Saturday, November 29, 2008

It will never be Obama's fault

No matter how many promises he breaks, no matter how much Barack Obama screws up over the next four years, it will always be George W. Bush's fault.

That's the gist of a new column by Larry Elder on the free pass Obama has been getting and will continue to receive from the liberal media.

You already see it in Pennsylvania, where the fawning media won't blame Gov. Ed Rendell for the variety of ills that plague the state even though Rendell has run the show for the past six years.

From Elder's column at Investor's Business Daily:
"How long do you think it will take for the press to turn on Obama?" a friend asked. "Eight years, if he's in that long," I told him. "Doesn't matter what happens.

"Either they'll blame Bush or 'circumstances beyond Obama's control' while writing articles about how heroically Obama handles them." It's already started.
You don't think for one second that after expanding so much energy to get their candidate elected, the liberals who control the American media are going to do anything to make people have second thoughts about Obama, do you?

Read the full column, "For Media, It Will Always Be Bush's Fault," at the newspaper's Web site.

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One Nation Under God

The Rev. George M. Docherty, whose sermon inspired the campaign to add the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance, died on Thanksgiving Day.

Rev. Docherty passed away after a lengthy illness at his home in central Pennsylvania at the age of 97, according to The Associated Press.

A native of Scotland, Rev. Docherty never heard the Pledge of Allegiance recited until he moved to the United States in 1950, where he became pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

From an Associated Press story about Rev. Docherty's efforts to amend the Pledge:
He was unfamiliar with the pledge until he heard it recited by his 7-year-old son, Garth.

"I didn't know that the Pledge of Allegiance was, and he recited it, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,'" he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press in 2004. "I came from Scotland, where we said 'God save our gracious queen,' 'God save our gracious king.' Here was the Pledge of Allegiance, and God wasn't in it at all."

Docherty then wrote a sermon saying that the Pledge of Allegiance should acknowledge God.There was little effect after he first delivered the sermon to a group of clergy visiting Washington in 1952; a 1953 bill went nowhere.

But two years later, after learning that Eisenhower would be in the congregation, Docherty decided to deliver it again, hoping it would inspire the president.

From the pulpit that morning, he said the pledge was missing "the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life. Indeed, apart from the mention of the phrase 'the United States of America,' it could be the pledge of any Republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer and sickle flag in Moscow with equal solemnity."

The next day, Rep. Charles G. Oakman, R-Mich., introduced a bill to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge; a companion bill was then introduced in the Senate. Eisenhower signed the new law on Flag Day.
That's Rev. Docherty in the photo with his wife, Sue, in a 2004 file photo.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

PA's secretive gambling board

There was always something fishy about the way gambling came to Pennsylvania.

At the prompting of Gov. Ed Rendell, the Legislature approved casino gambling with a middle-of-the-night vote on July 4, 2004, right before taking its summer vacation.

It's been downhill ever since.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board remains one of the most secretive in the nation.

From a Tribune-Review editorial:
The commonwealth's supposed gaming watchdog has conducted 128 private meetings ("executive sessions") but only 77 open meetings. Pennsylvanians have every right to know what is being done in their name and have every right to suspect the worst given the board's typical closed-door policy and closed-minded attitude about the public's right to know.
The newspaper also says the gaming board has had a checkered history:
The board's brief yet bumbling history includes its first chairman stepping down weeks after his appointment amid troubling questions about his background; two of its lawyers and an investigator being charged after bar fights in 2005 and 2006; and a former spokesman serving a prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter because, thanks to a drinking binge, he dropped his girlfriend from the 23rd floor of a Harrisburg high-rise.
Read the full editorial at the newspaper's Web site.

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Exotic cat killed in Chester County

The Pennsylvania Game confirmed Wednesday that a serval, an exotic cat from Africa that resembles a small cheetah, was killed Nov. 25 in Willistown Township, Chester County, according to a PA Game Commission release.

Montgomery County Wildlife Conservation Officer Chris Heil received a call from a farm manager for the Chester County farm about an exotic cat that was in his chicken coop killing chickens, according to the Game Commission.

Under state law, the farmer had the authority to kill the animal to protect his livestock, the game commission release states.

Chester County Wildlife Conservation Officer Scott Frederick retrieved the carcass of the serval on Wednesday and transported it to the Southeast Region Office in Reading, Berks County, according to the Game Commission.

The owner of the animal has been identified and an investigation has been opened regarding the lawful ownership of the animal, according to the Game Commission.

The photo of Chester County Wildlife Conservation Officer Scott Frederick holding the carcass of the serval was taken by the Willistown Police Department.

Check the Pennsylvania Game Commission Web site for future updates on the case.

This is what the Honolulu Zoo Web site has to say about serval eating habits:
They are successful hunters and eat a wide variety of prey, which includes rodents, small ungulates, An animal with hooves. The ungulates are divided into two classes the even-toed ungulates such as the deer, giraffes and antelopes; and the odd-toed ungulates such as horses, zebras and rhinoceroses. birds, lizards, frogs and insects. Their success rate is high at about 50% (lions are about 30% successful). They are also well known in East Africa for raiding farmer's poultry. They require a fresh kill and will eat carrion Dead and decaying flesh. only under extreme circumstances.
If you'd like to find out more about people who keep servals and other exotic animals as pets, check out

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teachers, government workers line up for pension bailout

The very last line in a story The Associated Press moved this week about the hit pension funds for teachers and state workers have taken in the recent stock market collapse should make every Pennsylvania taxpayer cringe.

"... state tax revenues for the current year are running hundreds of millions of dollars below expectations, and the decline in pension fund investments raises the likelihood taxpayers will have to pump in billions more to balance the retirement funds even without a cost of living adjustment," The Associated Press writes.

Pump billions more to balance the retirement funds?

Where do you think these billions will be coming from?

Pennsylvania taxpayers better get ready to dig deeper into their wallets.

There's a comment at the end of the article posted at The Mercury Web site from a woman who asks about the fairness of bailing out public sector workers when private sectors have to suffer.

Here's the comment:
"My husband and I have also posted high losses in our retirement (investments) fund (a fund which we had to save because we had no retirement fund). Who is going to bail us out, like we are expected to bail out the teachers and government workers??? We are 69 years old and have paid taxes all our lives and now we are expected to pay more taxes to bolster these pensions. It doesn't seem quite fair."
Click here to read the full story.

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Thanksgiving Day Proclamation by President Bush

The following is the Thanksgiving Day proclamation by President Bush:
Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather together and express gratitude for all that we have been given, the freedoms we enjoy, and the loved ones who enrich our lives. We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God.

Every Thanksgiving, we remember the story of the Pilgrims who came to America in search of religious freedom and a better life. Having arrived in the New World, these early settlers gave thanks to the Author of Life for granting them safe passage to this abundant land and protecting them through a bitter winter. Our Nation's first President, George Washington, stated in the first Thanksgiving proclamation that "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor." While in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, asking God to heal our wounds and restore our country.

Today, as we look back on the beginnings of our democracy, Americans recall that we live in a land of many blessings where every person has the right to live, work, and worship in freedom. Our Nation is especially thankful for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who protect these rights while setting aside their own comfort and safety. Their courage keeps us free, their sacrifice makes us grateful, and their character makes us proud. Especially during the holidays, our whole country keeps them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

Americans are also mindful of the need to share our gifts with others, and our Nation is moved to compassionate action. We pay tribute to all caring citizens who reach out a helping hand and serve a cause larger than themselves.

On this day, let us all give thanks to God who blessed our Nation's first days and who blesses us today. May He continue to guide and watch over our families and our country always.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 27, 2008, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to strengthen the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

SOURCE White House Press Office


10 Fun 'Turkey Day' Facts

Here's some dinner-table conversation starters for Thanksgiving Day:

* Approximately 46 million turkeys will be eaten at Thanksgiving. Another 22 million will be eaten at Christmas.

