Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Berks County is scraping the bottom of the legislative barrel

I'm going out on a limb here. I know that none of Pennsylvania's 67 counties can take pride in the politicians they send to Harrisburg, but here's my vote for the worst collection of legislators in Harrisburg.

Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, year after miserable year, I'd say that Berks County is scraping the bottom of the political barrel to find the baker's dozen who represent Berks residents in the state Legislature.

Collectively, the 13 members of the House and Senate whose districts include all or parts of Berks siphon $1,022,016 each year in salaries from taxpayers. When you factor in all the perks and benefits these "public servants" have given themselves over the years, the cost tops $2 million a year. And this is just for the 13 legislators, not the hundreds of staffers who report to them.

The Berks delegation has been feeding at the public trough for a very long time. The 13 lawmakers have been on the public payroll for a total of 141 years. Some of these guys have been in Harrisburg so long, there's cobwebs growing around them.

What are Berks County voters getting for their money? Three of them are in leadership positions, Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill, Senate Democratic Whip Michael A. O’Pake and House Republican Whip David Argall — but using the word leadership with these hacks is being charitable.

When it comes to "law-making," which one suspects should be priority for "lawmakers," the Berks delegation is AWOL.

An investigation by the Reading Eagle newspaper earlier this year discovered that Berks lawmakers spend very little time making laws. Two Berks legislators — Republican Sam Rohrer and Democrat Dante Santoni Jr. — have never sponsored a bill that’s been signed into law in the collective 26 years they’ve spent in Harrisburg. Two other members of the Berks delegation — Democrat Tom Caltagirone (29 years in the Capitol) and Republican Dennis Leh (19 years in the Capitol) — have managed to get a grand total of 2 laws on the books (1 by Leh, 1 by Caltagirone) in the nearly 50 years they’ve been working in Harrisburg.

When Santoni was asked recently to point out his biggest accomplishment in the past dozen years, he mentioned securing a grant to buy $1,500 worth of band instruments for a local school district. I’m pretty sure his constituents are willing to take up a collection for the $1,500 to buy trombones if it means saving the $72,187 a year they have to pay this slacker.

And it's not just the lack of productivity as lawmakers that sends the Berks delegation to the back of the line. When these legislators do get around to casting votes during the 77 days they spend in Harrisburg each year, they tend to make bad decisions on pocketbook issues.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, an independent, nonprofit research and educational group, recently released its mid-term Liberty Index, which grades legislators on votes based on the "principles of limited constitutional government, economic and individual freedom, and personal responsibility for one’s actions."

Here are the 2005-06 grades for members of the Berks County delegation and a comparison of how the same lawmakers did in the 2003-04 report card:

• Sen. David "Chip" Brightbill: F plus — From an F in the first report card

• Sen. Michael O’Pake: F minus — Down from an F in the first report card

• Sen. John Rafferty: D — Down from a D plus in the first report card

• Sen. James Rhoades: F plus — Also F plus in the first report card

• Rep. Bob Allen: F plus — From a D minus in the first report card

• Rep. Dave Argall: F plus — From an F in the first report card

• Rep. Tom Caltagirone: F plus — Down from an F in the first report card

• Rep. Dennis Leh: D plus — Down from a B in the first report card

• Rep. Sheila Miller: D — Down from a C plus in the first report card

• Rep. Doug Reichly: B minus — From a C in the first report card

• Rep. Sam Rohrer: B plus — Down from an A in the first report card

• Rep. Dante Santoni: F plus — From an F in the first report card

• Rep. Paul Semmel: F plus — Down from a B minus in the first report card

The bottom line is eight F grades and three D grades from the 13 members of the Berks delegation. Not exactly a report card you want to show to mom and dad.

In addition to the middle-of-the-night pay raise they gave themselves last July, consider the failure to pass property tax relief for homeowners, the vote to double their own pensions and their refusal to disclose how much money they take in from lobbyists as more reasons Berks voters should send new blood to Harrisburg.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How Christianity led to U.S. dominance

The United States has been the world's dominant economic and military power for more than six decades.

Uncle Sam has been king of the hill through wars, population shifts and economic downturns. Before the United States rose to global superpower status after World War II, a succession of Western powers — Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy — had dominated the world since the Middle Ages.

Although the U.S. and Great Britain are engaged in a costly and seemingly open-ended war on terror against radical Islam, America and its allies continue to dominate the world, although China and India are growing rivals over the horizon.

What is it about Western Civilization that has allowed it to dominate the world for hundreds of years — not just economically or militarily — but in science, technology, culture and the arts?

Professor Rodney Stark of Baylor University explores this question in "The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success."

The secular left, as it plots to abolish the long-standing Christian heritage of the United States, won't like this book. The left has already succeeded in turning Europe, once the center of Christian thought and scholarship, into a godless confederacy dominated by a central government. It's no coincidence that the decline of Europe as an economic and military power coincides with the success of the left in driving Christianity from the European continent.

In his provocative and thoroughly researched work, Stark maintains that the United States would not be the world power it is today had it not been for the strong influence of Christianity in American society and government.

It's not guns, germs or steel. It's not geography or better sailing ships. It's not agriculture or population growth. It's Christianity and the core beliefs of the religion that made all the difference, Stark argues. That's why the world today is dominated by the West and not the followers of Islam in the Middle East or Buddhism or Hinduism in the Far East.

