Thursday, October 27, 2005

The difference between Liberals and Conservatives

People are always wondering what makes someone a Liberal or a Conservative. You can find all sorts of political definitions and examples of politicians who consider themselves Liberal or Conservative, but the debate is more than about politics. I don’t know the origins of the story below. I received it in the form of an e-mail from a lifelong Republican whom I’ve known for about 15 years. It makes as much sense as anything else you’ll read explaining the core difference between a Liberal and a Conservative. So I’m sharing these words of wisdom with you today.

Humans existed for thousands of years as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups: Liberals and Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can was invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they had to stay close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to barbecue at night while they were drinking the beer. This was the beginning of what is known as "the Conservative movement."

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly barbecues and doing the sewing, fetching and hairdressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. Some of these Liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as "girlie men."

Some noteworthy Liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy and group hugs and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that Conservatives provided.

Over the years, Conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth — the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by another animal — the jackass.

Modern Liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water from France. They eat raw fish, but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu and French food are standard liberal dining fare.

Another interesting evolutionary side note about Liberals — most of their women have higher testosterone levels than the men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule in baseball because it wasn't "fair" to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, Marines, athletes and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tame and created a business of trying to get MORE for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history.

It should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to respond to the above before simply laughing and forwarding it. A Conservative will be so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded immediately to other "true believers."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

GOP ‘Playbook’ missing a few pages

With much fanfare, Pennsylvania House and Senate Republicans have introduced the "Playbook for Progress," offering their game plan for fixing everything that’s wrong in the commonwealth.

The goals set by the ruling party in both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature are lofty ones: 1) Fighting for Taxpayers; 2) Promoting Good Government; 3) Making College More Affordable; 4) Improving Public Safety; 5) Protecting the Environment; and 6) Creating More Good Jobs.

"This aggressive legislative agenda is designed to make Pennsylvania a better place in which to live and work," according to the public relations spin put out by GOP leaders.

It’s a shame that the propaganda does not match the reality. Conspicuously absent from the list is the No. priority for the state legislature: Repeal the illegal pay raise its members gave themselves on July 7.

The "Playbook" is another shameless ploy by career politicians who have done nothing but line their own pockets for decades. The reality is that Pennsylvania has the worst state legislature and the worst governor in the country (and that includes the clueless Kathleen "What Hurricane?" Blanco in Louisiana).

There’s a reason Pennsylvania has the most oppressive taxes in the country, has lost more manufacturing jobs than all but two other states and ranks near the bottom in education, health care and economic opportunities. There’s a reason Pennsylvania has the worst roads and is the No. 1 importer of out-of-state garbage.

That reason is the horde of inept and corrupt politicians who populate the governor’s mansion and the state Capitol. Pennsylvania didn’t drop to the bottom of the heap by accident or chance. The decline of a once-great state is a deliberate act of political terrorism by the worst officeholders in the country.

Start at the top with Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, Republican Speaker of the House John Perzel and Republican Senate Pro Tempore Robert Jubilirer and work your way down the list of the most bloated and unproductive state legislature in the country.

I’m sure you know by now that these "public servants" have not passed any significant legislation this year other than to raise their own salaries by 16 percent to 54 percent, making them the second highest paid lawmakers in the country.

The Harrisburg Hogs fatten their bank accounts on a daily basis on the backs of working Pennsylvanians and the state’s senior citizens. It’s only been three years since the GOP-controlled legislature passed Rendell’s billion-dollar increase in the state income. And the Republicans have the nerve to say they’re "fighting for taxpayers?" They have no shame. Voting them out of office is too good. We should bring back the public stockades and display these scoundrels for all to see.

Perzel, the personification of arrogance, is the man who lied to a group of elementary school children last week about arriving in a limousine for a reading program when the limo was parked in front of the school for all to see. Even though polls show two-thirds of Pennsylvanians want the legislative pay raise repealed, Perzel refuses to allow a vote on a bill to rescind the pay grab. Perzel knows nothing about good government.

During the past decade of GOP control in Harrisburg, state spending has skyrocketed. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. The Harrisburg party bosses are offended by the campaign of the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania to expose their betrayal of core Republican values. Perzel and his cronies say they stand for "fiscal accountability, personal responsibility and economic opportunity," but we know better. Perzel and his cronies should be drummed out of the Republican Party.

And let’s not forget about education. Pennsylvania’s young people are fleeing the state at an alarming rate. The agency that provides loans and grants for secondary education — PHEAA — is a bloated bureaucracy where employees siphon off money for themselves. Several newspapers have sued PHEAA to get information on about $900,000 in "expenses" that agency employees were reimbursed for trips and other perks for themselves. How many students couldn’t pay tuition because PHEAA employees spent the $900,000 on trips to Las Vegas?

The GOP party bosses invite you to "keep track of the ongoing progress" on their Playbook for Progress at Let me save the trouble. You have a better chance of winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning than seeing any progress from this bunch of political hacks.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Monday, October 24, 2005

Democrats turn to 'The Simpsons' for advice on political strategy

Harry Shearer is the voice of several popular cartoon characters on "The Simpsons" including Principal Skinner, Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders. It appears Shearer is also what passes for a political commentator from the American left these days. I’ve caught Shearer’s act several times on cable news shows discussing domestic and foreign policy issues alongside other liberal celebrities-turned-statesmen Ronny Reagan Jr., Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Maher. That tells you something about the brain drain in liberal quarters.

