been “one of the most aggressive politicians involved in purging voters from the rolls,” are we to infer that he favors keeping disfranchised, fictitious, non-existent, non-citizen, and otherwise ineligible voters on the rolls?  For what purpose, other than to facilitate fraud?.           

Although Dennard had lived in Quitman for a number of years, it was not until she became a teacher in the Brooks County school system in 2000 that she became aware of how decisions were made in public education.  She noted that, while almost 60 percent of Brooks County residents were white and the school board was composed of all white members, the student bodies in the public schools were mostly African Americans.  It was that disparity that caused Dennard to make her first run for a seat on the Brooks County school board.

Dennard lost her first race for the school board in 2004 and she lost a second attempt in 2008.  However, those two losses taught her a great deal about campaigning for public office, especially the importance of targeting residents who had not voted before and the value of using absentee ballots to enfranchise those who, for one reason or another, found it difficult to vote in person.  When Dennard made a third attempt in a special election in 2009, she was successful.   

Dennard’s three races for the school board produced a number of activists in the black community, two of whom ran for school board seats, along with Dennard, in the July 2010 Democratic primary.  However, it was during Dennard’s aggressive 2009 campaign that white Democrats were first alerted that a “movement” was underway in the black community.  When an unusually large number of absentee ballots started showing up in the Quitman post office, often “rolled together and tied with a rubber band in groups of anywhere from 6 to 8 at a time,” the postmaster’s curiosity was aroused and the Georgia secretary of state, Brian Kemp, was alerted.   .  

Dennard and her volunteers did a number of things wrong.  In some cases, they helped voters mark their absentee ballots or marked the ballots for them.  That is illegal.  By bundling groups of absentee ballots, they were inviting an investigation by state and local authorities.  Furthermore, the act of “bundling” absentee ballots was a strong indication that someone other than the individual voters, or a member of their immediate family, had deposited the ballots at a postal collection point.  Under Georgia law, voters must “mail or personally deliver” their ballots to the voting office.  For a family member to deliver an absentee ballot on behalf of another family member is also permissible.   

Although the law should be clearer as to who is allowed to deposit an absentee ballot in the U.S. mail, the legislative intent is clear.  What the legislature was trying to prevent was situations in which a campaign worker from Party D, who witnessed a voter mark his/her ballot for the candidates of Party R, would see to it that that ballot never made it to its final destination.  It is a common practice in ballot “harvesting.”

Dennard was eventually charged with eight counts of “unlawful possession of ballots” and three counts of “interfering with an elector.”  Lula Smart, the sister of a 2010 school board candidate, was charged with 25 counts of “unlawful possession of ballots.”  The penalties were such that Dennard faced at least thirty years behind bars and Smart could have spent the rest of her life behind bars.  Every member of the Quitman 10+2 faced at least twenty years in prison.  And although Smart was tried three times… the first two trials ending in mistrials… she was eventually acquitted of all charges. 

In the end, none of the Quitman 10+2 were convicted; no one went to jail.  But there is a lesson to be learned.  In spite of Ward’s opinion that vote fraud is not a significant problem in our country, the evidence is clear that Democrats have always played fast and loose with the law when an office of public trust was up for grabs.  Where Democrats are concerned, politics is just a game, a game that is to be won or lost, and losing is not an option. 

Republicans tend to see things quite differently.  To Republicans, politics is a noble pursuit.  Simply stated, it is the process by which we establish government.  White Democrats in Brooks County, Georgia, may not understand that, but people in the black community surely do.

Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College.  He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.

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Snow White and the 22 Dwarfs

During his Thursday broadcast, the day following the most recent Democratic presidential debate, Rush Limbaugh described how he found himself “rolling on the floor” in laughter.  However, he was also sobered by the realization that the overflow crowd in Detroit’s Fox Theater actually cheered the hairbrained schemes emanating from the debaters.  

When one candidate announced that humankind has just a short period of time, perhaps no more than ten years to save Planet Earth by eliminating fossil fuels (hydrocarbons) as fuels for power generation, none of his fellow debaters challenged that insanity.  Essentially all agreed that a major element of that transition would involve the total elimination of coal from our energy mix. 

According to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. power plants generated some 4.18 trillion kWh of electricity during calendar year 2018.  Of that total, 63.5% was fueled by fossil fuels, with 27.4% of the total generated by coal-fired plants.   

What the candidates failed to mention was that, since wind and solar power are not conducive to the propulsion of automobiles, buses, trucks, and planes, a significant portion of our energy needs will still have to come from petroleum distillates and electricity… mostly electricity. 