"While the other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth," Stark writes. "From early days, the church fathers taught that reason was the supreme gift from God and the means to progressively increase their understanding of scripture and revelation. Consequently, Christianity was oriented to the future, while the other major religions asserted the superiority of the past."

Stark poses thought-provoking questions throughout the book. For example, why are there no theologians in the Eastern religions?

Christians are encouraged to think about their faith and seek answers to questions that are not readily answered in the Bible. Christianity has scores of theologians who have contributed to the religion's 2,000-year-old heritage of scripture. Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint John Chrysostom have answered fundamental questions about the faith through reasoning, Stark argues.

Without the prevalence of Christianity in Western Europe and North America, capitalism would not have taken hold as the dominant economic system in those parts of the world, Stark maintains.

The victory of reason led the way for political freedom and the emergence of both science and capitalism. Those ingredients allowed the West to dominate the world. It's no coincidence that most nations where Islam or other Eastern religions are dominant are not Democratic, maintain semifeudal class systems and regard women as second-class citizens.

Stark devotes 230 pages of his book to prove his thesis that Christianity created Western Civilization. And at the core of Western Civilization is political freedom and capitalism.

He concludes the book with a scant three pages about the arrival of globalization in the 21st century. Without giving away Stark's entire vision of the future, consider this revelation from the book: When the Communists took over China in 1949, there were 2 million Christians in the country. Today, there are more than 100 million Christians in China despite a 55-year government campaign to eradicate Christianity.

"There are many reasons people embrace Christianity, including its capacity to sustain a deeply emotional and existentially satisfying faith," Stark writes. "But another significant factor is its appeal to reason and the fact that it is so inseparably linked to the rise of Western Civilization."

Does anyone else see the irony in Christianity being the catalyst for China’s emergence as a world power?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Day of reckoning is approaching for incumbents

I hope everyone had the opportunity to read all or parts of the four-day series of articles by The Associated Press called "Challenging Incumbents."

Written by the AP’s Harrisburg bureau, the series exposed a variety of schemes that Pennsylvania’s political elite have adopted through the years to establish themselves as a permanent ruling class on the backs of the commonwealth’s taxpayers.

Day 1 covered how Pennsylvania lawmakers are good at protecting their own jobs. Day 2 focused on the diverse crop of legislative challengers seeking change in the "business-as-usual" atmosphere in Harrisburg. Day 3 revealed the massive bureaucracy set up by the incumbents and how much it costs taxpayers every year. Day 4 recapped how lawmakers have many tools at their disposal to promote themselves.

The good news is that most of the state’s newspapers ran the series from March 19-22, so concerned residents now have a much clearer picture of how deep the problems of waste, deceit and self-adulation run inside the hall of the gilded palace known as the state Capitol. If you missed any part of the series, march down to your local newspaper and buy back issues.

The day of reckoning — for both politicians and the future of Pennsylvania — is just around the corner. If voters don’t toss out the majority of the incumbents on the May 16 primary election ballot, they have nobody but themselves to blame for the continued corruption, fraud and mismanagement that permeates state government.

All 203 members of the state House of Representatives and 25 of the 50 state senators are up for re-election this year. Gov. Ed Rendell is also seeking a second term. Thanks to Internet sites such as, and, various newspaper columnists and talk radio hosts, the voters were stirred from a deep slumber last July after the legislature granted itself pay raises of 16 percent to 54 percent. The pay raise was repealed after voters tossed out a sitting Supreme Court justice and almost knocked off a second justice last November.

That was the opening skirmish in the people’s revolution to take back the state from the political aristocracy. The real victory for Pennsylvania can come on May 16 when at least 100 challengers could be swept into office by voters. That’s assuming that all 70 incumbents facing challengers are voted out and the seats of 30 incumbents who decided to retire rather than face voters can be filled by newcomers.

If just half of the 100 seats in play go to challengers, it would be a seismic shift in the status quo that has brought us nothing but high taxes, choking regulations, the nation’s worst roads, an aging population and a failing economy — not to mention a permanent class of ruling politicians who’ve fed at the public trough for decades.

The experts believe voters will lose interest as we approach May 16. But the pundits have been wrong before. The political science professors and strategists said the anger over the pay raise would last only a few weeks after the 2 a.m. vote on July 7. They were wrong. The experts said the legislature would never repeal the pay raise. They were wrong. The pundits said a Supreme Court justice could not lose a retention vote. Wrong again.

Now the experts are saying that only a few incumbents could lose in the May 16 primary. I think the experts are wrong. I’m sticking by my earlier prediction that 50-60 new legislators and a new governor will be elected this year.

As I said before, 2006 is the Year of the Angry Voter in Pennsylvania. Everyone I talk to about state government is just as outraged today as they were last summer. The Associated Press series can only make you more incredulous at how a small group of politicians have hijacked our state government for their own benefit.

There will be hundreds of new names on the May 16 ballot. More challengers will follow as independent and third-party candidates get their names on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

A perfect storm is gathering in Pennsylvania. Nearly 230 years after Pennsylvania joined with the other colonies to declare their independence from British tyranny, Pennsylvanians will fight a new revolution, against the enemy within — an oppressive state legislature.