* The average weight of a turkey purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.

* Many people report drowsiness after eating Thanksgiving dinner. While turkey often receives the blame, studies suggest that carbohydrate-rich meals may cause sleepiness by increasing the number of tryptophans in the brain.

For more fun "Turkey Day" Facts, click on the link below.

Ten 'Turkey Day' Facts

Newspaper: Reject Blues merger

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is urging the Rendell Administration to reject a proposed merger of Pittsburgh's Highmark Inc. and Philadelphia's Independence Blue Cross.

Combined, the Blues cover 70 percent of Pennsylvania residents.

From a Post-Gazette editorial:
We aren't convinced that the merger would help patients who face escalating costs for premiums or make it easier for employers to negotiate improved coverage for their workers. In addition, given the increases in the state and national unemployment rates, the estimated loss of 1,200 jobs that is expected to result from a merger couldn't come at a worse time.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has also urged rejection of the Blues merger, as has the Pennsylvania Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

The final decision is up to state Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario, a Rendell appointee.

Read the full editorial at the newspaper's Web site.

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Rep. Hennessey blasted by gay newspaper

Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-Chester County, who defeated an openly-gay opponent to win re-election to the Pennsylvania Legislature on Nov. 4, has come under fire by the editor of a gay publication.

James Duggan, publisher/editor of QUEERtimes Weekly, submitted a Letter to the Editor to The Mercury criticizing Hennessey for referencing QUEERtimes Weekly in a political mailing.

While Hennessey never directly made Democratic opponent Fern Kaufman's sexual orientation an issue, Duggan says the reference to QUEERtimes Weekly was intended to influence voters.

From Duggan's letter, which was directed at Hennessey:
"Since you and I have never met I can only infer that you must consider the majority of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered individuals to be left-wing extremists. If this is your position sir, then it sounds a bit convoluted. Just as there is no one political or social philosophy that encompasses the heterosexual community, the same holds true for us. We are as diverse as any community in this great nation."
Kaufman did not mention her sexual orientation on her Web site, but sent an e-mail to potential supporters before Election Day saying she was the only openly gay candidate seeking a seat in the state Legislature.

Hennessey, who has held the 26th House District seat since 1993, narrowly won re-election, defeating political newcomer Kaufman by a 16,578 to 15,275 vote margin.

In addition to criticizing Hennessey, Duggan says in his letter that Pennsylvania denies "basic civil rights" to gay citizens and needs to be more tolerant of the gay community.

Read the full letter at The Mercury Web site.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No Deal

Unions prosper, students suffer

Two good reads about the growing power of teachers' unions and the continued decline of public education. Is there a connection? You bet.

Check out an editorial in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that urges Pennsylvania residents to fight for the repeal of Act 84 of 1988, which made Pennsylvania a "compulsory union" state, allowing unions to bargain for extracting "agency fees" from workers who don't want to be members.

From Declaw the PSEA:
The Pennsylvania State Education Association causes untold damage to kids, taxpayers and the commonwealth. Few Pennsylvanians know how costly is this teacher union. But the public has the power to tame the beast.

With more than 185,500 members, 281 full-time employees and an annual income above $84 million, the PSEA is one of the state's wealthiest, largest and most politically active labor unions, reports The Commonwealth Foundation, a public-policy, free-market think tank in Harrisburg.

The PSEA has had cancerlike growth because of its ability to organize employees into collective bargaining units, influence legislation through its puppets that the union's political action committee helped to elect, and push for endless amounts of public financing for public schools, which usually ends up in union members' pockets.
And POLICY BLOG, the official blog of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, has the numbers to show that "compulsory unionism doesn't benefit teachers, students, or taxpayers."

There is no evidence for (PSEA Head honcho James) Testerman's claim that right-to-work states cannot attract teachers. And as for academic performance, right-to-work states (despite high levels of immigration) perform almost identically to compulsory union states on the NAEP test, and higher on the SAT.
Pennsylvania teachers are the fourth highest-paid in the nation, yet Pennsylvania continues to lead the country in teacher strikes.

And as POLICY BLOG notes, "Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom in SAT scores, and only 60% of black males graduate, according to one analysis."

Check out School Board Transparency and Stop Teachers Strikes blogs for more information.

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Newspaper: Dems' tainted leadership

It's rare that the ultra-liberal Pittsburgh Post-Gazette agrees with the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, but here's one of those cases.

The Post-Gazette says Pennsylvania House Democrats failed to break with the tainted leadership of former Majority Leader Bill DeWeese.

From a Post-Gazette editorial:
House Democrats must like the way their troubled caucus has been operating. How else to explain how little they changed things when they held leadership elections on Tuesday?
DeWeese led the Democrats in the House during the pay raise scandal of 2005 and the Bonusgate scandal of 2006. The decision by House Democrats to associate themselves with the embattled DeWeese says a lot about the Democrats' unwillingness to reform the culture of corruption in Harrisburg.

Read the full editorial at the newspaper's Web site.


Once upon a time ...

Ex-ACORN worker pleads guilty

A suburban-Philadelphia man hired by the controversial pro-Obama group ACORN has pleaded guilty to forgery, identity theft and tampering with public records charges involving bogus voter registrations.

From The Delaware County Daily Times:
The charges were filed against 34-year-old Jemar Barksdale as a result of invalid voter registration applications he submitted, according to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

Barksdale, who entered the plea before Common Pleas Judge Patricia H. Jenkins, was sentenced to serve six to 23 months on electronic home monitoring, to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, perform eight hours of community service, to pay court costs and restitution in the amount of $574 to the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN).

Back in October, county District Attorney G. Michael Green said Barksdale had provided 18 fraudulent and 22 completely fictitious voter registration applications to the county voter registration office.

Krista Holub, ACORN Political Operations in Philadelphia, said in a prepared release that ACORN is satisfied with the outcome of the case. Barksdale was an employee for eight days, from late May through early June.

"PA ACORN hired over 1,300 employees across the state and are proud of our hard working canvassers who helped neighbors and friends register to vote."

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Reform group: No pay raise for state officials

A citizens' group that led the fight to repeal the 2005 legislative pay raise is demanding Pennsylvania officials suspend their annual COLA increase. says the 2.8% cost-of-living adjustment for legislators, members of the Rendell administration and judges is a "stealth" pay raise.

The base salary of a Pennsylvania lawmaker goes up to $78,315 on Dec. 1. Legislative leaders earn more. For example, the Senate Pro Tempore would earn $118,095 after the COLA kicks in.

From Eric Epstein, coordinator of
"At a time when working class families are getting clobbered, the political class is making plans to jet to New York City and whine and dine in the lap of luxury. Those in the 'no whine zone' are prospering. Speaker McCall will be making $122,000, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille will be hauling in $192,000. Rank-and-file lawmakers will have to get by on $78,300 with per diems, a state car, and full benefits."
Epstein said the Dec. 1 pay raise is particularly galling because Pennsylvania elected officials have done such a poor job of managing state revenues.

"No one should be rewarded for creating a $500 million deficit," Epstein said. "Taking a COLA this year is like stealing your children's savings' bonds.", one of several citizen reform groups that fought to repeal the 2005 middle-of-the-night pay raise, believes that a nonpartisan and independent compensation commission should determine future pay adjustments for elected and appointed officials.

"State government is a publicly held corporation with by-laws that specifically exclude COLAS (Article III, Section VIII)," Epstein said. "If lawmakers want a bonus plan then they need to submit a proposal to taxpayers for ratification."

For more on the group's reform agenda, visit

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How low can stocks go?