It’s also indicative of how the political left and Hollywood elite feed off each other to dominate the Democratic Party. Shearer and Maher are not exactly Hollywood heavyweights, but there are other "celebrities" who bankroll liberal causes and contribute heavily to the Democratic Party. They’re also behind the virulent blame-America rabble that props up Cindy Sheehan, the Edith Bunker of the anti-war movement.

Many of today’s celebrities are known as much for their politics as their professional achievements. What can we learn from Barbra Streisand, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, George Clooney or Ben Affleck? Something other than how to make bad albums and film flops? Baldwin promised to move to Canada if George Bush won reelection, but last I checked he was still living in the Hollywood hills.

That’s not to say there are no conservatives in Hollywood. But admitting you’re conservative in today’s Hollywood is akin to confessing you’re a member of the Communist Party in the 1950s. You would be committing professional suicide. Not counting tough guy actor turned California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, about the only Hollywood types who’ve been willing to publicly admit they’re conservatives are Bruce Willis, Bo Derek, Ben Stein, Pat Sajak and Tom Selleck.

Author James Hirsen detailed the stranglehold the left has on Hollywood in his best seller, "Tales from the Left Coast." The blurring of news and entertainment is not a good thing. And if you want more proof that liberals control Hollywood, look no further than "Commander in Chief," the new Geena Davis show about the first female president. The people behind the show are former Clinton employees who’ve been out of work since 2000 and would like to get back to the White House in 2008.

I don’t mind if liberals have a fantasy show on TV about running the White House. That’s as close as Democrats may get to running the country in our lifetime. But isn’t "The West Wing" enough? Do we need two prime time series depicting gallant liberals battling evil Republicans to fix all of the nation’s problems?

I’d like to see a reality shows featuring a group of washed-up actors and has-been politicians living in a big house or stranded on an island. It can star the last two Democratic presidents — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (actually the only two Democratic presidents in the past 36 years). Carter and Clinton may have been inept as the nation’s chief executives, but they certainly were entertaining.

Hirsen has a new book out called "Hollywood Nation: Left Coast Lies, Old Media Spin and the new Media Revolution" in which he argues that celebrities should not use their status to impose their radical political agenda on the rest of us. "Movies, TV shows, music and other entertainment products don’t merely amuse us or divert us from reality; often they convey messages about political, social and cultural issues," Hirsen writes. "And since Tinseltown remains such a liberal bastion, as we witnessed during the last presidential election with the Dem fund-raising machine, those messages usually come with a distinctly lefty twist."

Despite countless examples of how Hollywood’s liberal elite influence American politics, Hirsen makes the argument that for all the wealth and access to the public that the Left Coast has, liberals are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public.

Conservatives have scored significant victories. Mel Gibson personally financed "The Passion of The Christ," a movie that no Hollywood liberal would touch. It went on to gross $600 million worldwide at a time when the majority of films lose money. With Jennings, Brokaw and Rather gone, the left-tilting network news is little more than filler between the Geritol ads. Fox News dominates cable, scoring higher ratings that all its competitors combined.

Conservatives dominate talk radio, where the much-ballyhooed Air America liberal network is on life support. Conservative authors routinely top the seller list despite The New York Times’ attempts to embellish sales figures for left-wing authors. Somewhere in Barbra Streisand’s mansion, there are entire rooms filled from floor to ceiling with books by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Conservatives have also made the best use of the Internet. While Howard Dean and his disciples use the Internet primarily to beg for money, conservatives use it to spread ideas.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Friday, October 21, 2005

The charmed life of a Pennsylvania legislator

I have a confession to make. I’m obsessed with the Great Pay Grab of 2005. It’s more than three months since Pennsylvania lawmakers looted the state treasury to line their own pockets in a middle-of-the-night heist, but I still can’t get over the theft.

This is the 17th time I’m writing about the issue since July 7. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about my state senator (Michael A. O’Pake) and my state representative (Dante Santoni Jr.) cashing their big fat paychecks at my expense.

I try to find other news to get my mind off the larcenous legislators, but I keep coming back to the pay-jacking. Three items that made the news this past week seemingly are not related to the betrayal of Pennsylvania taxpayers by the 253-member House of Lords.

Item 1: The Social Security Administration announced that retirees can expect to see a 4.1-percent boost in their monthly checks starting in January. It’s the biggest increase in 15 years, but before you go on a mad spending spree at the neighborhood dollar store, let’s put things in perspective.

The cost-of-living increase is tied to the inflation rate, which took a dramatic post-Katrina jump thanks to record-high gasoline prices. The COLA for 2006 does not factor in the anticipated 50 percent increase in home heating costs this winter. Don’t forget that Pennsylvania lawmakers gave themselves minimum pay raises of 16 percent — four times higher than the rate of inflation.

While the average senior has to wait a couple more months to see that extra $39 a month, Pennsylvania legislators circumvented the state Constitution by collecting their minimum $11,000 annual pay raises early. The Constitution prohibits pay raises from starting in the same term that legislators approve them, but when you give massive pay raises to the judicial and executive branches, who is going to let a little thing like the Constitution stand in the way?

