Sunday, December 31, 2006
It wasn't so much the list of the top stories that showed bias, although there is no other explanation for placing "Disaster in Darfur" as the No. 10 story of the year. This is an issue that only left-wing elitists and Hollywood types (George Clooney) care about. Ask the average American to tell you where Darfur is and they'll probably say it's a small town in Indiana. People starving is Africa has been going on for the past 100 years. There's nothing new here other than the liberal tail wagging the dog.
The tip-off that most of the people voting were liberals was the end of the final recap story, where the AP said, "Just missing out on the Top 10 was mounting concern over climate change and global warming, highlighted by the release of Al Gore's movie, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' and alarming new warnings from many scientists."
Global warming is another of those phony stories that the far left perpetuates so it can scare people into voting for Democrats and funding "tree hugger" causes. The movie itself barely made a blip at the box office, finishing way behind such other fairy tale films as "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" and "Snakes on a Plane."
Here are some significant stories that did not make AP's list. In fact, none of these were listed on The Associated Press' original ballot of 40 suggested stories for the Top 10, which shows the bias of the people conducting the poll.
The most underreported story of 2006 was the new wave of philanthropy among some of the world's richest people. Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the world, announced he was giving $30 billion of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates, the word's richest man, also announced he was retiring from Microsoft to devote all his time to charitable causes. That was a big story, but the left doesn't like to promote private philanthropy. The far left believes government exists to support everyone in the world and the middle class should pay more in taxes to fund liberal causes.
There was also an interesting book released in 2006 called "Who Really Cares" by Arthur Brooks that shows that liberal are stingy when it comes to helping the needy. It's mainly conservatives and people of faith who are generous with their money. The book got little play in the liberal media.
Another story largely ignored by the mainstream media was the demise of the liberal talk radio network, Air America. Two years ago, when a group of well-funded liberals launched the so-called "alternative to conservative talk radio," every major newspaper in the country ran a front page story promoting Air America. The network has been rocked by financial scandals and declining ratings, leading to the filing of bankruptcy in 2006. Why wasn't this story on the front page of the very same liberal newspapers?
The failure of Katie Couric to lift CBS out of third-place in the network news ratings is another major story ignored by the media. Couric, a darling of the left, has tanked in the ratings, drawing fewer viewers than Dan Rather.
The far left has also developed collective amnesia when it comes to reporting on the massive corruption and mismanagement of the Katrina cleanup. No, not by the Bush administration. The liberal news media is all over that. Billions of dollars have been squandered by the Democratic governor of Louisiana and the Democratic mayor of New Orleans and their assorted cronies.
To keep up with more examples of liberal media bias, check out these two great Web sites. The Media Research Center (http://www.mrc.org) is the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias. And nobody does a better job of keeping an eye on The New York Times than http://www.timeswatch.org
There's a reason why Time magazine has chosen "bloggers" as its Person of the Year. There is very little trust left in the mainstream media (the big city newspapers, the three networks, CNN) and people are turning to alternative sources for the truth.
Perhaps the decline of the mainstream media should also be added to the list of underreported stories for 2006.
Tony's Top 10 Movies
1) Over the Hedge
2) Happy Feet
3) Flushed Away
6) IceAge: The Meltdown
7) Open Season
8) Monster House
9) The Ant Bully
10) The Wild
Oldest child's Top 10 Movies
1) Happy Feet
2) Flushed Away
3) Over the Hedge
4) IceAge: The Meltdown
6) Open Season
8) Monster House
9) The Ant Bully
10) The Wild
Youngest child's Top 10 Movies
2) Over the Hedge
3) Happy Feet
4) Flushed Away
5) Ice Age: The Meltdown
6) Open Season
8) Monster House
9) The Ant Bully
10) The Wild
Saturday, December 30, 2006
That John Perzel has more lives than a black cat.
State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, a Reading Democrat, sent a letter to fellow Democrats in the state House of Representatives Saturday announcing he will support Republican John M. Perzel for another two-year term as Speaker of the House.
This is a political bombshell. Perzel was attempting to strongarm a Democrat from Philly to turn for him, but Caltagirone was never mentioned as a potential turncoat.
If Perzel somehow keeps his post as Speaker despite the fact that Democrats now have a 1-vote majority in the House, the only conclusion is that Perzel has sold his soul to the devil in return for keeping control of the House.