PA Open Records Office sets copying fees

Below is the first press release from the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. I hope it will be the first of many to come as Pennsylvania ushers in a new era of openness and accountability in government.

HARRISBURG -- Citizens will pay between 10 cents and 25 cents per page for public records under a fee structure established by the new Office of Open Records, Executive Director Terry Mutchler announced Monday.

"The fee structure established by our office is a reasonable way to ensure citizens have meaningful access to the records of their government and that public bodies are able to recoup the actual cost of the copies," Mutchler said.

The Right-To-Know law, signed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell on February 14, 2008, established the Office of Open Records to implement and enforce the Act. The law, which fully becomes effective January 1, 2009, charged the Office of Open Records with establishing fees pursuant to a right-to-know request.

Under the fee structure, a Commonwealth or Local Agency will be permitted to charge only the actual cost of reproduction for blue-prints, color copies, odd-sized materials and downloading records to computerized discs.

An agency may not charge citizens for the time it takes to determine whether the record is a public record. An agency may not charge for searching or retrieving the documents. An agency also may not charge staff time or salary for complying with a right-to-know request, and an agency is precluded from charging fees to redact, or black out, information that is exempt under the law.

"Nationally, duplication fees are one of the most abused areas of any government access law and, quite often, high fees are just another way to deny citizens access to their government," Mutchler said. "This fee structure guards against that."

Citizens also can choose to inspect records rather than obtain copies, under the law.

The Office of Open Records encouraged Judicial and Legislative agencies, which can set their own fees, to adopt the fee structure set by the Office of Open Records to promote uniformity throughout the Commonwealth.

The complete fee structure and information related to the Office of Open Records and the new law can be found at

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Obama Is Watching

Does anyone else find this image disturbing? The mural of President-elect Barack Obama is painted on the side of a restaurant in Chicago. Shades of Big Brother or Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez. The cult of personality surrounding Obama is getting out of hand.

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Sen. Robert Byrd on Potential Commerce Secretary Nominee Gov. Bill Richardson

Economic Crisis Makes 'Rubinomics' Irrelevant

President-elect Barack Obama should change his slogan to: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

The seeds of the current economic crisis can be traced back to the Clinton Administration. Americans should be concerned that so many former Clinton officials are returning to key positions in the Obama Administration.

Economic Crisis Makes 'Rubinomics' Irrelevant

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Columnist: Democrats blew it again

Brad Bumstead, the astute Harrisburg reporter for The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says House Democrats had a chance to sever ties with tainted leadership last week, but decided to stick with the same people that have been associated with the business-as-usual attitude in the State Capitol.

By keeping Bill DeWeese, the embattled former Democratic Majority Leader, in the leadership mix and elevating Todd Eachus to DeWeese's former spot, the Democrats rejected reform candidates who wanted to move the party away from the culture of corruption that has permeated Harrisburg for decades.

"Any sane political analysis would conclude the Democratic Caucus blew its chance to break from the bonus scandal," Bumstead writes. "Even if no one in the current leadership ever is charged, they were part and parcel of the culture that produced the scandal."

This is nothing new. Democrats frequently sweep corruption under the rug instead of dealing with it head on.

Read Bumstead's full column at the newspaper's Web site.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

State Capitol Roundup for November 21

Here's this week's State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch, R-147th District:

Ongoing Budget Talks Shed Light on State's Growing Budget Hole

The Commonwealth now seems to be in the midst of a serious revenue shortfall, according to testimony offered during a House Appropriations Committee hearing this week. Gov. Ed Rendell, who backed away from previous comments downplaying the hole in the existing budget, acknowledged that Pennsylvania's revenue shortfall may be as high as $2 billion by the end of the fiscal year. Despite new plans to avert a budget crisis, House Republicans continue to worry that the administration's efforts will be insufficient and that the Democrat majority in the House will attempt to pass the buck to Pennsylvanians in the form of tax hikes. It will be a top House Republican priority to fight any proposal that takes more money out of taxpayers' pockets.

MCare Legislation Blocked by House Democrats ... Again

On the final day of the 2007-08 legislative session, House Republicans again attempted to protect Pennsylvanians' access to health care services by bringing up legislation to extend the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (MCARE) for a vote in the House. Despite the growing problem of local health care providers closing their practices and leaving the state, House Democrats again avoided the critical vote. The Rendell Administration opposes extending MCARE unless his costly, big-government health care plan is implemented. House Republicans are continuing their fight to ensure access to quality health care for every Pennsylvanian. For more on Republican health care reform efforts, visit

Pending Blues Insurance Merger Continues to Rile Advocates for Patients

Ongoing discussions regarding the potential merger of Highmark Inc. and Independence Blue Cross remain heated, as some lawmakers express concern over the merger's ramifications. The consolidation between the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia insurance kings would create the seventh largest insurer in the nation, covering roughly 53 percent of the insurance market in Pennsylvania. House Republicans have repeatedly said that the size of the new company could push smaller insurers out of the market, reducing competition and increasing prices for those seeking health care services in the state. A final decision on the consolidation is not expected until January at the earliest, 60 days after all legislative panels have submitted their recommendations.


Targeting 'systemic corruption in Harrisburg'

Brian O'Neill, a columnist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recently interviewed citizen activist Tim Potts about his ongoing effort to reform Harrisburg.

Potts, a former legislative aide who founded DemocracyRisingPA, has a new strategy to keep the reform movement alive.

Potts is attempting to create a citizens watchdog network across Pennsylvania to keep an eye on state legislators, according to O'Neill.

From O'Neill's column:
Mr. Potts, of Carlisle, puts about 30,000 miles on his car each year talking to folks like these. He doesn't want to hear that Joe Citizen can't do anything about the systemic corruption in Harrisburg, and so is trying to counter it with systemic civic vigilance.

It's an ambitious, localized plan, and the punster in Mr. Potts can't resist calling it "Local Eyes." Citizen volunteers will home in on one state representative or senator and track all recorded votes on integrity issues, all sponsorships of reform legislation and any statements on public integrity.

Democracy Rising will provide volunteers with a list of bills and the voting schedule, but volunteers will be expected to meet each month with each lawmaker "for updates on activities toward the highest standards of public integrity in America."
Read the full column, Staring down a corrupt Legislature, at the newspaper's Web site.

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Change or more of the same?

This is not the "change" Americans voted for when they elected Barack Obama as president. It's business as usual in Washington, D.C., with Clinton-era retreads getting key posts in the Obama Administration.

'Has President Elect Obama's Concept of Change Regressed to Returning Ethically Compromised Players to The White House from Clinton-Gore Administration?'


More bailout news

Obama's poor judgment

"Immaturity and/or chutzpah has led President-elect Barack Obama to pick Eric Holder to become the next attorney general," says The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Holder, a controversial former member of the Clinton Administration,is but the latest example of poor judgment exhibited by President-elect Barack Obama.

From The Tribune-Review editorial:
It was Holder who, as a deputy attorney general, signed off on the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. The husband of well-heeled Democrat donor Denise Rich was an international commodities trader. He was facing tax evasion charges. Mr. Rich also was accused of making oil deals with the Iranians during the late 1970s hostage crisis. He fled to Switzerland to escape prosecution in 1983. He was on the lam when pardoned.

A congressional report says Holder failed to offer any justification for the pardon and failed to notify his underlings, prosecutors who surely would have objected.
Read the full editorial at the newspaper's Web site.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do PA legislators deserve a pay raise?

Gov. Ed Rendell and the Pennsylvania Legislature, the same people who have saddled the state with a potential $2 billion budget deficit, are giving themselves a pay raise.

These are the same people who have failed to take action on the state's transportation and health care needs. The same people who have done nothing to prevent skyrocketing electricity rates once caps expire. The same people who have failed to do anything about property taxes for the past 30 years.