As our state lawmakers sit in their cozy mansions, will any of them give a thought to the millions of Pennsylvania seniors who are freezing in their homes because they can’t afford to pay for home heating oil or natural gas? As legislators drive around their districts in taxpayer-furnished SUVs fueled by taxpayer-paid gasoline, will they think about the senior waiting at the bus stop in freezing weather because they can’t afford $2.50 for a gallon of gas?

Does Pennsylvania’s aristocracy care about the 22 percent of senior citizens for whom Social Security is their sole source of income? When you’re making $81,000 to $145,000 for a part-time job, it’s hard to relate to a bunch of old people who have to survive in $1,000 a month.

Item 2: "Americans act to trim health care costs" was the headline on a recent Associated Press report on how working people are struggling to deal with skyrocketing health care costs.. (And the story was just about people who had jobs and health coverage. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 46 million Americans — including 1.4 million in Pennsylvania — have no health insurance coverage at all).

A study by the Principal Financial Group showed that 41 percent of growing companies have raised employee co-pays, 37 percent have increased deductibles and 20 percent have cut medical benefit coverage options, according to the AP article. That has led to all sorts of stress on the typical American family, forced to juggle cover health care expenses with other rising prices. The Employee Benefit Research Institute's 2005 Health Confidence Survey shows 79 percent of those asked are choosing generic drugs, according to the AP. The study also revealed that 40 percent of workers are delaying going to the doctor and 21 percent are not taking prescribed medications, the AP reported.

Most people surveyed said that if given the choice between a pay raise and increased health care coverage, they'd take the latter, the story said. This is not a dilemma for the 253 members of the Pennsylvania House of Lords. They can have their cake and eat it, too. In addition to raising their salaries whenever they want, legislators enjoy free medical, dental and eye care coverage for themselves and their families, free life insurance and free long-term disability insurance.

Item 3: Much to the chagrin of Pennsylvania lawmakers, it appears that greed does not drive every politician in America. The U.S. Senate voted 92-6 on Tuesday to give up a scheduled 2006 pay raise. Senators said they needed to do their part to save money in light of the massive federal effort to pay for the cleanup and rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina and the growing U.S. budget deficit. While largely a symbolic act — forgoing the 1.9-percent cost-of-living increase will save only $2 million — it’s more than Pennsylvania lawmakers are willing to do for the people back home.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More tough times for The New York Times: Another liberal icon in decline

What happens when radical liberals turn a once-respected newspaper into a partisan propaganda sheet?

Readers stop believing what the newspaper prints. Readers stop reading the newspaper.

Here’s a recap of what’s been going on at The New York Times:

* New York Times announces 500 job cuts

* New York Times profit drops 52%

* New York Times image tarnished by Miller case

And all this follows the Jayson Blair fiasco that exposed the New York Times’ growing credibility problem. And without credibility, all you’ve got to sell is the rantings of left-wing nutjobs like Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman. Who’s going to pay for their incoherent ramblings?

The news Wednesday that the New York Times Company reported a 52 percent decline in earnings for the quarter that ended Sept. 25, 2005, is another nail in the liberal newspaper’s coffin.

Readers are voting with their subscriptions and advertising dollars. They’re running away from the New York Times in droves.

The New York Times’ sister paper, The Boston Globe, is in even worse financial shape. Maybe John and Teresa Heinz can float them a lone in return for the knee-jerk endorsement last year.

I've written about the slow death of The New York Times several times in the past year. My most recent column (from July 17, 2005) appears below:

Stop the press! New York Times admits liberal bias

Dan Rather tried to swing the 2004 presidential election to John Kerry using faked memos about President Bush’s National Guard service. Rather paid the price for his failed scheme when he was forced out as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" and the show where he broke the memo story — "60 Minutes II" — was canceled.

The New York Times tried something similar. Remember the front-page stories on the Iraqi weapons depot that was looted supposedly while U.S. forces were guarding it? That "scoop" was part of a campaign of biased reporting at the Times to tip the election to Kerry. It failed, but nobody lost their job at the New York Times as a result of the "missing weapons" hoax. It looked like the newspaper would get away with spewing its leftist propaganda.

Should it matter to you what happens at the New York Times? Yes. The New York Times and the radical left have formed an unholy alliance. The newspaper legitimizes the left’s extremist agenda and gives the Democratic Party a platform to contaminate the nation’s political system. The Times is an anti-Republican propaganda machine in the guise of a news source. And the influence doesn’t stop with the New York Times’ declining readership base. The Times’ parent company owns many other newspapers across the country and those papers use the same stories written by New York Times’ reporters, exposing millions of Americans to biased reporting.

Eight months after the phony weapons story was published (and obediently repeated by other major newspapers, CNN and the evening news broadcasts on all three major networks), a remarkable report was released detailing a pattern of biased reporting at the New York Times. The report never made the front-page of the Times, but you can track it down on the Internet with a little detective work.

On the surface, the internal memo on the "newsroom culture" at the New York Times appears innocuous. But read the report carefully, get past the buzzwords and you come away with a startling conclusion. The New York Times’ own reporters and editors acknowledge the newspaper has shown favoritism toward radical liberal causes and the Democratic politicians behind them.