The odds are long. The politicians and their sycophants have created a system to keep themselves in power at the expense of the people. The only thing that can break the tyranny are the voters of Pennsylvania. I’m betting on the people.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Digging up dirt on the Democratic Underground

A far-left Internet smear site bestowed yours truly with an award last week.

The Democratic Underground selected me as one of "The Top 10 Conservative Idiots" in the United States, or perhaps the world. It wasn't clear from the group's Web site how extensive the nominating process was.

I never heard of the Democratic Underground before last week, but the group has a spiffy Web site, one of hundreds of liberal Internet sites whose sole purpose is to attack anyone who doesn't agree with the far-left's narrow view of the world.

I made it all the way to No. 8 on the Top 10 list, which included such luminaries as radio commentator Rush Limbaugh (No. 9), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (No. 10) and a state senator from South Dakota by the name of Bill Napoli.

South Dakota recently enacted the toughest anti-abortion law in the country and I gather Sen. Napoli (No. 3) had something to do with its passage. The list also includes Ken Mehlmann, chairman of the Republican National Committee (No. 4).

To the best of my knowledge, this is my first appearance in the Top 10. I'd like to take this moment to thank all the voters for their support. I feel like George Clooney at the Oscars. It's an honor just to be nominated.

The full list can be viewed on the group's Web site, I'm not sure how long the list will be posted. I don't plan to visit the Web site again (unless, of course, I move up in the rankings).

I was chosen for the honor based on some recent columns about the sad state of the Democratic Party. One column in particular that caught the judges' eyes was "Nightmare scenario if Democrats should win control of Congress."

In that column, I gazed into the crystal ball to predict what a Democratic administration would look like if the Democrats win control of both houses of Congress this November and then proceed with their plans to impeach George W. Bush.

At the time I wrote the column, that may have been a far-fetched scenario. But last week, Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin who is more liberal than John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, introduced a measure to censure the president for ordering wiretaps of suspected terrorists who were calling contacts in the United States.

Feingold really wants to impeach Bush, but he thought he would start with baby steps and introduce a Senate motion to publicly admonish the president over the terrorist surveillance program.

I'd like to go on record that the National Security Agency has my permission to tap my telephone if I start getting collect calls from Osama bin Laden.

The censure motion died quicker than Howard Dean's 2004 presidential run. The Democrats talk a good game, and use anonymous smear sites on the Internet to attack political rivals, but when it comes time to stand for something, they develop a severe case of the bird flu — as in they turn into chickens.

Mort Kondracke, the editor of Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill, goes into more detail about Feingold’s motivation for the censure motion (trying to attract support from the far left for a 2008 presidential bid) in a new column, but Kondracke also predicts that the Democrats have far more to lose than to gain by continuing to talk about censuring or impeaching the president.

For starters, these kind of threats will rally Bush's base, which will turn out in November to make sure the House and Senate stay in GOP control. Secondly, there is a segment of American voters, including Democrats, who don’t want to see Congress spend the next two years quibbling over another impeachment circus when the nation has so many real problems facing it.

The left-leaning Philadelphia Inquirer, which has been losing readers at an alarming rate in the past decade and is up for sale, devoted lots of space in its Sunday opinion section to the impeachment question. In other words, the cat is out of the bag. Nice going, Russ.

Picking up on the nightmare scenario, The Wall Street Journal editorialized last week about the Democrats’ "impeachment agenda" for the midterm congressional elections:

Feingold "is doing voters a favor by telling them before November's election just how Democrats intend to treat a wartime president if they take power. Not only do they want to block his policies, they also plan to rebuke and embarrass him in front of the world and America's enemies. By all means, let's have this impeachment debate before the election, so voters can know what’s really at stake."

To my friends at Democratic Underground, you can call me an idiot or any other names you like. If I helped in some small way to expose the left's hidden agenda and bring the impeachment issue to the front burner, mission accomplished.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beware the wrath of Ed Rendell

Despite leading his GOP challenger in most of the polls and holding a commanding lead in campaign contributions, Gov. Ed Rendell showed signs of desperation last week, twice exhibiting behavior unbecoming the incumbent governor and skilled politician that he is.

No matter how you spin it, Rendell had a bad 24-hour stretch. It began with Rendell strong-arming fellow Democrat Joe Hoeffel to drop out of the race for lieutenant governor. A day later, Rendell had a nasty confrontation with a reporter. If the incident had been caught on tape, it could be featured on the next release of "Politicians Gone Wild."

The Hoeffel Shuffle is a clear indication that Rendell is vulnerable in western Pennsylvania. Hoeffel met with Rendell several weeks ago to discuss the prospect of the former congressman seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. The big problem is that the current lieutenant governor, Catherine Baker Knoll, also wants another term.

Knoll has had a distinguished career in public service and is a proven vote-getter. Her biggest drawback is her age and continuing whispers about her lucidity. At 75, Knoll is seen by many political strategists as a liability. Should Rendell win another term, Knoll would be too old to succeed him. Also, Knoll has behaved erratically in public on more than one occasion.

Enter Joe Hoeffel, a smart, successful lawyer from Montgomery County. Hoeffel wouldn't mind serving four years as lieutenant governor and then succeeding Rendell as governor. Rendell could have told Hoeffel last month to stay out of the race, but the governor decided to test the political waters by allowing Hoeffel to take the plunge. The problem is Hoeffel’s similarities to Rendell.