But they will be getting an annual cost-of-living raise, effective Dec. 1.

House and Senate members will receive a 2.8 percent raise, setting lawmakers' base pay at $78,315, according to The Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Pay for the 30 legislative leaders will range from $89,300 to $122,254 after Dec. 1, when the annual COLA raise kicks in, the newspaper says.

The Legislature passed a bill in 1995 that automatically gives its members a pay raise unless a majority votes against the annual COLA. To date, lawmakers have never rejected the money.

Gov. Rendell, his cabinet and state judges will get the same 2.8-percent increase, effective Jan. 1. The governor's salary will rise to $174,956.

From The Patriot-News article:
For lawmakers, who according to their attorneys have no right to forgo the raise, it will keep their fourth-place national ranking in legislative salaries. California at $116,208, Michigan at $79,650, and New York at $79,500 pay more.

Pennsylvania is one of four states that grant lawmakers automatic cost-of-living raises, according to Morgan Cullen of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Read the full story at the newspaper's Web site.

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'Journalists Roundtable' lineup

Here's the lineup for tonight's edition of "Journalists Roundtable" on the Pennsylvania Cable Network:

John Micek, Allentown Morning Call
Dennis Owens, ABC27 News
Tony Phyrillas, Pottstown Mercury

Topics include the new leadership in the Legislature, the states fiscal crisis and the future of the Boscov's department stores.

The program airs at 8 p.m. on cable systems across Pennsylvania. The show will repeat Sunday at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Study says PA among least competitive states

Looking for more evidence that Gov. Ed Rendell is to economics what Eagles head coach Andy Reid is to NFL coaching?

Pennsylvania is among the least competitive states when it comes to attracting and keeping businesses, according to a new study.

The Beacon Hill Institute, a free-market think tank based at Suffolk University in Boston, ranked Pennsylvania 39th out of the 50 U.S. states, according to The Philadelphia Business Journal.

It's the latest in a long line of independent evaluations of Pennsylvania's economic climate under Rendell that show the state near the bottom.

From the Journal article:
Researchers preparing the study looked at areas such as security, government and fiscal policy, environmental policy, human resources, technology and "business incubation."

Pennsylvania ranked near the middle or bottom in most areas, but fared well in the technology category, which included such factors as academic research and development, and National Institutes of Health support.
Just as the Eagles are not considered competitive under Andy Reid, Pennsylvania's economy is not competitive under Ed Rendell.

Perhaps they'd consider switching jobs. Rendell couldn't do any worse coaching the Eagles and Reid couldn't possible screw up the state's economy any more than Rendell has.

Read more about the study at the business publication's Web site.

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With Hillary, you get Bill

Obama AG pick has some baggage

I knew the name was familiar. Now I remember who Eric Holder is. Barack Obama's pick to become the next Attorney General worked in the Bill Clinton Administration and helped arrange the last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Welcome to the Third Clinton Administration. Anybody know what Monica Lewinsky is doing these days?

RNC: Obama's Pardon-Me AG

The nomination of Eric Holder as Attorney General should alarm gun owners across the country, says the Second Amendment Foundation.

Heller supported the Washington, D.C., gun ban that was eventually struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holder's nomination, like the appointment of anti-gun Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, tells American gun owners that Obama's campaign claims supporting the Second Amendment were "empty rhetoric," says Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.

If you're one of the 85 million Americans who own a gun, the Obama Administration will work hard over the next four years to restrict you rights, the group argues.

Holder Nomination Signals Obama's True Anti-Gun Rights Agenda


Why you can't sue God

I don't know how I missed this story a few weeks ago, but I did. Maybe I was wrapped up in all that election stuff.

A judge in Omaha, Neb., threw out a lawsuit against God filed by a Nebraska state senator on a technicality: You can't deliver God a summons to appear in court so you can't sue Him in the first place.

"There can never be service effectuated on the named defendant," wrote Judge Marlon Polk, of Douglas County (Neb.) District Court, in throwing out state Sen. Ernie Chambers' lawsuit against the Almighty.

You would think the ruling would be the end of the matter, but Chambers may appeal the judge's decision.

Chambers, a Democrat who has served in the state Senate since 1970, sued sued God in September 2007, seeking a permanent injunction to prevent God from committing acts of violence such as earthquakes and tornadoes, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

From the newspaper:
Polk dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, which means it can't be refiled. But his ruling can be appealed.

Although the case may seem superfluous and even scandalous to others, Chambers has said his point is to focus on the question of whether certain lawsuits should be prohibited.

"Nobody should stand at the courthouse door to predetermine who has access to the courts," he said. "My point is that anyone can sue anyone else, even God."
Read more about the case at the newspaper's Web site.

Dear Santa

A column Ed Rendell should read

The Wall Street Journal has published an excellent op-ed column by Steve Malanga, a senior editor at the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, about how states got themselves into a fiscal mess.

Are you listening, Ed Rendell?

Pennsylvania has run up a budget deficit of $565 million just four months into the current fiscal year. State lawmakers predict a deficit of $2.5 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

How did we get into this mess? When times were good, Gov. Rendell proposed budgets that increased spending at twice the rate of inflation. Since Rendell took office in 2003, state spending has risen by more than $7 billion. Rendell also borrowed another $3 billion.

Now that times are tough, tax revenues are shrinking dramatically. Rendell has proposed $300 million in cuts from administrative spending, but that won't put much of a dent in a $2.5 billion deficit.

Rendell isn't alone in screwing up his state's bottom line.

From Malanga's column:
From the end of the last recession in 2003 until this year, states collectively boosted general-fund budgets by an annual average of some 6.4%. In just 2006 and 2007 alone they added about $100 billion. During the period from 2003-2008, states also took on 38% more debt, increasing their collective indebtedness to $2.19 trillion.

Now it's cold-shower time. Earlier this year, in the spring, more than half of the states grappled with budget deficits amounting collectively to nearly $50 billion. Since then tax collections have fallen short of projections, producing further midyear budget holes in nearly two dozen states.
To read the full article, visit the newspaper's Web site.

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A reminder to elected officials

A reminder to everyone who holds public office or is paid by taxpayers:

"The First Amendment doesn't exist so we can freely praise our public officials. It exists so we can freely criticize our public officials."

-- Chris Lamb,
Educator, College of Charleston, S.C.

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Catch me on 'Journalists Roundtable'

I'll be making a return appearance this week to "Journalists Roundtable" on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Among the topics of discussion will be the new leadership in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

The program airs Thursday at 8 p.m. and again on Sunday at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.

PCN is Comcast Channel 98 in Berks County, Service Electric Channel 23 in Berks and Lehigh Counties and Comcast Channel 186 in the Pottstown area. Consult your cable guide for the PCN channel in your area.

And don't forget to tune in to "Talking Politics with Tony Phyrillas and Mike Pincus" Thursday at 5 p.m. on WPAZ 1370 AM. The one-hour show is simulcast at and


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A third Clinton Administration?

Remember all the hogwash from Barack Obama that electing John McCain would be a third Bush Administration?

So what exactly did voters get when they elected Obama instead? It's beginning to look more and more like a third Clinton Administration.

More than two-thirds of the people named to Obama's transition team are former members of the Clinton Administration. Many are in line to get key posts in an Obama White House.

Obama has already tapped Rahm Emanuel, who worked for Bill Clinton, to be his chief of staff. John Podesta, who is heading the Obama transition, was Clinton's chief of staff.

And now Hillary Clinton is the front-runner to be named Secretary of State?

Didn't voters reject a third Clinton Administration when they passed on Hillary as the Democratic Party nominee?

If Clinton doesn't want the job, it appears that another Clinton retread, Bill Richardson, is in line.