The newspaper’s Credibility Committee (is that an inside joke?) consisted of 19 veteran news people at the paper who spent eight months investigating a variety of concerns about the newspaper. The committee urged the newspaper’s top brass to implement changes to address "an impression of one-sidedness" in the newspaper’s pages. "The goal is not only to avoid appearing one-sided but also to find ways to present more contrarian and unexpected viewpoints in our news pages."

In other words, forget the New York Times’ motto of "All the News That’s Fit to Print." It’s more like "What Our Radical Liberal Readers Want to Hear Today." A bad habit at the New York Times (and many other liberal newspapers in big cities) is inserting opinion into news stories and running opinion pieces on the front page trying to pass them off as objective news stories.

Another recommendation the committee made is to hold regular seminars so reporters can learn how to cover "emotionally charged" topics in a "neutral way." If a reporter has gotten to the New York Times and doesn’t know how to remain objective, there’s a serious problem with the newspaper’s hiring practices. The Credibility Committee wants the top editors to routinely look for "lapses that look like favoritism" in the pages of the New York Times and share those blunders with the rest of the staff.

The best line in the committee’s report is, "Our news coverage needs to embrace unorthodox views and contrarian opinions." By "unorthodox" and "contrarian," the Times staffers are referring to such unusual people as Republicans, conservatives, moderate Democrats, persons who believe in God and regularly attend a church or synagogue, heterosexuals and anyone who support U.S. troops in a time of war.

The smoking gun comes on page 14 of the 16-page report when the committee says, "In part because the Time’s editorial page is clearly liberal, the news pages do need to make more effort not to seem monolithic." The fact that the New York Times hasn’t endorsed a Republican president since Abraham Lincoln should be a tip-off that the editorial pages lean radical left, but the key word in that sentence is "monolithic." What the Credibility Committee is saying is that the newspaper lacks credibility because its news coverage is just as biased as its editorial page.

The committee wants management to bring some "diversity" to the newsroom, but the committee isn’t talking about hiring more minority reporters and editors. For the insular New York Times, "diversity" can be achieved by recruiting what the committee puts as "talented journalists who happen to have military experience, who know rural America first hand, who are at home in different faiths." In other words, everybody working at the New York Times hates the military, doesn’t believe in God, came from a snobby Ivy League school and is a card-carrying member of the ACLU.

Do you suppose that fact may have something to do with how biased the news is inside the pages of the New York Times?

E-mail at

Liberals discover poor people in the U.S.

Everybody is talking about the poor these days.

That’s a good thing. The gap between affluent Americans and the vast majority struggling to survive is growing. Contrary to what the liberal establishment and its media allies tell you, the disparity between the haves and the have-nots was not created by George W. Bush.

The poor have been around for a long time. Pick up the Bible and you can find Jesus Christ making reference to the poor 2,000 years ago.

"For you have the poor with you always, but me you do not have always."
Matthew 26:11

I think we can all agree that there were poor people during the eight years Bill and Hillary Clinton occupied the White House.

The left will tell you that there are more Americans living below the poverty line than ever before. That may be the case, but there are also more Americans than ever as the nation’s population nears 300 million. More people means more poor, more rich, more white, more black, more Hispanic, more of everyone.

What the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know is that the poverty rate under George Bush stands at 12.7 percent, compared to a poverty rate of 13.7 percent during the same point in Bill Clinton’s administration.

When Bill Clinton goes on TV to complain that "tax cuts for the rich are the cause of poverty," he’s full of fertilizer. The Bush tax cuts for the middle class stimulated the economy to such a degree that more tax revenues are coming into federal coffers today than at any point during the Clinton administration. Lower taxes are good. Higher taxes are bad. All the more reason we need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

John Kerry promised to raise taxes during his run for the White House in 2004 and was told by voters to go back to representing the Socialist Republic of Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton can’t wait to win the 2008 presidential race so she can raise your taxes. That’s all Democrats know how to do — take more money out of the pockets of working class Americans.

George Bush inherited a mirage economy from Bill Clinton, who is always bragging about budget surpluses during his years in the White House. The reality is that Bill Clinton inherited the windfall of the Ronald Reagan tax cuts, but squandered it away. Clinton raised taxes every year he was in office. Where did all the money go? Why didn’t Bill and Hillary Clinton eliminate poverty when they had all that money at their disposal? The truth is the Clintons don’t care about the poor.

The federal government has spent more money on anti-poverty programs during the Bush administration than at any other point in history. Same goes for funding public education in America’s poorest school districts. And for all the shameful race-baiting the liberal media engaged in during Hurricane Katrina, the left-wing elite can’t ignore the fact that black home ownership is at an all-time high in the United States and there’s a growing black middle-class under the Bush administration.

There are still poor people in the United States and many of them are black, but the majority of Americans living below the poverty line are white.

If memory serves, Lyndon S. Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964. He pledged the full resources of the U.S. government to eradicate poverty. So there’s evidence there were poor people in this country as far back as the 1960s when Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon S. Johnson ran the country. One might ask why we’re still talking about poverty 40 years and tens of billions of dollars later.