A Rendell-Hoeffel ticket would have featured two rich, balding white lawyers from the Philadelphia area. Not exactly a balanced ticket, especially when central and western Pennsylvania voters are staging a revolt against incumbents.

Considering Rendell won only 18 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in 2002, he can't afford to write off two-thirds of the state. That's where Mrs. Knoll comes in. She's from western Pennsylvania and is credited with helping Rendell win in the Pittsburgh area in 2002.

With Lynn Swann, a living legend in Pittsburgh, running for governor this year, Rendell will need every vote he can get if he has any hopes of re-election. The 2006 race will come down to a referendum on Rendell’s first term. And unless a miracle happens over the next few months and the state legislature passes meaningful property tax relief, Rendell will have a tough time persuading voters to give him another four years when he’s failed to deliver on his No. 1 promise — property tax reduction.

Rendell claims he's not a political boss, but forcing Hoeffel out of the race a day after Hoeffel announced his candidacy sure smacks of the heavy handed, back-room dealing that political bosses engage in. Why can’t Democrats have a choice in who the next lieutenant governor is?

While the job is largely ceremonial, the lieutenant governor is next in line should something happen to the governor. And Ed Rendell is not exactly a picture of physical fitness. The governor's waistline has expanded more than state spending in the past three years. Rendell is one cheesesteak away from a heart attack and that would put Mrs. Knoll in the governor’s mansion.

After twisting Hoeffel’s arm to drop out, Rendell turned his wrath on a reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

This is how the newspaper reported the exchange in one of its editions:

Rendell angrily denied suggestions that his word can't be trusted and that he gives different answers to different people.

"It's all BS. You know it's BS. It's politics," Rendell said, shortly before grabbing a reporter’s tape recorder and refusing to return it before ultimately doing so.

Several hours later, as he was riding an Amtrak train from Washington to Philadelphia, Rendell called and apologized for his remarks.

Imagine if a Republican politician had taken out his hostility on a reporter. It would be the big story on Action News. But since it's the "beloved" Ed Rendell, the story hardly got any mention across the state.

Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairwoman Eileen Melvin raised an interesting point about Rendell's fit of anger: "At a time when serious leadership is required to address the serious problems facing our state — like property tax relief and a stagnating economy — Pennsylvanians should ask themselves if Gov. Rendell has the temperament to lead.

By listening to the concerns of people across Pennsylvania for the last year, and by handling the ups and downs of a statewide campaign and keeping his composure, Lynn Swann has demonstrated the qualities and temperament of a true leader."

Election Day is still nine months away. Will Rendell be able to control his temper — and his appetite — until November? Stay tuned.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Another helping of reader mail

Readers have a lot on their minds these days. Below is a sampling of letters published in The Mercury over the past two weeks. Some of the letters are responses to columns I've written. Others are about topics I've covered in the past. Still others are letters I agree with.

Legislature wants to prevent voter fraud

The recent column in The Mercury by Tony Phyrillas titled "Voter fraud bill veto may haunt Rendell" accurately lays out why the Rendell administration does not want free and fair elections in Philadelphia and surrounding counties, but fails to address the fundamental reasons why passage of the Voter Protection Act is so important to the commonwealth.
As a sponsor of Senate Bill 5, which incorporates much of the same language as the Voter Protection Act, I believe it is imperative that real, comprehensive election reform legislation be passed sooner than later. Pennsylvanians need to feel secure that the vote they are making is fair and counted and that everyone else is playing by the same rules. When voters are disenfranchised by the counting of improperly cast ballots or outright fraud, their civil rights are violated just as surely as if they were prevented from voting.
I think we can all agree that people who are deceased should not be allowed to vote and that polling places should not be located in private residences, offices of candidates or abandoned buildings.
Half of the states in the nation require voters to prove who they are before they can vote. We require citizens to show identification when we drive, write a check and even check out a book at the library. I think it is appropriate for citizens to show identification before they may vote. As noted in the article, under the Voter Protection Act, acceptable forms of identification include both photo and non-photo IDs, including utility bills or a copy of a paycheck.
The integrity of the ballot box is just as important to the credibility of elections as access to it. It’s time to pass real election reform in Pennsylvania.

R-24th District

Dennis Leh’s flip-flop speaks volumes

Dennis Leh’s recent announcement that he has changed his mind and now intends to run for re-election stands as committed proof that the great majority of the politicians in Harrisburg don’t have the integrity that it takes to make a solid decision and stand by it.
Do you really think that the taxpayers from Douglassville want you back in office Mr. Leh? Think again, pal. Looked like a really big crowd that you spoke to at Michael’s restaurant — a real cross-section of voters.
You’ve failed us time and time over and we are tired of supporting your "do nothing" political career. That little smiling face at the voting locations just won’t cut it. You’re finished. Get into the private sector and work for a living. Within less than one week you’ve flip-flopped on a decision that you should have known would affect your future. Can you say "John Kerry?"
But you certainly stood your ground when it came to voting that pay raise past the voters. No questions there. Give it up. You’re done in Harrisburg.