Why is Obama recycling the Clinton White House? You could make the argument that Hillary Clinton is more experienced with foreign affairs than Obama, but I thought the whole point of having Joe Biden on the ticket is because of his foreign policy experience?

Is this change or more of the same?

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John Perzel Makes A Last Stand

John Perzel, who a few short years ago was the most powerful member of the Pennsylvania Legislature, takes one more shot at a leadership post today.

The former Speaker of the House has been losing his grip on Harrisburg power ever since he pushed for the ill-fated, middle-of-the-night pay raise in July 2005. The backlash from the pay raise (and Perzel's continued defense of the action) knocked the Republicans out of the majority in the House in November 2006.

Because the Democratic majority in the House was a slim 102-101, Perzel attempted to hold the Speaker post by enticing three Democrats to vote for him, but six Republicans turned against Perzel, ending his bid to hold the Speaker's office.

Reduced to the silly title of "Speaker Emeritus" over the past two years, Perzel has been plotting a comeback. He will challenge Rep. Sam Smith for the post of House Minority Leader when the GOP Caucus holds a close-door leadership vote today.

If Perzel loses, which he probably will, his days in the Legislature may be numbered. When you've called the shots as long as Perzel has, it won't be easy to sit in the back of the House chamber as just a rank-and-file member for another two years.

Two things are working against a Perzel comeback. One is the revelation that Perzel allegedly hired an investigator to dig up dirt on fellow Republicans. Everybody expects dirty tricks in politics, but not against your own party members.

The second revelation is a published report by The Philadelphia Inquirer that a grand jury is looking at whether House Republican leaders, including Perzel, improperly used a $9 million taxpayer-funded database to improve their chances of winning elections.

House Republicans want to run away from Perzel, much like House Democrats are trying to distance themselves from their tainted leader, Bill DeWeese.

Smith, while not the most effective floor leader, hasn't made as many enemies as Perzel has over the years. Expect Smith to retain his leadership post when the House Republican Caucus convenes today to pick its leadership slate for the next two years.

As for DeWeese, he's already announced he won't seek another term as House Majority Leader. In other words, he jumped overboard before House Republicans pushed him off the plank. DeWeese is willing to accept the No. 3 leadership post in the House Democratic Caucus, but that's not a sure thing, either.

The Bonusgate scandal is widely credited with preventing House Democrats from increasing their slim majority despite the Obama landslide in Pennsylvania. So far, 12 people associated with the House Caucus are facing criminal charges in a scheme to use taxpayer funds for political work. DeWeese has not been charged, but his chief of staff testified in court that DeWeese was aware of the diversion of tax dollars for political campaign work.

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Montco GOP takes Jim Matthews to the woodshed

The Montgomery County Republican Committee has adopted a unanimous resolution censuring renegade county Commissioner Jim Matthews.

"Since I was elected chairman and even while I was campaigning, everywhere I went, I was asked 'What are we going to do about Jim Matthews'?," county GOP Chairman Bob Kerns said in a press release announcing the censure.

"The voters I talk to feel betrayed and the Republican committee members are just devastated by Jim's actions. The voters placed their trust in Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor and the committee members put their hearts into the campaign to elect the Matthews-Castor team last year. This has been a difficult year for everyone," Kerns said.

Matthews rode Bruce Castor's coattails to re-election last November, but on Dec. 18, he announced that he had negotiated a power-sharing agreement with the lone Democrat on the three-member commissioners board. The deal made Democrat Joe Hoeffel vice chairman of the commissioners. Hoeffel then proceeded to hire all sorts of political cronies to lucrative county jobs.

Most votes taken by the board have been 2-1, with Matthews and Hoeffel getting their way over the objections of Castor.

More from Kerns' release:
"Montgomery County's voters pick the person, not the party. It's been that way for two decades and Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor campaigned on a set of priorities that are not being implemented. Instead, we're implementing the major priorities outlined by Joe Hoeffel and Ruth Damsker, but that agenda was rejected by voters in favor of a Matthews-Castor agenda. The voters have to know we don’t condone what’s happening in Norristown."

As an example Kerns cited the Hoeffel promises of hiring a Chief Financial Officer, enacting a $50 million economic development plan, and Hoeffel's record in the 1990s of running up debt and paying for budget items with bond issues.

"When Hoeffel left the Board of Commissioners in 1998 he left us with hundreds of millions in debt and just $12 million in the bank. Our AAA bond rating was threatened. It was a disaster. Hoeffel and Matthews are pursuing policies that will put us right back in the same hole. This year alone they are looking to raid the county’s dwindling savings to pay for their programs. It's not the way Republicans would run this government. Jim Matthews got elected in 1999 and again in 2007 by pointing out what a disaster Hoeffel was as a commissioner in the 1990's. Now he's forming a government with him and implementing Hoeffel's agenda? It makes no sense and our committee and the voters are confused and hurt,” Kerns said.
Since taking over control of the county party in the spring, Kerns said he attempted to "bring Matthews back to the table."

"I did meet with him in early summer in the hopes of bridging the divide between he and his Republican colleagues in county government. He made it clear that he was not interested in any kind of reconciliation. I continued to pursue the matter through intermediaries throughout the fall," Kerns said in the release.

“At some point, we have to decide to move on and accept that, based on his actions, he is not a Republican anymore. No matter how often Jim insists he is a Republican, you are ultimately judged by how you govern and your record, not your words," Kerns said.

Kerns said on Election Day many committee members reported incidents where voters stopped to express their disgust with Matthews on their way into the polls.

"In the end, Jim's actions are the actions of an individual, not the Party. That is the message I hope people take away from this resolution. The party is standing up and making its position clear. We don't agree with Jim, we don't condone what he's doing as a Commissioner and he's not representative of our Party as long as he's engaging in this behavior. Don't blame the Party for the actions of one man," Kerns concluded.

A total of 56 Republican municipal leaders, area leaders and executive committee members attended Monday's Leadership Conference, where the censure vote against Matthews was taken.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The bailout plan so far

Columnist: Cut school boards to save taxes

It's a vicious cycle. People run for their local school board with the best of intentions, promising to put an end to runaway spending for public education and put a lid on property tax increases.

They get elected and check their brains at the door. They end up rubber-stamping every spending initiative introduced by the administration, including those palatial school buildings.

They "negotiate" contracts with teachers' unions that provide teachers with raises and benefits that other workers can only dream about. Some of the board members get voted out, but their replacements are no better. And so it goes.

Joseph J. Ryan, writing in The Intelligencer in Doylestown, has a suggestion: Eliminate school boards entirely. School boards have failed both students and the taxpayers, Ryan argues. In many cases, it's school boards that stand in the way of reforming a failing education system.

From Ryan's column:
School board responsibility begins with the effective education of their students and the financial interests of taxpayers; neither requirement is being addressed. School boards intimidated by union strike threats find placating the unions their primary function, the reason teachers' right to strike should be abolished. Postal, state and federal employees are forbidden to strike; 41 states have also disallowed teacher union strikes, why not Pennsylvania?

To correct public education's fiscal excesses, school budgets and the new craze, new school structures, should be put to a referendum. We are no longer dealing with nickels and dimes in Bucks County; some budgets are approaching $200 million a year, 66 percent of that figure consumed in excessive teacher salaries and bloated benefits.

America's teacher unions have successfully forged the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on a legally coerced taxpaying public, ever rising school taxes with no return on investment. In 2006-07, despite Bristol Township's consistently poor academic performance, the top teacher salary was $85,427, cost of benefits $28,475, total salary $113,902 for a 40-week work year, or $2,847 per week. Of that preposterous salary, teachers grudgingly agreed to pay an insignificant $45 toward a $1,250 monthly healthcare premium.