The sad truth is that liberals deliberately work to keep a large sector of Americans in poverty to suit their political goals. Generations of Americans have been kept dependent on government programs and are indoctrinated into voting for Democrats.

Mona Charen wrote a best seller in 2004 about this phenomenon — "Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help." Do yourself a favor and read the book to understand why we still have poverty in this country as well as crime, substandard schools and poor race relations. The blame for these problems can be placed squarely on the American left.

"Liberals must be called to account for the real havoc they have created in so many lives," Charen writes. "They must be asked to offer something more than good intentions when their actions lead to disaster. Are liberals truly more concerned about the poorest and weakest members of society than other Americans? Or are they simply in love with the idea of their own self righteousness?"

Anybody who isn’t drinking Kool Aid mixed by Howard Dean knows the answer.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Citizen heroes of the pay raise rebellion

Last month I wrote a column titled "Enemies of the State (of Pennsylvania)," where I listed the villains responsible for the Great Pay Grab of 2005 and other abuses of power by the ruling political elite in Harrisburg.

This time, I’d like to focus on the heroes of the people’s revolution to take back the state from self-serving, greedy politicians. The grassroots effort to reclaim the state is remarkable. Over the past three months, dozens of Pennsylvania residents have risen to lead the revolt against the legislative aristocracy and their blue blood brethren in the governor’s mansion and the state courts.

Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents, Green Party members, conservatives and liberals have banded together for one common goal: remove the elected nobility that has bled Pennsylvania dry and restore Constitutional order in a state where lawmakers openly flaunt their disregard for the law.

Here are some of the key leaders (in no particular order) of the citizen revolt against the Harrisburg Hogs:

RUSS DIAMOND: The founder of the Web site, Diamond wants every member of the bloated Pennsylvania legislature kicked out of office. His Web site offers practical advice on how to organize a campaign to run against the entrenched legislators. He is also recruiting candidates who are willing to sign a pledge to repeal the pay raise and restore decency in state government.

GENE STILP: The granddaddy of the pay raise protest, Stilp was the man who filed a lawsuit when the legislators pulled the same pay raise stung in 1995. Stilp filed a lawsuit against the pay raise this year and most recently filed another lawsuit seeking an audit of financial records. Updates on his efforts to expose the corruption in Harrisburg can be found at Stilp is also the man responsible for the 25-foot inflatable pink pig that was the backdrop for the Sept. 26 anti-pay raise rally in Harrisburg.

CHRIS LILIK: The founder of Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania, Lilik is confronting the pay-jackers on several fronts. His Web site,, is the best place to start your day for a recap of all the news involving the state legislature and efforts to repeal the pay hike. A second Web site,, is the launching pad of a campaign by the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania to expose the legislative leaders who pushed through the pay heist. The group has raised money to pay for radio ads and billboards exposing the career politicians who need to be thrown out of office.

TIM POTTS: A one-time worker for Democratic legislators, Potts has escaped the Dark Side and is now working hard to restore accountability in Harrisburg. His is a co-founder of a group called Democracy Rising PA, which has four goals: make it easier for people to participate in public life, encourage competition of ideas for solving the state’s problems, give people maximum accountability for their taxes and set the highest standards of public integrity in the nation. For more information, go to

BARRY KAUFFMAN: The executive director of the non-partisan citizens’ watchdog group Common Cause/Pennsylvania, Kauffman has been exposing unethical behavior in Harrisburg for years. He was one of the leaders who filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the July 7 pay raise. His Web site is, which has a link to the Pennsylvania organization.

JOHN KENNEDY: A maverick former state representative from central Pennsylvania who bucked the trend for years by refusing to accept many of the perks fellow legislators gave themselves, Kennedy has set up a Web site to help fight the pay raise, Kennedy served in the state House from 1981 to 1988 and is living proof that legislators don’t have to mooch off the public all their lives.

As I’ve said before, the revolution cannot be won overnight. But we cannot live under the tyranny of 253 renegade legislators. Visit the Web sites mentioned here to educate yourself and spread the word. We must organize and gain strength if we are to have any hope of driving out the 253 kidnappers who took Democracy hostage in Pennsylvania.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pay raise payback: Vote out Nigro, Newman

With the exception of the liberal Reading Eagle, which loves the establishment, almost everyone in the state is onboard with the campaign to oust Supreme Court Justices Russel Nigro and Sandra Schultz Newman, who are seeking retention in the Nov. 8, 2005, ballot. These two judges are part of the problem with Pennsylvania government and should be the first casualties of the people's revolution to retake the state from greedy, arrogant politicians. Tim Potts makes a convincing case below for voting NO for Nigro and Newman.

Make Election Day ‘Rejection Day’ for Newman, Nigro

What do you call it when someone takes your money without your knowledge or permission?

Honest people call it theft. Our governor, our legislators and our judges call it a pay raise.

That’s why people everywhere are angry. Because our political leaders treated us like nothing but walking wallets instead of citizens in a democracy.

Well we don’t have to wait until next year to strike back.

We can cast our first vote against the pay raise on November 8 by voting against two people who are already taking the pay raise. And they’re not even using so-called "unvouchered expenses."

They are Supreme Court Justices Sandra Shultz Newman and Russell Nigro. On Nov. 8, we get to decide whether they stay on our Supreme Court and keep getting the pay raise.