In October 2017, the Electric Vehicle Charge Association announced that the U.S. had just surpassed 50,000 charging stations, and that there were nearly 700,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the road.  They estimated that annual sales of electric cars would reach 1.2 million by 2025, at which point there would be an estimated 7 million electric vehicles on the road.

So, exactly where do Democrats anticipate all the electricity will come from that will be required to supply some 2-3 million charging stations… let alone, light, heat, and cool our homes, factories, and businesses?  And will the American people, instant gratification junkies that we are, be patient enough to spend from 20-40 minutes charging up our EV batteries when it took less than five minutes to fill our tanks with gasoline? 

It was recently announced that Volkswagen, as part of its punishment for cheating on diesel emissions tests, will spend $2 billion over the next ten years developing a nationwide web of fast chargers compatible with all brands of EVs.  The program is called Electrify America and includes an $800 million program designed to deploy public and private stations in high traffic areas, 35% of which will go to disadvantaged communities… where, of course, $50,000 Tesla EVs are the vehicles of choice. 

Liberals and Democrats tend to view the answers to these problems as mere technicalities. When asked where electricity comes from, most liberals and Democrats would simply respond, “From the outlet on the wall!  Of course!”

One candidate even went so far as to suggest that it’s time those who live at sea level should start moving to higher ground.

It is understandable that the Quileute Tribe of western Washington, a tribe of former whalers and seal hunters who occupy the westernmost zip code in the continental United States, would actively seek to move their oceanfront community to higher ground.  The Quileute are not concerned that the sea level will rise as a result of melting polar icecaps.  However, living as they do in the earthquake-prone Ring of Fire region of North America, they have every right to fear a potential tsunami that would wipe out their entire community in a matter of minutes.  But to suggest that it is practical to begin relocating 150-200 million people who occupy 95,440 miles of U.S. coastline, because of the unconscionable fear of rising sea levels, is simply insane.   

When the subject turned to immigration problems on our southern border, it was time to turn on the phony compassion switch.  To hear the candidates and the CNN moderators describe the problem of housing illegal border crossers, many of them families with small children, one would have to believe that Donald Trump loaded Melania, Donald Jr., Eric, his wife Lara, and Jared and Ivanka Kushner onto Air Force One, flew to El Paso, and spent the day gleefully ripping children from the arms of their distraught mothers.

The candidates, each in turn, fought back tears as they attempted to show that they were far more devastated by the plight of the parents and the children than any of their fellow candidates.  But what was most telling about that performance was the fact that not one of the candidates, and not one of the CNN moderators, found it necessary to acknowledge that every day of the week, for the past 240 years, federal and state officials have been sending mothers and fathers off to prison… some for the rest of their lives… and in no case have they ever incarcerated children along with their parents.

Nor did they express an ounce of compassion for the children of U.S. military personnel who are deployed to war zones in countries thousands of miles from home.  Military personnel who are assigned to posts in foreign lands not classified as war zones are permitted to take spouses and children with them, but that is not true of deployments to active war zones.

So, where is the compassion for the mothers and fathers who find themselves either incarcerated for long prison terms or deployed to war zones in foreign lands?   Is there a lack of compassion among Democrats because those who are convicted felons have lost their right to vote, and those who are deployed military personnel most often vote for Republicans?  Could it be as simple and as cynical as that? 

Although Donald Trump was rarely mentioned by name during the debate, one of the debaters did refer to the Russian collusion investigation as proof of Trump’s duplicity.  The candidate cited as proof the fact that senior members of the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump, Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and campaign manager, Paul Manafort, met with a Russian attorney at the Trump Tower in New York on June 9, 2016.

The key figure in the Trump Tower meeting was a Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was recommended to the Trump campaign by a long-time Trump acquaintance, publicist Rob Goldstone, as someone who possessed negative opposition research information on Hillary Clinton that would be useful to the Trump campaign.  In a clear and unambiguous email proffer to Trump Jr. on June 3, 2016, Goldstone wrote, “Emin (Agalarov, an Azerbaijani singer who had performed at a Trump Miss Universe event in Moscow) just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father, Aras, this morning and in their meeting   offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.  This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.”

In response, Trump Jr. replied, “Thanks Rob.  I appreciate that.  I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first.  Seems we have some time, and if it’s what you say, I love it…  especially later in the summer.  Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?”

It was the kind of information that “comes over the transom” in every political campaign from sources both foreign and domestic, so it should not be surprising that Trump Jr., welcomed the input, saying, “I love it.” 