Make all legislators, Rendell pay

It’s time to remind the voters that on Election Day you must not forget the action that our state legislators pulled on their constituents — their greedy raise they gave themselves and the approval of this bill that was signed by the Democratic governor, Ed Rendell.
Now Mr. Rendell is trying to smooth talk how he’s going to raise a lot of taxes that won’t hurt anyone — really! Most of us are not idiots. The man is a "charlatan" — look that word up in your dictionary.
It’s time for a clean sweep and that includes the governor for sure. Let’s give the citizens a break and they should start with our property taxes. It’s more than time and long overdue.


Time to sweep Harrisburg clean

Well the clowns in Harrisburg are up to their old tricks. When they mention a flat tax to replace the unfair property tax, they point out that it would be unfair to those buying needed medicine. They never mention that they could exempt medicine from being taxed.
Now for the good news. Check out SB 1076, which was introduced in the General Assembly Jan. 19 and has 12 co-sponsors. The bill calls for the exclusion of sales tax, not on medicine but on investment sales of gold, silver and coins.
Time to replace everyone! will help.

New Berlinville

Abortion is OK — if you’re alive

This is to the lady who wrote, "I will not have my rights as a woman taken from me."
I quote, "I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."
— Ronald Reagan, September 22, 1980.


Hillary Clinton should shut her pie hole

Here we go again, Hilary Clinton has her big mouth open again saying this is the worst administration we have ever had! Since this is a free country she has the right to open her big mouth. At least our current president is not a womanizer. Her husband should have been impeached, instead he had his hands slapped and it was forgotten.
Let’s get things straight. She should keep her big mouth shut!


We want tax elimination, not just reduction!

Has it dawned on anyone yet that a partial elimination of school taxes is no good? If the politicians don't completely eliminate the school taxes and all they do is raise the local or state taxes on other items, in a short time they will start raising school taxes again. Then we’ll be in worse shape because we’ll also be stuck with the new local or state taxes.

Spring City

Tax relief pleas fall on legislators' deaf ears

We all know that property and school taxes are absolutely obscene. Unfortunately, our voices fall upon ears that choose not to listen when this issue is presented. Well, simply put my fellow taxpayers, we built these cities with bricks, boards, sweat and sore backs. Although it will not be easy, we can fell it the same way. So let your voices be heard. Tax reform now!


Wake up, Harrisburg: People are losing their homes

I found it very interesting that under legal notices published in The Mercury on Feb. 1, out of 24 sheriff sales listed, eight of them were for a real debt from $884.07 to $5,905.90. It is obvious that these amounts are for unpaid taxes rather than non-payment of mortgages.
It is once again proof that real estate taxes need to be eliminated. People work hard all their life to raise their family and pay off their home and are rewarded by losing their home for the inability to pay taxes.
Legislators, wake up. We desperately need taxes on real estate abolished. I think the federal government should be funding education so that all children have the same educational opportunities. With real estate taxes funding education, you don’t get the same quality programs with the richer communities versus the poorer communities paying the bills.
We need to contact our representatives and let them know how we feel. You have a voice but it only works when you tell the right people. Don’t wait, do it now!


Pennsylvania needs Voter Protection Act

I urge Gov. Ed Rendell to sign HB 1318, the Pennsylvania Voter Protection Act. The legislation, passed recently by the General Assembly, would provide meaningful reforms to the way Pennsylvanians elect officials to all levels of government.
The Voter Protection Act proposes common sense reforms to our electoral process that ought to become law. By cleaning up intimidation and other unethical election activities, and ensuring that military personnel, the elderly, and the disabled are not denied their right to vote, this legislation would strengthen people's faith in the way we elect our public officials.
The Pennsylvania Voter Protection Act (HB 1318) has been passed by both chambers in the General Assembly, but has been threatened with a veto by Gov. Rendell. The legislation seeks to improve the election process in Pennsylvania by ensuring that every voter has access to the polls and has his or her vote fairly counted.
The bill includes provisions to:
* Require that all absentee ballots cast by military personnel serving overseas be counted.
* Ensure that senior citizens and persons with disabilities have access to polls.
* Protect voters and poll workers from harassment and intimidation at the polls.
Increase public confidence in the process by requiring voters to present some form of identification at the polls.

R-16th District

Rendell’s gambling scheme makes no sense

Use common sense! Stop and think! Do you think you will receive money from the gaming establishments? When someone will invest $50 million to $100 million, do you think they will operate at a loss? They are the ones who will reap in the financial gain.
What will the percentage of pay-out be from the slot machines to the state? The other person who will benefit from the profit of the slots will be fast Eddie.
When Ed Rendell campaigned for governor, he had 53 individuals and organizations including lawyers, real estate developers, insurance brokers, labor unions, and contractors who donated $100,000 to $710,000 for a total of $11,048,207 plus $134,000 in free catering and hotel rooms by the owner of the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia.
Ed Rendell received more money than two other individuals running for office in the United States. There is no guarantee how much money will be available for tax reform.
I hope Limerick residents will continue to try to eliminate the gaming establishment from the township.