Nothing else could explain the defection of a lifelong Democrat like Caltagirone, who will face the wrath of fellow Dems in Berks, his pals in the House and Gov. Ed Rendell. You have to wonder what Perzel promised Caltagirone to get his vote.
The defection could have a domino effect on other Democrats who can't stand Bill DeWeese, who was in line to be the next Speaker of the House.
Of course, all this hinges on Perzel getting support from every single member of the 101-member Republican caucus and Perzel has made a lot of enemies in the past two years by supporting Rendell's agenda and helping orchestrate the disastrous legislative pay raise that cost Republicans control of the House.
The stakes are enormous. The party that controls the House determines who heads committees, where tens of millions of tax dollars are spent and how far Gov. Ed Rendell gets in his second term.
If the Republicans can hold the Speaker post, Rendell is a lame duck even before he is sworn in for a second term. The Republicans control the state Senate by a comfortable 29-21 margin. Rendell's only hope of pushing through his tax-and-spend liberal agenda was Democratic control of the House.
This is truly a case of the evil of two lessers. Republicans can't stand Perzel. Democrats can't stand DeWeese. Who is willing to hold their noses and vote for either man as Speaker?
The text of a letter (obtained by The Associated Press) sent from Caltagirone to fellow members of the Democratic caucus:
December 30, 2006
To the Members of the Democratic Caucus:
I am writing to inform you that, after extended and careful deliberation, I have determined that I cannot support Rep. William DeWeese for election as speaker of the House of Representatives.
I have served as a member of the House of Representatives for thirty years. During that time, I have been a steadfast member of the Democratic Caucus, supporting our positions and candidates. In the past legislative session, my campaign committee contributed $30,000 to the House Democratic Campaign Committee, and $23,500 to individual Democratic House candidates. I also helped raise additional thousands in support of our Democratic candidates. I have been a loyal Democrat since I entered politics, and will remain a member of the Democratic Party.
However, I have become increasingly distressed over the years with the manner in which our Democratic leaders have conducted the business of the Caucus. The leaders of our Caucus have shown little regard for many members of the Caucus, the constituents they represent, and the legislative initiatives we should be supporting. Instead, they have operated the Caucus as a personal fiefdom, promoting their own personal and political ambitions behind a wall of secrecy and petty personal vindictiveness.
As you are aware, at the request of Rep. DeWeese, I recently provided him with a list of reforms which, I believed, would enable our Caucus to embark on a new era of transparency and fairness. I had hoped that with the election of Rep. McCall and other new members to leadership positions in the Caucus, these proposed changes would be seriously considered, and adopted.
Instead, all that I have received from Rep. DeWeese in response is his usual outpouring of obfuscation. Unfortunately, I no longer have any confidence in his ability to lead the Democratic Caucus, and do not believe him and his associates to be capable of fulfilling the responsibilities necessary to lead the House of Representatives.
I am under no delusions as to the nature of partisan politics in the House of Representatives. However, Rep. Perzel has pledged to implement House rules which reflect the current split in the membership of the House, and to conduct the affairs of the House in an open, inclusive and fair manner. I have always found Rep. Perzel to be a man of his word, and serious about issues of public policy. I believe the people of Pennsylvania will be best served if he is elected as speaker on January 2, and he will have my support.
I look forward to working with each of you in the upcoming legislative session. I believe that all of us, Democrat and Republican, can work together for the people of Pennsylvania.
Thomas R. Caltagirone
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Just got a press release from state Sen. Rob Wonderling, who represents the sprawling 24th Senate District in Montgomery County and the Lehigh Valley.
Wonderling, a freshman Republican who easily won re-election on Nov. 7, says in the release that he will vote for new rules designed to make the legislative process more open to the public when the Senate returns to session next week.
Wonderling said the Senate expects to consider seven reform proposals compiled by Republican and Democratic leaders when the 2007-08 legislative session begins Tuesday, Jan. 2.
Under the new rules:
1) Session times will be limited to between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.
2) Amendments will be posted to the Internet before being offered on the Senate floor.
3) The Senate will wait at least six hours before voting on an amended bill or a conference committee report.
4) All roll call votes will be posted on the Internet as soon as possible after a vote, but always within 24 hours of a vote.
5) Committee votes on bills will be posted on the Internet within 48 hours of the vote.
6) The Senate’s Legislative Journal – which includes the full text of all floor debates – will be posted on the Internet upon Senate approval of the Journal or within 45 days, whichever is earlier.
7) An updated fiscal note will be prepared if a bill is amended after consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee, if the amendment has a fiscal impact.