But what is most interesting about the Trump Tower meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya is not that she had absolutely no information and no documents dealing with Hillary Clinton and her pre-campaign dealings with Russia.  What is most interesting is the fact that Ms. Veselnitskaya attended a court hearing in New York on June 8, 2016, the day before the Trump Tower meeting, at which Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm employed by the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was present.  But, as if that were not coincidence enough, both Mr. Simpson and Ms. Veselnitskaya have admitted to being seated at the same table at a dinner in Washington, DC on the evening of June 10, 2016, the day after the Trump Tower meeting.     

So, what are the chances that a Russian attorney, meeting with senior Trump campaign officials under false pretenses, would also be in the same room with a man whose firm had been hired by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to dig up dirt on Donald Trump?  And what are the chances that the two would find themselves in the same room on both the day before and the day after the Trump Tower meeting?  People are fond of saying, “It’s a small world.”  But is the world really that small? 

Any reasonable person might suspect that the Trump Tower meeting was nothing more than a setup, designed only to create the optics for a future claim that Donald Trump had “colluded” with Russians to win the U.S. presidency.  Yet, not one of the Democratic debaters, not one of the CNN moderators, and, worse yet, not a single Republican leader, made mention of this inexplicable chain of events so that the American people might understand what was happening.

Until recent years, the field of presidential hopefuls in each party has been limited to perhaps two or three candidates… all men and women of substance.  In 2016, Republicans produced a field of seventeen candidates… some a bit short on experience, but all serious candidates.  Watching the twenty-three Democrat candidates vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, we are reminded of the tale of Snow White and the seven dwarfs.  The difference being that the Democrats have now produced more than twenty political dwarfs…   but who will play the role of Snow White?  Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren?  Willie Brown mistress, Kamala Harris?  Minnesota Ice Queen Amy Klobuchar?  Or will “Plugs” Biden be the first Democrat to seek the presidency in drag?

Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College.  He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.

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Another Black Eye for Pro Sports

In a previous column I expressed the opinion that what we call “sports” can be divided into three categories: perfect sports, imperfect sports, and spectacle. 

I suggested that football is a perfect sport and that there are few potential rules changes that would improve the game.  It is a game of violence, but there are rules to the violence that are strictly enforced.  It is the best of all sports. 

Baseball, too, is a perfect sport.  The phoniest thing about baseball is the way they argue.  How many people do you know who argue by screaming at each other with their faces just inches apart, throwing spittle all over each other’s faces?  It’s disgusting, but no more disgusting than the tobacco chewing, spitting, and crotch-scratching that many players engage in. 

I’ve also suggested that another major problem with baseball is the strike zone.  The rule book says that the strike zone is from the inside edge of home plate to the outside edge, and from the knees to the letters on the player’s uniform.  So why do the team owners allow each umpire to have his own version of the strike zone?  This problem could easily be solved by installing lasers to call balls and strikes.  The discretionary strike zone is almost enough to make baseball an imperfect sport.

Track and field, softball, swimming and diving, gymnastics, and golf, are all perfect sports.  Tennis, too, is a perfect sport, except for its silly scoring system.  If you have no score, you have “love.”  When you score one point you have “15.”  If you score again you have “30.”  And if you score a third time you suddenly have “40.”  Why not “45?”  If at some point both players have the same score – whether 15-15, 30-30, or 40-40 – it’s called “deuce,” which means “two.”  It’s probably a screwy system because, like everything else the British invent, it makes no sense. 

Basketball is the best example of an imperfect sport.  Not only is it an intensely boring game to watch, if you tune in to the last thirty seconds of a game you’ll see all the drama and excitement you’ll see in an entire game.  So why not have thirty second basketball games?  Given the number of momentum-killing timeouts that coaches call in the closing seconds of a game, they could stretch thirty seconds into thirty minutes of commercial messages.

But the biggest rap on the game of basketball is the scoring for foul shots.  If a player grabs the ball and races down the court for an easy two-point lay-up, chances are some 300 lb. brute will land on his back and crash him to the floor.  When that happens, the player who is “mugged” gets to stand about fifteen feet from the basket and shoot two free-throws.  If he’s skillful enough to make both he’s awarded two points, the same number of points he would have made had he not been smashed to the floor.  So, where’s the penalty for the offender?  The game of basketball could be improved 1,000 percent by simply making foul shots worth two points each and allowing no timeouts in the last five minutes of a game.

But none of these, perfect sports or imperfect sports, has the long and proud tradition of the “spectacle.”  We don’t know what games prehistoric man invented to amuse himself.  We do know that, in the early Christian era, the townsfolk enjoyed some real knee-slappers as they watched the Christians dashing around the arena, trying their damnedest to be the last one eaten by the lions.  That was spectacle.

The Spanish found a way to get even with the animal world by arming a whole bunch of guys with spears and swords and turning them all loose on a single bull.  That’s spectacle.