Nationally, taxpayers have contained the avaricious demands of the teacher unions. The first step is to abolish their right to strike; divest them of the tenure entitlement, a sanctuary for academic incompetents; rescind their right to due process, and put every union or school board proposal to a taxpayer vote.

Additionally, local school boards should be abolished. Similar to Hawaii, professionals in economics, the media, law, academia, the business and corporate communities should be appointed to a newly formed state panel and given unconditional jurisdiction in dealing with individual districts. They should be compensated consistent with their expertise.
Why does Pennsylvania have 501 school districts, with 501 school boards? Each school district has at least one superintendent making a six-figure salary who surrounds himself with an army of high-paid administrators. Imagine the savings by consolidating the 501 school districts by county. That would leave just 67 school districts. And that's just a start.

Read Ryan's full column at the newspaper's Web site.

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School Board Transparency

Ever wonder how teachers manage to get such lucrative contracts every time they negotiate contracts with your local school board?

Curious about why your property taxes are so high?

Check out School Board Transparency at to learn more about the secretive world of public school contract negotiations.

The goal of the blog is provide "Sunlight on Board-Union Contract Negotiations."

The blog was created by Fred Baldwin, who describes himself as "a recovering school board president."

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Hillary's next move

Taking a toll on jobs

Eric Heyl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review offers a hilarious scenario in which Joe Brimmeier, the head of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, a bastion of patronage jobs, has to find ways to persuade people to voluntarily leave those cushy jobs before layoffs are ordered.

The sinking economy has hit the Turnpike, too. Fewer people are traveling to fewer jobs. That means revenue from tolls is declining.

From Heyl's column:
Think of the quandary in which poor Joe Brimmeier finds himself.

Things are so bad that Brimmeier now is looking to reduce expenses and trim some of the commission's 2,250 jobs. Layoffs are being discussed if enough employees don't participate in a "voluntary departure program."

Given the manner in which many well-connected turnpike employees and consultants obtained their jobs, Brimmeier probably is meeting plenty of resistance as he attempts to cut costs and pare payroll.
Read the full column at the newspaper's Web site.


Let's bail out newspapers

Since Congress is handing out checks to the banking industry, the housing industry, the financial services industry and the auto industry, how about some help for the struggling newspaper industry?

I just thought I'd ask.

Phil Heron, the editor of The Delaware County Daily & Sunday Times, writes about tough times facing newspapers in his latest column.

Heron writes:
We find ourselves under siege on all sides. Advertising is down. Way down. Revenues continue to decline. So does readership. The industry is struggling as readers move increasingly to the Internet as a source of news.

Of course, we also feature a Web site, but the print version we distribute each day remains the backbone of our financial model.

There are those who believe that newspapers are dinosaurs, that we are in the waning days of print. I'm still not sure I agree completely with that point of view. We have our challenges, there is little doubt of that.

But I also believe we continue to play an important role, in particular in our watchdog role over government.

But the numbers do not lie. Fewer and fewer people pick up the newspaper each day. That is especially true of young people, who clearly have not been ingrained with the habit of a daily newspaper, as I learned from my parents. They are much more inclined to get their news online.

It is not a particularly appealing picture. It makes you wonder about the future, about the newspaper’s role in it, maybe "if" the newspaper has a role in it.
Read the full column at the newspaper's Web site.


At least Obama is hiring

How dumb are PA voters?

Is there any hope for Congress?

DeWeese Is Done

It looks like we won't have Bill DeWeese to kick around anymore.

The embattled House Democratic Majority leader is dropping out of the race for another two-year term as floor leader to avoid the embarrassment of having his own Caucus members show him the door.

Prominent House Democrats attempted a coup earlier this year to force DeWeese to resign as Majority Leader, but he held on to his post ... at least for a few more months.

DeWeese survived a scare at the polls on Nov. 4 when he managed to beat Greg Hopkins, an under-funded opponent by just 2,107 votes. (DeWeese actually lost to Hopkins in Greene County, the heart of the 50th House District.)

DeWeese ran the Democratic Caucus during the Bonusgate scandal, in which politicians allegedly used millions of taxpayer dollars to pay state employees for doing campaign work.

Although DeWeese is not one of the 12 people connected to the Democratic Caucus to face criminal charges so far and maintains his innocence, his chief of staff testified in court that DeWeese was aware of the diversion of taxpayer funds for political purposes.

The Bonusgate scandal, the lingering mistrust of Harrisburg lawmakers over the 2005 pay raise vote and the inability of DeWeese to get any major Democratic legislation passed in the House during the past two years sealed his fate.

Perhaps the Democrats can come up with a new title for DeWeese, like the Republicans did for John Perzel, the former Speaker of the House who was dethroned by his one party members after the pay raise fiasco and the GOP's loss of the House majority. Perzel became the "Speaker Emeritus" of the House after he lost the powerful Speaker post.

Maybe DeWeese can now be "Leader Emeritus" as the Democrats attempt to pick up the pieces left by their self-destructive leadership.

DeWeese's departure means that 3 of the 4 top Legislative leaders who pushed for the middle-of-the-night pay raise are no longer holding their leadership posts.

Joining DeWeese and Perzel in exile is Robert C. Jubelirer, the Senate Pro Tempore at the time of the July 2005 pay raise. Jubelirer was voted out of office in 2006.

For good measure, Senate GOP Majority Leader David Brightbill was also kicked out by voters. The only legislative leader who survived the purge is Robert Mellow, the Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

State Capitol Roundup for November 14

Here's this week's State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch, R-147th District:

Remembering a Great Pennsylvania Leader

Lawmakers join all Pennsylvanians in mourning the loss of Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll who died Wednesday, Nov. 12, following a battle with neuroendocrine cancer. In 2002, she became the first woman ever elected lieutenant governor. Prior to that, she was twice elected state treasurer and was heavily involved in western Pennsylvania politics for most of her life. Republican Leader Sam Smith said Knoll's presence will be missed in Harrisburg. "She was a courageous fighter who knew how to put her best foot forward always, regardless of the circumstances. Serving our Commonwealth with dedication and determination, she was always able to hold her head high." Sen. Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson) is now the state's lieutenant governor, marking the first time in Pennsylvania history that the governor and lieutenant governor are of different political parties.

GOP Continues Push for Continued Health Care Accessibility

With just one week remaining in the 2007-08 legislative session, House Republicans are again calling for action on legislation to extend the state's MCare abatement program. The program is vital to keeping doctors practicing in Pennsylvania and ensuring continued patient access to quality care. On Wednesday, Rep. Curt Schroder (R-Chester) led a successful effort to remove House Bill 489 from the tabled bill calendar, but its future is unclear. House Democrats and the Rendell administration have refused to act on legislation to extend MCare without also adopting their costly, big-government insurance program. With a more than $560 million revenue shortfall in state revenue, House Republicans say a better alternative is to encourage more private investment in health insurance. For more information, visit

Lawmakers Challenge Administration's New 'Guidelines' for Teachers

Efforts by the Rendell administration to dictate specific course requirements for Pennsylvania teachers in training could have a chilling effect on efforts to improve the state's public schools, according to Reps. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) and Craig Dally (R-Northampton). The lawmakers say the guidelines will result in aspiring young teachers being forced to spend a fifth year in college to complete the course requirements. That drives up tuition costs and could reduce the number of teachers available to fill the state's classrooms, which already suffer from a lack of math and science teachers. Also driving up costs for aspiring teachers is the estimated $3 million cost for colleges to change their curricula to meet the Rendell administration's guidelines.


Obama will be tested

Funeral arrangements for Lt. Gov. Knoll

Here's he latest from the Pennsylvania Office of the Lieutenant Governor on funeral arrangements for Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, who died Wednesday after a four-month battle with cancer:
The Lieutenant Governor will lie in repose in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg from noon, Friday, Nov. 21, to 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22.