Don’t minimize the Islamic threat against the West

About the frantic Muslims who are raging because someone drew a cartoon about Muhammad, it seems that Islam has always needed a lot of violence and cruel behavior to defend and propagate it to those not born into it. It certainly doesn’t present a desirable religious view.
By contrast, the Koran carries lies about Jesus but Christians aren’t burning flags or the book, rioting in the streets, threatening religious leaders who promote the lies, making loud demands or, more ridiculous, shooting rifles in the streets. Jesus doesn’t need us to offer fear tactic defenses on His behalf but then, unlike Islam, true Christianity did not get its foothold through the spiritual impotency revealed in anger and militancy. (Historical violence conducted in the misname of Christianity was the result of a religious deception.)
Of course, it is entirely possible that these energized Muslims are not actually defending their "prophet" but merely using the cartoon to justify their rioting. It’s what they do best. Such fun. When this wears off, they will come up with another excuse to riot. Meanwhile, I hope no national leaders yield to their bullying. That would fuel a power that should not be even mildly entertained. Yielding to a bully created World War II.


Berks legislators better heed voter pleas

To my state legislators, Sen. O’Pake and Rep. Santoni:
On March1, I received my tax bill along with everyone else.
I was stunned to see but another increase. I heard a few people calling into the local talk radio station complaining that their tax bill is worse than mine. If this cry from the people is not loud enough for you public servants to hear and heed, I don’t know what would be. This whole property tax issue that you have been sitting on for so long and trying to hatch these little rebates in lieu of complete elimination should not allow you to sleep at night.
I was thinking about sending on of you the deed to my house and let you figure out how to keep up with these obscene taxes.
The Antietam School District takes the prize for having the highest taxes in Berks County. Does that make you feel uncomfortable?
I have gathered my share of signatures for my candidate who is running against you, Rep. Dante Santoni, and will be delivering them to Harrisburg on Monday. It has not been all that difficult gathering the names, either, I might add. The wonderful learning experience for me was that all those people I contacted were all aware of the property tax situation and all of them favor elimination of property taxes.
Having everyone pay their fair share of taxes through the sales tax is the only right way to go. Worrying about hurting the "poor" is mindless thinking. We are all going to end up "poor" if Pennsylvania does not eliminate property taxes. All we need now is get everyone out there to vote. That will hopefully be loud enough to make a change for the people.
A proud member of Pennsylvania Clean Sweep,

Mount Penn

Vote out all the incumbents to restore pride in Pennsylvania

Lawmakers have to stop playing God and lying to the people. It is time for action. Enough of the empty promises. Now is the perfect time to vote out the incumbents and get new ideas working for us. Remember, only we can do this by voting for the people who will do what is right for the people of Pennsylvania, not themselves.
We need to entice companies to Pennsylvania that will bring new jobs. Pennsylvania’s tax structure should attract companies that will boost our economy and create new jobs.
Gambling as a way to fund schools is, and was from the beginning, a failure. It didn’t help with taxes for the citizens of Pennsylvania and will only bring crime and an unhealthy society.
Isn’t it time we became proud of our state again? So let’s all stick together and turn this state around, one where people will want to come and live, work and raise their children and retire here.


Writer perpetuates prejudice

Talk about "misguided statements." Elsie Mourar’s letter to the editor dated Feb. 22, while well intended, showed an old-fashioned view of homosexuality. We all know that there are passages from the Bible that seem to condemn homosexuality. In the 2000 years since the bible was written, we have come to realize that certain ideas contained within it are outdated in today’s world. Likewise, there was a time when, as Americans, we believed that slavery and segregation were the "right thing to do." A greater understanding of human nature and a desire for human rights and equality has led us to see that these ideas were wrong.
There are those of us who believe that sexual orientation is not a choice — it is something that you are, not something that you choose. While Ms. Mourar is certainly entitled to her opinion, letters like hers help to perpetuate misunderstanding and prejudice in an already intolerant world.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Fast Eddie's Quick Temper

The polls say Ed Rendell is ahead of Republican Lynn Swann in the Pennsylvania governor's race, but you wouldn't know it from Rendell's temperament. What made Fast Eddie lose his cool? Read on.


Rendell angrily denied suggestions that his word can't be trusted and that he gives different answers to different people.

"It's all BS. You know it's BS. It's politics," Rendell said, shortly before grabbing a reporter's tape recorder and refusing to return it before ultimately doing so.

Several hours later, as he was riding an Amtrak train from Washington to Philadelphia, Rendell called and apologized for his remarks.


State GOP Chairwoman Eileen Melvin released the following statement on Gov. Ed Rendell swiping of a reporter's tape recorder on Wednesday:

"At a time when serious leadership is required to address the serious problems facing our state — like property tax relief and a stagnating economy — Pennsylvanians should ask themselves if Gov. Rendell has the temperament to lead. By listening to the concerns of people across Pennsylvania for the last year, and by handling the ups and downs of a statewide campaign and keeping his composure, Lynn Swann has demonstrated the qualities and temperament of a true leader."


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pa. voters must rekindle sense of outrage

I’m worried that the outrage Pennsylvania residents expressed last summer and fall over the July 7 pay-jacking is fading.

If your memory is hazy about the betrayal of the public trust, not to mention the flagrant 2 a.m. raid on the state treasury by people who took an oath to up the state Constitution, here’s a few reminders on why voters must send a clear message to incumbents that they will no longer accept business as usual attitude in Harrisburg.

They still don’t get it

The Patriot-News in Harrisburg reported over the weekend that the state's seven Supreme Court justices billed taxpayers for more than $53,000 in food, travel and other expenses during the last six months of 2005.