And in the modern era we have professional ice hockey and its first cousin, professional wrestling.  Professional ice hockey could, and should, compete with football as one of the greatest of all “perfect” sports.  It should be a game of beauty and grace, a game of speed, skill, and athletic ability, but it’s played as if it were a common street fight.  It appeals to the most visceral side of human nature and attracts fans, most of whom would pay to see a terrorist attack, an autopsy, or a fatal car crash.  It is not sport, it is spectacle.

When I was a boy growing up in a St. Louis suburb, all the kids my age were sports fanatics   We were all members of the St. Louis Browns Knothole Club (before the Browns became the Orioles  in 1954), or we were members of the Cardinals Knothole Club… sometimes both.  We were such avid fans that many of us could name the entire starting lineups of most major league teams.  But times have changed and most of us are now interested in just one team, in one or two sports, and since the advent of free agency, it would be a rare fan who could name the starting lineups for most competing teams.

Professional baseball took a serious blow to its popularity as the “national pastime” with the major league baseball strike of April 1-13, 1972.  Baseball fans missed out on eighty-two games during that 12-day walkout and major league baseball has still not fully recovered the respect of their pre-strike fan base.

This was followed by the National Football League players strike of 1987.  That 24-day strike was called after Week 2.  The Week 3 games were cancelled, reducing the 1987-88 season to just 15 games, and games 4, 5, and 6 were played with “replacement” players… mostly guys who had played college football but weren’t quite good enough to make it in the NFL.  Football fans across the country were enraged, forcing the NFL to reach a settlement in time for game 7. 

On March 8, 2004, in a National Hockey League game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks, a Vancouver player “sucker-punched” Colorado’s Steve Moore, driving his head into the ice and fracturing three vertebrae in his neck.  Moore ultimately recovered from his injuries, but that attack only added to professional hockey’s less-than-sportsmanlike reputation.  

Since the 1987 NFL strike, professional football has recovered its popularity to a greater degree than has professional baseball.  But then, during the third game of the 2016 NFL preseason, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers brought his radical left-wing political views to the playing field.  A man who began life in 1987 as an adoptee, who signed a $114 million contract in 2014, and who reportedly had a net worth of $20 million, let it be known that he would not stand for the playing of our national anthem prior to games.

His lack of patriotism has spread to other teams and other sports and now, in the summer of 2019, we are forced to endure the childish behavior of Megan Rapinoe of the Women’s U.S. World Cup soccer team, who has also brought her radical left-wing politics to the playing field.

But, while Rapinoe may deserve our enmity for refusing to stand during the playing of our national anthem, and for childishly thumbing her nose at an invitation from our president to be his guest at the White House, she deserves some measure of credit for raising the issue of the pay structure for female athletes vs. male athletes.

Most of us can agree that there is significant wage discrimination between male and female athletes.  Yet, is there anyone who does not fully appreciate the athletic ability of female softball players, tennis players, swimmers, divers, golfers, gymnasts, volleyball players, and track & field competitors?  However, when Forbes Magazine published a list of the world’s highest paid athletes in 2018, there was not a single female athlete listed in the top 100.  In 2019, Serena Williams made the 63rd spot on the Forbes list with an estimated income of $29 million.

And while we can all agree that it would be a rare female who could compete with male athletes in games such as baseball, basketball, and football because of the obvious physical differences between males and females, there are sports, such as soccer, in which the physical differences becomes all but irrelevant.  Unlike football, the game we call soccer does not have a playbook with dozens of set plays… plays that all players must memorize and execute.  Rather, soccer is a game of kicking and passing with each kicking and passing decision made in a millisecond. 

For those who enjoy the game of soccer, it would be difficult to describe what contrast they might see in a match played by males vs. a match played by females.  As fans of American football are known to say, watching a soccer match is much like watching grass grow or watching paint dry.

Although competitive women’s sports date back to the ancient Olympic Games when the Heraean Games, dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera, were held concurrently with the men’s competition, women’s competitive sports were all but non-existent until the mid-20th century.  Until that time competitive sport was considered to be a “manly” pursuit, not an activity conducive to the feminine gender.

But women’s competitive sports have made great strides in the past half century, exemplified by the extraordinary accomplishments of the U.S. Women’s World Cup team.  Their triumphs on the playing field will live on in the hearts and minds of American sports fans, and the differences in financial remuneration between male and female soccer players will be debated and eventually resolved.  But what will not be so quickly forgotten is the poor sportsmanship and the lack of patriotism demonstrated by one player with radical left-wing political views.  What should have been another historic milestone in competitive sports, turned out to be just another black eye for professional sports. 

Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College.  He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.

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