What do they have to do with the pay raise? Everything.

Our General Assembly enacts laws like the pay raise in the dead of night when we don’t — and can’t — know what they’re doing because our Supreme Court, including Newman and Nigro, has told them it’s OK.

Time after time, our Supreme Court has said it’s OK to make us pay for laws that we know nothing about until it’s too late. Time after time, our Supreme Court has said that the Constitution doesn’t mean what it plainly says.

What does the Constitution say? Among other things, it says that proposed laws must be considered on three different days in the House and three different days in the Senate. That’s six days total.

That seems clear enough. But our legislature and Supreme Court, including Newman and Nigro, have tortured this plain language to allow a bait-and-switch game where they tell us they’re going to do one thing, then suddenly do something completely different.

We’ve seen it year after year. Last year, it was the gambling law. It started out as a two-page bill and ended up in a matter of hours — not six days — as a 146-page law that is making Pennsylvania the slot machine capital of the east coast.

What did the original bill have in common with the final law?

Nothing. Not one single word. It’s classic bait-and-switch. A retail business couldn’t get away with that. Why should our governor and our legislature and our Supreme Court?

Yet on June 22 our Supreme Court said it was perfectly OK.

And what happened just 18 days later? Governor Rendell and the General Assembly, with the cooperation of Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, did exactly the same thing with the pay raise.

It started out as a 24-line proposal to limit salaries in the executive branch. But in a matter of minutes, it became a 22-page law to increase salaries in all three branches of government. And not one word of the original bill ended up in the final law.

So with both the gambling law and the pay raise, the only thing that got six full days of consideration was a blank sheet of paper.

It’s time to appeal to the Court of Common Sense.

It’s time to declare that anyone who thinks a blank sheet of paper is the same thing as a huge law doesn’t have the common sense or the judgment to sit on our Supreme Court.

The court says it owes "deference" to the legislature.

Wrong. The court owes deference to the people. The people are the sovereigns, and the legislators are the servants. Anyone like Newman and Nigro who doesn’t know the difference between sovereigns and servants has no business on the Supreme Court.

The court says it must "presume" that the legislature acts according to the Constitution.

Wrong. The court must "presume" that the Constitution means what it plainly says, not what legislators torture it to mean to suit their political ends.

Anyone like Newman and Nigro who can’t enforce the plain meaning of the Constitution in order to protect the people from abuse by their government has no business on the Supreme Court.

On Nov. 8, use your vote to say "yes" to representative democracy and "no" to Newman and Nigro.

Use your vote to say "yes" to a government that treats us with respect and "no" to Newman and Nigro.

Use your vote to say "yes" to our Constitution and "no" to Newman and Nigro.

Remember: Our political leaders won’t change their behavior until we change our behavior.

So let’s change some behavior by voting Newman and Nigro "No!"

Timothy Potts is a former press secretary and director of communications for the Pennsylvania House Democrats. E-mail him at

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tips to overcome pay raise amnesia

The so-called experts keep saying that Pennsylvania voters will forget about the pay raise that state lawmakers gave themselves at 2 a.m. on July 7 by the time the May 2006 primary election rolls around.

Is it possible that 9 million voters will develop a collective case of amnesia when it comes time to deciding if they want to keep the people who broke into their homes in the middle of the night and relieved them of their hard-earned money?

We know the politicians are counting on memory lapses. That’s why they pushed through the pay raise in July — 10 months before any of them have to face the voters. But are Pennsylvania voters that absent-minded?

If you’re worried that you’ll forget that our "public servants" looted the state treasury to give themselves pay raises for 16 percent to 54 percent, I’ve come up with a few memory enhancers to help you out.

* Every time you pay $40 to fill your gas tank, remember that Pennsylvania has one of the highest taxes on gasoline in the country. For every gallon of gas you buy, 31 cents goes to Harrisburg in taxes. Gov. Ed Rendell rejected a call to temporarily suspend the gas tax in the wake of skyrocketing prices because it would reduce the amount of money politicians have at their disposal. And don’t forget that state lawmakers don’t pay for their gas. It’s free, along with the luxury automobile taxpayers provide these "public servants." While you’re struggling to pay for gas to get to work, remember that your state lawmaker can ride around in a Cadillac all day long at your expense.

* The cost of heating your home this winter is expected to rise anywhere from 30 to 70 percent. As you look for another blanket this winter because you’re trying to save money on natural gas or oil, keep in mind that state lawmakers gave themselves pay raises 10 times the rate of inflation. That will cover their home heating needs, with some money left over for a vacation on some Caribbean beach.

* Also keep in mind that state lawmakers — at the request of lobbyists for the utility companies — made it easier for utilities to shut off service for nonpayment during winter months. So when you pick up the newspaper and read about an elderly person found frozen to death in an unheated apartment, remember your state lawmaker who made it easier for utility companies to make their stockholders richer at the expense of senior citizens and the working poor.