She will return home to her beloved Pittsburgh on Sunday, Nov. 23, where she will lie in repose from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. at St. Paul's Cathedral, 108 N. Dithridge St.

The public is welcome to attend a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Paul's at noon, Tuesday, Nov. 25. Interment will be private.

The family humbly requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Lieutenant Governor's favorite charity, Angel's Place, 2615 Norwood Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15214 (888-975-6667) or

To write a message of condolence for the Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll, visit her Web site at


Obama lied about Bill Ayers

Remember how candidate Barack Obama went to great lengths to deny a close relationship with unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers?

Remember how the liberal media ignored the story for two years?

Remember when The Chosen One said he hardly knew Ayers and he shouldn't be held responsible for something Ayers and his fellow Weatherman did (bombing of the Pentagon and police stations) when Obama was 8 years old?

Breaking his silence now that Obama is safely elected president, Ayers called President-elect Obama a "neighbor and family friend" in a television interview.

Hmmm. Obama said Ayers was an acquaintance. Ayers says Obama is a "family friend."

Sounds like Obama lied, doesn't it?

For more on the Obama-Ayers relationship, check out Stop the ACLU.

Isn't it funny how none of the mainstream media could find the time to interview Ayers for the two years that Obama ran for president, but all of a sudden, Ayers is sitting down for interviews?

Oh yeah, Ayers is still unrepentant about his terrorist activities, saying he didn't think the Weather Underground did enough in its campaign of terror against the U.S. government. Nice friends Obama has.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rafferty bill will save tax dollars

A bill sponsored by state Sen. John Rafferty Jr., R-44th Dist., to reduce the number of inspections for equipment used by police officers to catch speeders will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The bill has passed the House and is on its way to Gov. Ed Rendell's desk.

The bill amends the Vehicles Code to change the calibration testing requirements for radar guns utilized by the Pennsylvania State Police and police car speedometers for state and local police departments, according to a release from Rafferty's office.

Under the current system, radar guns and all police car speedometers must be tested every 60 days. Under the new legislation, the time requirement is moved to once a year.

State police should realize a savings of up to $420,000 a year, according to Rafferty. Local police departments across Pennsylvania should also see hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, too, Rafferty says.

"With a looming budget deficit, every little bit of saving for the taxpayers must be looked at," Rafferty says. "I'm happy to assist both the state and local municipalities with this savings to their budgets."

The 60-day testing requirement was established in 1961, and has not been changed to keep up with the new technology standards, Rafferty says. Some states have established a standard for such testing at two-year intervals, he said.

As an example of the savings, each radar calibration test costs $82 every 60 days with over 850 radar guns used by the State Police – not to mention the cost of manpower to package and ship these guns every two months for testing, Rafferty said.

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Sterns to seek 29th state Senate seat

Attorney Gretchen Sterns, a Republican from Schuylkill County, has made it official. She is a candidate for the vacant 29th state Senate District seat won by Sen. Jim Rhoades, who was killed in a car crash last month. A special election will be held in 2009 to fill Rhoades' seat.

From a press release issued by Sterns:
Democrats now control the White House, oversized majorities in both houses of Congress, the Governor's mansion, and the State House, and they seek to complete their dominance by taking control of the State Senate.

If recent elections have taught us anything, it's that the voters are hungry for candidates who hail from outside the political class, with whom they can identify, who they believe understand the challenges they face, and who are disconnected from the failed economic policies of Governor Rendell.

As a middle-class mother who grew up on a farm and works full-time to make ends meet for my family, I will speak credibly and articulately to the issues affecting the hardworking people of our region: the economy, taxes, and health care.

If Republicans are to retain Sen. Rhoades' seat and regain the taxpayers' trust, then we must turn the page from overspending, tax increases, and scandal – and put forth a new, energetic leader committed to the principles upon which America – and our Party – we're founded: 1) limited and ethical government; 2) low taxes; and 3) personal responsibility.

To this end, I officially declare my candidacy for the vacant 29th Senate District seat.
For more on the 29th District Senate race, check out The Clarke Report.

For more on Sterns, visit the profile page at her Pottsville law firm.

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Sign Memorial Book For Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll

Pennsylvania residents are invited to express their condolences on the passing of Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll by signing a memorial book in the state Capitol Rotunda.

The memorial book is located on the main floor of the Rotunda, which is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday - Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

If you can't make it to Harrisburg, you can sign an online guestbook by visiting and clicking on the black banner titled, "In Memoriam."

Baker Knoll died Wednesday, Nov. 12 after a battle with neuroendocrine cancer. She was 78.

PA Governor Rendell Invites Public to Sign Memorial Book Honoring Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll

Lawmaker blames deficit on Rendell overspending

State Rep. Curt Schroder, R-Chester County, has an op-ed column in The West Chester Daily Local News on Pennsylvania's growing budget deficit, which has passed the $550 million mark in the first four months of the current fiscal year.

Schroder, who voted against Rendell's $28.3 billion budget, says the red ink is not caused by "the global economic meltdown" as Rendell claims, but by a pattern of overspending on the part of the Democratic governor.

From Schroder's column:
Pennsylvania's budget deficit, which analysts predict could reach as high as $2.5 billion by the end of the current fiscal year, was not created solely by the economic downturn as some would have you believe. Instead, it is the result of years of overspending in Harrisburg.

Gov. Ed Rendell's budgets have routinely increased spending beyond the rate of inflation. Now, to quote one controversial clergyman, "The chickens are coming home to roost!"

From 2002 to the current 2008-09 budget, spending increased by 38.6 percent while the rate of inflation only rose by 19.5 percent.
Schroder says the token cuts Rendell has offered to make so far are not enough. The entire budget must be reopened or the state will face a huge financial crisis in 2009.

From his column:
This entire budget, and the house of cards on which it is based, must be reopened. It needs to be re-examined from top to bottom by the General Assembly - the elected body of the taxpaying citizens of Pennsylvania.

There is no shortage of ideas worth exploring. We should use this opportunity to force some tough decisions and finally come to grips with unnecessary spending on programs that either don't work or only serve a narrow special interest. If we do not act now, Pennsylvania will face its own fiscal crisis of Wall Street proportions.
Read the full column, "Blames deficit on overspending," at the newspaper's Web site.

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Ted Nugent goes hunting for RINOs

"There are really only four things I have a strong aversion to: unloaded guns, dull knives, banjos, and Republicans in Name Only (RINOs)," says Ted Nugent, rock guitar idol, hunter and conservative commentator.

Writing at, Nugent says it's time for the Republican Party to purge itself of so-called moderates who have turned their backs on basic GOP principles of limited government, strong national defense and lower taxes.

From his column:
RINOs are Fedzilla punks who feign support for conservative principles only when it serves their political interest. RINOs are also known for their moderate positions such as supporting tax increases, federal "bailouts", "comprehensive immigration reform", advocating more counterproductive gun control that guarantee more innocent victims, opposing the death penalty, and growing and sustaining Fedzilla and all its toxic mongrels by going along with the liberals. RINOs have forgotten President Ronald Maximus Regan's admonition that government is the problem, not the solution.
Nugent says the 2008 presidential race is a clear repudiation of RINOs, including John McCain.

From his column:
John McCain has been a RINO on campaign finance, immigration, global warming and other issues and look what happened to him. He had reached across the aisle so many times to cut deals with the liberals that he had to pick Governor Palin, a true conservative, to try and lure disenfranchised and disgusted conservatives back into the fold. Didn't work. Senator McCain was the wrong candidate at the right time. RINOs lose elections;
conservatives win them.
Read the full column at

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The State of the GOP

'Talking Politics' on the radio today

"Talking Politics with Tony Phyrillas and Mike Pincus" can be heard Thursdays at 5 p.m. on WPAZ 1370 AM

You can join the conversation by calling the station at 610-326-4000.