Among the expenses was a $318 bill for dinner submitted by then-Justice Russell Nigro on the night before he was voted out of office, newspaper reported in its Sunday edition. On the day after the November election, Nigro dined at another upscale Philadelphia restaurant, that time running up a $124 tab. The Patriot-News reported that the justices' recent charges included 95 meals; trips to conferences in Alaska, Puerto Rico and South Carolina; $5 tips to doormen; and $6 for snacks from an honor bar. Justice J. Michael Eakin charged taxpayers $5 for tolls to attend the October funeral of the husband of Justice Sandra Schultz Newman.

"This is the result of government out of control, and we have people in there who do not relate to the average Pennsylvanian who is earning $35,000 per year," Matthew Brouillette, president of the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, told the newspaper. "When we have elected officials or public servants spending taxpayer money on luxurious hotel rooms or lavish dinners, it is time for a revolution in Pennsylvania."

In the previous fiscal year, Pennsylvania justices submitted $164,212 in expenses, the newspaper reported. It appears these imperial judges don’t brush their teeth in the morning without billing the taxpayers. The day will soon arrive when Pennsylvania justices will trade in their black robes for regal robes befitting the royal judiciary they’ve set up for themselves.

The Legislature repealed the pay raise after Nigro was tossed out of office by voters. Many of the larcenous legislators expressed remorse last fall, but it appears most have returned to their evil ways, figuring the voters got over their anger when they got rid of Nigro. This allowed the legislators to get back to their regular schedule of pillaging the taxpayers. The only way Gov. Ed Rendell and the GOP-controlled Legislature will get the message that taxpayers have had enough is if the majority of incumbents are voted out in 2006.

Bob Casey Jr. -- Friend or foe?

Bob Casey Jr., who gets paid to be Pennsylvania treasurer but has failed to show up for work 90 of the last 211 work days because he’s campaigning to unseat Sen. Rick Santorum, surprised many on Monday by putting out a press release stating that the Legislature violated the state Constitution in giving itself a pay raise last year.

The really odd thing is that Casey is one of the people sued by a citizen activist who wants the courts to rule that the pay raise was unconstitutional. Casey didn’t vote for the pay raise, but as state treasurer, he signs the checks our larcenous legislators have been depositing into their personal bank accounts.

When was the last time a defendant in a lawsuit sided with the people suing him? Probably never. It’s hard to judge Casey’s sincerity here because he is a professional politician who has run for five different offices in the past 10 years. But Casey’s statement is significant because he is the first state official to take the side of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Don’t forget that Gov. Rendell and a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature along with the chief justice of the state Supreme Court pushed for the 16 percent to 54 percent pay raises for themselves.

Casey is locked in a bitter struggle to unseat Santorum and some see Casey’s announcement as a Machiavellian political move to win support for his own race. Regardless of Casey’s motives, it’s good to have an elected officials stand with the people of Pennsylvania for a change.

Voters can take matters into their own hands on May 16 by voting out incumbent Legislators in the primary election.

Tony speaks

If you can’t get enough of my views in print on the most corrupt state government in the United States, you can now listen to me complain about Pennsylvania politics. Harrisburg-area activist Bill Bostic, who has a blog called One-Man Think Tank, interviewed me for a podcast available for download at his Web site,

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Political left sits on the bench at the expense of reforming Pennsylvania

About 84 percent of Pennsylvania residents 18 or older are registered to vote. That doesn't mean they all vote. Far from it. The majority of registered voters sit out most elections, especially primary elections, where party leaders proclaim a turnout of 20 percent as a major achievement.

Even a marquis race for governor typically fails to draw much voter interest. In 2002, when Democrat Ed Rendell defeated Republican Attorney General Mike Fisher to become governor of Pennsylvania, the voter turnout was 38.3 percent. In other words, six of every 10 Pennsylvania voters sat out the last gubernatorial election.

Rendell won just 18 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. What put Rendell in the governor's mansion was the city of Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. Rendell won the five-county Philadelphia metropolitan area by a margin of 515,000 votes over Fisher. Essentially, Rendell was elected governor of Philadelphia and its suburbs, which provided 44 percent of his vote total in 2002.

Those numbers come from a review of Pennsylvania elections compiled by Jack M. Treadway, a Kutztown University political science professor and author of the new book, "Elections in Pennsylvania: A Century of Partisan Conflict in the Keystone State."

Considering his dismal first-term record, it’s highly unlikely that Rendell can attract any more votes than he did in 2002. All Lynn Swann needs to do to win this November is collect 515,000 more votes than Fisher did to counter Rendell's edge in southeastern Pennsylvania.

I've noticed since the July 2005 legislative pay grab set off a voter revolt in Pennsylvania that the political left — liberal Democrats, Green Party members, independents and to some extent, libertarians — has been quiet about the need for major changes in the way Pennsylvania government operates. That's puzzling because we've always been led to believe that the political left is about pushing change. It does not appear to be the case in Pennsylvania.

While most Republicans figured out long ago that "Emperor Rendell Has No Clothes," the left is enamored by Rendell, who sought, signed and defended the July 7, 2005, pay raise. Rendell’s back-room dealing with the GOP leadership in the Legislature also gave us the worst gambling bill in the country and the notorious Act 72, which is no way to fund public education.