* A few lawmakers have expressed concern about the coming winter and rising home heating costs, but so far the party bosses who control Harrisburg have expressed their usual disdain for the common people of Pennsylvania. Take the case of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a federal initiative administered by the state that provides assistance to Pennsylvania’s working poor to pay their utility bills. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that contributes nothing to the program. State lawmakers are sitting on a $135-million slush fund that they diverted from the state treasury. Part of that money will go to pay their salary increases. The rest is controlled by legislative party bosses so they can buy friends and influence people.

* A recent report by the American Bankers Association stated that more Americans are falling behind in their minimum credit card payments. A lot of people are using credit cards to pay for necessities such as groceries, gas and medical bills. As you fall deeper into debt to feed, clothe and shelter your family, remember that Pennsylvania’s legislative aristocracy — already the second highest-paid in the country — also provides itself with free medical insurance for its members and their families, a $129 meal allowance every day they’re in Harrisburg, a $650 monthly car allowance, a lifetime pension (in some cases as much as $50,000 a year), free life insurance and free long-term care insurance.

So, when bill collectors are threatening to ruin your credit or the bank is about to foreclose on your home, remember that Pennsylvania lawmakers are getting paid $81,000 to $145,000 for part-time jobs (legislators spent an average of 77 days in Harrisburg in each of the past five years).

While the Nov. 8 ballot is for local and county offices, there are two Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices seeking retention for 10-year terms. These justices are the highest paid in the country and have given state lawmakers a free pass in the past to violate the state Constitution by giving themselves illegal pay raises. It’s important that you vote "no" to retain Russell Nigro and Sandra Newman to send a message to the Harrisburg Hogs that Pennsylvania taxpayers are not going to take it anymore.

By firing two justices this year and two more next November, voters can change the majority on the seven-member state Supreme Court in the span of one year. That is an important step in taking back the state from the self-serving, career politicians.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Dispatches from the pay raise battlefront

Here’s a roundup of news from the front lines of the people’s revolution against the corrupt and arrogant political aristocracy in Harrisburg.

1 down, 252 to go

One of the pay-jackers has waived the white flag! State Rep. Sheila Miller, a Republican who has been collecting taxpayer checks for the past 13 years, has announced she won’t seek another term in 2006.

Miller, who represents the 129th District in northern Berks County, voted in favor of the July 7, middle-of-the-night pay raise and has refused to give the money back. Miller, a 53-year-old, part-time legislator and full-time beef farmer, has easily won reelection in her heavily Republican district every time she ran so her sudden surrender took many by surprise.

Miller wouldn’t say why she’s giving up the money, the perks and a lifetime membership in the exclusive Harrisburg Hogs Club. “It is time for me to move forward with future endeavors, focusing on family and farming, and applying my time and talents in another role as I wrap up 25 years in the policy-making arena,” Miller wrote to Speaker of the House John Perzel, the pay raise mastermind.

Maybe the anti-pay raise pressure got to Miller. Maybe she got religion. Doesn’t matter. Miller tainted her seven terms in Harrisburg as a champion for agricultural issues by participating in the Great Pay Heist of 2005. Her name will be added to what should be a long list of casualties as the people battle to retake Harrisburg from the larcenous legislators who run the place.

Don’t shed a tear for Sheila Miller. She will receive a lifetime pension courtesy of taxpayers as well as health benefits for her and her family, again courtesy of taxpayers. Berks County residents now have an opportunity to send someone who knows the meaning of public service to Harrisburg next year.

Time to call in the Feds

I was watching “The Untouchables” on TV the other night and kept thinking about the Pennsylvania legislature, especially when Robert DeNiro appeared on screen as Al Capone, the arrogant and defiant Chicago mob boss.

Capone had intimidated or bought off every official in Chicago, including the judges. The only way to stop him was to bring in the Feds. That’s where Elliot Ness and his “Untouchables” come in. They finally brought down Capone’s criminal empire. It might take a similar effort to fumigate Harrisburg.

The legislature made sure everybody enjoys the spoils of the July 7 raid on the public treasury, including Gov. Ed Rendell and state judges, who are now the highest paid in the country. Ralph Cappy, chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, saw his salary rise from $154,448 to $176,800. This is the same Ralph Cappy who billed taxpayers $36,894 in expenses over the past year. Does he buy a new robe every day?

A Harrisburg-area man filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the pay raise, but the lawsuit will be heard by the very same judges who are now enjoying fatter paychecks thanks to their legislative confederates. Judges who rule against the pay raise would be giving up enormous pay raises for themselves. The best hope for beleaguered Pennsylvania taxpayers may be the federal courts.

Common Cause of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizens’ group that works to make government more accountable to the people, is planning to file a federal lawsuit this month challenging the pay raise. While we’re at it, we might want to ask President Bush to send federal troops to surround the state Capitol. Perzel’s raiders are preparing for a long siege.

Want Democracy? Try Iraq

As many had feared, the warlords who control the state legislature will not allow a vote on bills to repeal the pay raise and the unconstitutional practice of collecting the pay raise early as unvouchered expenses.

Two bills were introduced in the past month to reverse the pay raise and abolish unvouchered expenses. The bills have been sent to the Rules Committee by John Perzel. And guess who decides when those bills leave the committee? You guessed it. None other than John Perzel, the GOP warlord who will not allow an up or down vote on the bills to repeal the pay hike. This is why it’s important to continue to put pressure on your state legislators, especially House members.