"Talking Politics" can also be heard live online at and


Keep track of all those Obama promises

Barack Obama made a lot of promises to a lot of people to get himself elected president of the United States. Obama is already backpedaling on some of the promises even before he's been sworn into office.

The editors of Investor's Business Daily have painstakingly researched the Obama campaign to find 40 concrete promises Obama made to voters. They've compiles the list in a handy file called "A Checklist Of Obama's Many Promises."

The list includes some big ones ...
"Give a tax break to 95% of Americans"

"Eliminate oil imports from the Middle East in 10 years"

"Create 5 million green jobs"

"Remove troops from Iraq by the summer of 2010"

"Demand higher standards and more accountability from our teachers"
... and some lesser-known ones ...
"Make employers offer seven paid sick days per year"

"Weatherize 1 million homes annually"

"Increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2009"

"Get 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015"

"No more homeless veterans"
Print out your own copy of the list. Stick it on the refrigerator door and mark off the promises Obama keeps or the one's he breaks.

From the newspaper's Web site:
Few presidential candidates have made more specific promises to American voters than Barack Obama. They came so fast and furious in the latter part of the campaign, you'd be excused for not keeping up. So as a public service, we've put together a handy checklist of some of the biggest Obama promises — culled from his "Blueprint for Change," his campaign speeches and advertisements. Clip it. Save it. And see how he did in four years.
For the full list visit the newspaper's Web site.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Uncle Sam will help you out

Your tax dollars at work

What is the most expensive state legislature in the country up to these days?

This just in from the House Democratic Communications Office on behalf of state Rep. Mike Hanna (D-Clinton/Centre):
Hanna resolution naming Jan. 11-17 'Snowmobile Safety Week' adopted in House

HARRISBURG, Nov. 12 – State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, said a resolution he sponsored (H.R. 942) that designates Jan. 11-17, 2009 as "Snowmobile Safety Week" in Pennsylvania was adopted in the House today.

"People need to take safety precautions on a snowmobile, just like they do when driving other motorized vehicles," Hanna said. "Things like wearing a helmet and responding appropriately to weather conditions can mean the difference between having a great outdoor experience and having a serious accident."

He said in the first three months of 2008, there were 18 snowmobile accidents in Pennsylvania, with 15 injuries and 3 deaths reported.

"We need to promote responsible riding practices, such as avoiding alcohol and maintaining safe speeds, to make snowmobiling a safe and enjoyable activity during the winter season," Hanna said.

More than 40,000 people in Pennsylvania participate in snowmobiling, contributing $160 million to the state's economy.

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Chuck Norris writes to Barack Obama

Hollywood tough-guy Chuck Norris, now a conservative columnist and author, pens an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama on how The Chosen One can win over the 58 million Americans who did not vote for him on Nov. 4.

Among Norris' suggestions: Use and cite the Constitution; Protect American life; and Lead more from the center.

From Norris' column:
We will be watching who you choose to be in your Cabinet. We will discern how you lead Pelosi and Reid. We will be observing those you select as candidates for Supreme Court justices. The election is over. No more promises. No more words. You might work well in a team, but this time, you don't have congressional members to hide behind. You're on your own -- leading the pack -- and the whole country is watching. I, especially, am watching. So make sure you lead more from the center.
Read the full column, "Obama, Now That You Work for Me" at


The Obamas and School Choice

Must be nice to be rich and famous. President-elect Barack Obama and his wife have a choice to make about where to send their daughters to school.

Will they choose an exclusive private school or the failed Washington, D.C., school system? What do you think?

Wealthy families like the Obamas have a choice of where to send their kids to school. Most Americans do not.

Funny how Obama catered to the teachers' unions during the campaign and would not support school choice, isn't it?

The Alliance for School Choice has launched a new campaign - Let Parents Choose - to help build support for school choice, something Sen. John McCain backed during the campaign. Perhaps the Obamas would now like to join the effort.

Read more about the School Choice campaign at POLICY BLOG or go directly to

POLICY BLOG also has a companion site called that worth a visit.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Grateful Nation Pauses to Remember

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." — Winston Churchill, August 20th, 1940

Read the full message that accompanies this cartoon at


Praise for 1.1 Million Veterans in Pennsylvania

If you're still in mourning over the Nov. 4 election results, get over it. It's time to think ahead and come up with a strategy to revive the Republican Party.

You can start by visiting a new grassroots Web site launched by the Republican National Committee.

RNC Launches New Web Site: ''


Watch where you step

No longer a GOP stronghold

Columnists at The West Chester Daily Local News are still trying to make sense of the Nov. 4 election results, which saw Democrats make dramatic gains in Chester county, once a Republican stronghold.

Here's a sampling from recent columns.

From Jim Giuliano:
Democrats in Chester County are rejoicing over victories by some of their candidates and by the changing voting patters that show a swing away from the solid Republican monolith that we once knew and tolerated, if not loved.

The whole thing is quite a shock to those of us who can remember the days when the Chester County Democratic Party could hold its annual meeting in the back of a minivan and still have room left over for a tray of cold cuts.

Here's what's really strange. The pattern is repeating itself across the country. I heard one Republican analyst say, because of growing Hispanic populations, the party is worried about losing Texas in the next election. Texas!

So even the powerful can fall when they don't heed the will of the people. And there's a lesson in there for Democrats.
From Jim Callahan:
None of this is the fault of the local Republican Party. It was the Democratic candidate. People like him. I'm sure that most party Republicans worked as hard as they could, ditto for Democrats, but at some point candidates can supersede political organizations. This was that kind of an election in Chester County and in the nation.

Seemingly dragged along for the ride were two Democratic candidates for state representative, Tom Houghton in the Oxford area, and Paul J. Drucker in the Tredyffrin-Phoenixville area. The re-election of Democratic Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith validated her absurdly close victory over Republican Shannon Royer two years ago with a much more comfortable margin this time over Royer. It seems the only kind of luck Shannon has is buzzard's luck. He said he got beat in 2006 because it was a lousy year for Republicans. He was right. He said the same thing last week. He was also right.

The Republican Party can snap right back in 2010 if conditions are remotely favorable. There is one slight difficulty. All three are incumbents. And incumbents can be difficult to dislodge.
From Dan Kristie:
Still, more than half of the votes cast in Chester County were straight-party. Of the 252,674 people who voted, 128,298 handed in a straight party ballot. Of those ballots, 63,717 were Republican, 61,768 were Democrat 2,555 were Independent, 237 were Libertarian, and 21 were Constitution.

The straight-party voting might have made the difference for a few state house candidates. I think it really helped Democrat Paul Drucker in the 157th District, but the election returns are such that, without outside polling data, I can't really make a convincing argument.

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Such As The Mammoth

Newspaper: Obama already making mistakes

Is it possible for "The Messiah" to make a mistake?

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says "The Chosen One" has already made three major blunders and he's still months away from taking office as president.

From the editorial in today's edition:
It's special-interest politics at its worst and suggests an Obama administration won't be the politics of "change" but politics as usual.
On the foreign front, Obama has hinted he will back off a deal to install a missile-defense system in Poland to guard against Russian aggression.

On the domestic front, Obama is working to scuttle the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and will push to eliminate rules calling for secret ballots to form unions. Both moves are pandering to labor unions that helped get Obama elected but would be disastrous to the U.S. economy.

Also on the domestic front, Obama will continue a Bush administration policy of subsidizing U.S. ethanol producers, the kind of wasteful pork spending Washington politicians love. So much for encouraging energy independence.

Read the full editorial at the newspaper's Web site.

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