Rendell’s fingerprints are all over a succession of bad legislation and tax hikes. But too many of his fellow Democrats and the state's liberal newspapers (the two worst are based in Philadelphia) have given Rendell a free pass on their editorial pages. They banner stories about Lynn Swann not voting in primary elections, but overlook Rendell’s selling out Pennsylvania to casino interests or funneling of hundreds of millions of tax dollars to Philadelphia at the expense of the rest of the state.

In order for substantial changes to be made in Pennsylvania government this year, the turnout for the May 16 primary election must set a record. That won't happen if Libertarians, Green Party members, Constitution Party members and independents sit out the primary, which is what they will be doing if they don't switch their registration to Republican or Democrat. Primary elections are designed for political parties to settle on their candidates for the November general election. That means only registered Democrats and Republicans get to vote.

Almost 90 percent of Pennsylvania voters are registered as Republicans or Democrats, but there has been a slight growth in the past decade in third-party voters, primary Libertarian and Green Party. In 2002, there were 28 counties where at least 10 percent of the voters were not registered with the two major parties, according to Prof. Treadway.

It's the Libertarians, the Greens, the Constitution Party and the independent voters who can have the final say in how much movement there is in Pennsylvania's status quo government. But change won't happen if third-party voters sit out the May 16 primary.

At least for one day, third-party or independent voters must register as Democrats or Republicans to make their votes count. The last day to register before the primary is April 17.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A nightmare scenario if Democrats regain control of Congress

George W. Bush won't appear on any ballot this November, but clearly Democrats intend to turn the Nov. 7 election into a referendum on Bush.

The same crew that wouldn't accept the voters' will in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections figures it can take another shot at Bush in 2006. Blaming Bush for everything that ails mankind is much easier than coming up with reasons to ask voters to support your candidates.

Aided by their allies in the mainstream media and bankrolled by far-left billionaires, the Democratic Party, the perennial bridesmaid for the past 10 years, is poised for a comeback in 2006.

Never mind that the Democrats have lost 7 of the last 10 presidential elections, lost every Congressional election since 1994, lost the majority of governorships and now find themselves facing five Republicans on the nine-member Supreme Court.

The midterm elections are still eight months away, but Bush-fatigue has set in and Democrats figure they can fool enough voters into putting them in charge of Congress. The economy is sound, there have been no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil for more than four years and the Supreme Court is no longer tilting to the left. But there is still an uneasiness about George W. Bush.

Change is always good, right? Not when it involves allowing Democrats sit at the adults' table. Voters should think twice about voting for Democrats because they're not happy with the Bush administration. The stakes are much too high to put Democrats in the driver's seat.

Follow through with this nightmare scenario. If Democrats regain control of Congress, they will move immediately to overturn everything Bush has accomplished during his first five years in office. Say goodbye to middle-class tax cuts. Say hello to massive Democrat-backed tax hikes. Say goodbye to steady job growth. Say hello to long unemployment lines. Say goodbye to mainstream judicial nominations. Say hello to more Ruth Bader Ginsburgs, the ACLU representative to the Supreme Court.

With Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as Senate majority leader in 2007, the cut-and-run brigade will abandon Iraq and Afghanistan. That will embolden our enemies. The reason 9/11 happened was that Bill Clinton failed to respond to a half-dozen terrorist attacks going back to the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Osama bin Laden sensed weakness in American leadership and struck on 9/11. Look for more attacks on U.S. soil if Democrats regain control of Congress.

At the top of the Democrats' agenda for 2007 will be the impeachment of George W. Bush (and Dick Cheney, too). If there's one thing that gives Democrats nightmares, it's the prospect of Dick Cheney as president. They can't impeach Bush if Cheney would be his successor. So the Democrats will impeach Bush and Cheney, clearing the way for Speaker Pelosi to move into the White House. Wait, it gets worse.

Osama bin Laden emerges from his cave in Pakistan and leads an even bigger assault on U.S. interests. The war will spread to the oil-rich Gulf states. Militant Muslims will attempt to destroy Israel as well as seek revenge on Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, countries that have helped the U.S. in the war on terror.

Where does that leave us? With oil cut off and Israel forced to use nuclear weapons to defend its existence, President Nancy Pelosi will have no choice but commit the U.S. to an even bigger war in the Middle East.

Over the objections of Secretary of State Cindy Sheehan and Secretary of Defense Michael Moore, Pelosi will have U.N. Ambassador Jimmy Carter ask for a Security Council resolution to begin an all-out bombing of at least a half-dozen countries in the Middle East. The U.N. will turn us down, of course, with the Islamic Republic of France joining with other pro-Islamic members to reject intervention in the Iran-led "final solution" to the Israeli problem.

Pelosi and her war council — Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Barbara Boxer, George Clooney and Sean Penn — will come to the conclusion that the U.S. will have to go it alone in the war. This time, our enemies will be a true axis of evil: Iran, al-Qaida, Hamas, Syria, Iraq under the reinstated Saddam Hussein (pardoned by Pelosi) and Afghanistan, back in the hands of the Taliban. World War III? You bet. And this time, U.S. casualties won't be 2,500. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands. Maybe millions.

If you think Nov. 7 is an opportunity to kick George Bush around some more, think again. A weakened United States at home and abroad will have deadly consequences for all of us. That's what's at stake if Democrats regain control of Congress in November.