The legislature is made up of a few warlords and about 200 lawmakers who mindlessly follow orders from the warlords. As we get closer to 2006 and the opportunity to oust the entire 203-member House and 25 of the 50 state senators, you need to put the fear of God into your legislator. Right now, they’re more afraid of John Perzel than the voters. But without your vote, they won’t get the opportunity to go back to Harrisburg to grovel at the feet of John Perzel.

That’s the message you need to send to your state legislator. Remind them that they work for you. You can fire them. You will fire them on May 16, 2006, when you vote in the primary election.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Monday, October 03, 2005

Pay raise fallout: Revolutions can't be won overnight

After a 2½-month vacation, the Pennsylvania legislature is back in session. Hold on to your wallets and purses.

Both chambers of the House of Lords reconvened Monday for the first time since the Great Pay Grab of 2005. The contrast between what was happening inside the golden dome of the Capitol building and the steps outside couldn’t have been any wider.

Inside, the political aristocracy went about business as usual, wasting the people’s money, pocketing some of it and stroking their egos. Outside, about 2,000 Pennsylvanians — young and old, Democrats, Republicans and independents — braved the rain to rally against the pay raise, shouting "Repeal, Repay or Resign!"

The number of people who showed up for the rally is not important. The fact that every newspaper in the state carried a story about the rally on its front page the next day is a victory for taxpayers. The fact that television stations — who have ignored the biggest story in the state for 2½ months — finally carried news of the protest is a victory for taxpayers.

Revolutions begin with small skirmishes. The American Revolution was considered an isolated uprising in New England before it spread to all 13 colonies. And we all know how the Revolutionary War ended. While we’re on the subject, I just finished reading David McCullough’s outstanding book, "1776," about the first year of America’s battle for independence. It’s a fascinating account of the first days of what would end up being a seven-year struggle to overcome British oppression.

Those participating in the people’s revolution of 2005 in Pennsylvania can take heart in reading McCullough’s book. The early days of a revolution are often the most difficult.

The year 1776 was the "low point of our fortunes, not just in war, but in the whole history of the country. The prospects of there even being a United States were never more bleak," McCullough said in an interview. The Continental Army, disorganized and ill equipped, suffered a string of military defeats throughout 1776. There was little hope of breaking the tyranny of the British.

But the revolution survived its first year. Thanks to the courage and fortitude of George Washington and others, the cause of liberty was kept alive. So take heart, Pennsylvanians. The struggle to regain independence from the tyranny of the Harrisburg aristocracy and re-establish Democracy in Pennsylvania is an uphill climb, but victory can be won.

There are many Pennsylvania taxpayers feeling a sense of disillusionment today. I’m sure some thought that the House of Lords would repeal the pay raise before breaking for lunch on Sept. 26. Anyone familiar with the type of people who populate the halls of the state Capitol knows better. Pennsylvania lawmakers are professional lawbreakers. They hold Ph.D’s in pilfering. Most of them have decades of practice in picking the pockets of taxpayers. And they’ve gotten away with it time and time again.

The people’s revolution to retake their state government will not be won in a few months. It’s going to take years. We need candidates — honest, civic-minded Pennsylvanians — to run against the professional politicians in the May 2006 primary.

Do we have the fortitude to fight the war? The politicians are prepared to wait us out. They’ve fattened their bank accounts with our money. They are prepared for siege warfare. They can wait in their golden palace until we grow weary and retreat. If we do, tyranny triumphs. They will continue to rob us, our children and grandchildren blind. They will continue to live a life of luxury while the rest of us struggle to feed and clothe our families in one of the most heavily taxed states in the country.

So what’s next? First, continue to flood your state senator and representative with phone calls, e-mails and letters. Demand that they support bills to repeal the pay raise and eliminate the practice of unvouchered expenses. The special legislative session on tax reform called by Gov. Ed Rendell is a diversion to take our attention away from the pay grab. Don’t fall for it.

Legislators have been told for 30 years that Pennsylvania taxpayers need relief. They’ve ignored our pleas for decades. Do you think they’re going to come up with tax relief in the next 30 days? Keep hammering away at the pay-jackers. Confront them daily. Remind them that you are a witness to their crimes. Remind them that they work for you. Remind them that you pay their enormous salary. Remind them that you hold a powerful weapon — a vote they will never get unless they start looking out for you instead of their own selfish interests.

While Rendell and the larcenous legislators won’t face the voters until 2006, two names will be on the ballot in just six weeks. Russell Nigro and Sandra Schultz Newman are seeking retention for another 10 years on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. You can send a clear message to Rendell and the other Harrisburg Hogs that taxpayers will not stand for the pay grab by voting Nigro and Newman out on Nov. 8.

The legislature has repeatedly violated the Constitution because it knows state judges allow them to do so. And don’t forget the pay-jackers shared their ill-gotten gain with judges by giving them pay raises on July 7. Pennsylvania now has the highest paid state Supreme Court justices in the country to go along with the most expensive state legislature in the nation.

By voting "no" to keep Nigro and Newman in office and voting "no" again in November 2006 when two other Supreme Court justices will be on the ballot, you have an opportunity to change the majority of the state Supreme Court within the space of one year. That would be a huge victory for the people’s revolution of 2005.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at