“Openness and accountability are the hallmarks of good government, and these measures will improve public access to information about the bills we vote on in the Senate,” Wonderling said. “We have an obligation to the people we represent to make this information more readily available in a timely manner, and these reforms are critical as we continue our efforts to build the public’s trust.”
That's the kind of talk we like hearing from our elected representatives. In the past, it's been just talk. But with the ouster of 55 members of the political aristocracy in 2006 though the ballot box or force retirements and the Republican loss of the state House, maybe ... just maybe ... the message is beginning to sink in.
Wonderling is one of the good guys in Harrisburg. He's served his constituents well during the past four years and he is a rising star in the state Senate. Same goes for John Rafferty, the state senator from the 44th District, which covers parts of Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties. Rafferty has also been outspoken on the need to clean up the way things are done in Harrisburg.
Unfortunately, you have a lot of political dinosaurs still left in Harrisburg whose only goal is get as much for themselves as they can. For many of these obstructionists to reform, 2008 is right around the corner when voters can get rid of 25 state Senators (and all 203 members of the House).
Over in the House, new Majority Leader Keith McCall, a Democrat from Carbon County, said there will be no reforms proposed for a vote when the House reconvenes on Jan. 2. Instead, House members will be asked to adopt the same rules now in place for a temporary period while they work out reforms to be adopted later.
Tim Potts of DemocracyRisingPa raised some interesting questions about the House leadership's reluctance to jump on the reform bandwagon.
In the group's latest newsletter, Potts ask the following:
1. Why does the House need more time think about adopting reforms that were proposed more than six months ago? What have Speaker John Perzel, R-Phila., and Minority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, been waiting for?
2. Does anyone in the Senate believe that six hours is enough time for ordinary citizens to know what’s proposed and advise their Senators of their views?
3. Why do none of the Senate and House leaders propose to:
· Make per diems reimbursements for documented expenses instead of a second salary at taxpayer expense?
· Make health care benefits, such as free health insurance while in office and free life-time health care for members and their families who serve 10 years or more, consistent with the health care benefits of ordinary working people?
· Curtail car allowances in the House, which can require taxpayers to pay up to $650 a month plus insurance?
· Prohibit catered meals while the House and Senate are in session?
· Require all expenses to be posted, by member, on the Internet?
· Require an annual audit of all House and Senate accounts using the highest standards of the accounting profession?
· Connect the dots between legislation, lobbying and campaign contributions?
4. Why should any member of the House vote for a Speaker who has stifled meaningful improvements demanded by the citizens for more than a year and a half since the pay raise?
All good questions waiting for answers from the new Democraty leadership.
The Democrats have gotten a free ride in Harrisburg while Republican voters were ousting leaders and tossing out career politicians. With the exception of Mike Veon, all the Democratic leaders who orchestrated the payjacking were returned to office. It's time for Democrats to start demanding that their side of the aisle join the reform movement.
(By the way, DemocracyRisingPA, a non-profit, non-partisan citizens group, is asking for financial help to continue looking out for Pennsylvania residents. If you'd like to donate to the organization, you can send your check to P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013.)
— George Harrison
Everyone has a favorite Beatle. Mine is George Harrison. Odd choice I know. Hardly anyone noticed Harrison while the Beatles ruled the musical world for eight years. Turns out George was a late bloomer.
Harrison was only 26 when the Beatles broke up in 1970. If you were asked to predict the member of the Beatles who would enjoy the biggest success as a solo artist after the band broke up, hardly anyone would have chosen George Harrison.
Harrison, the "quiet Beatle," was always in the shadow of the Paul McCartney, the cute one and the best singer, or John Lennon, the smart one, and even lovable Ringo Starr.
Relegated to one or two songs on Beatles albums dominated by Lennon-McCartney tunes, Harrison's compositions were nothing more than album fillers for much of the Beatles run through the 1960s.
Harrison was credited with writing just 22 of the more than 200 songs recorded and officially released by The Beatles during their eight-year reign. Harrison came up with an occasional gem ("Taxman," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Here Comes The Sun") but of the Beatles' 27 No. 1 hits, Harrison's only contribution was "Something" from the "Abbey Road" album.
Harrison built up a stockpile of excellent songs in the late 1960s and finally got to share them with the world when the Beatles self-destructed as the decade came to a close.
His 1970 triple-album "All Things Must Pass" went platinum and spawned several hit singles. It was No. 1 for seven weeks. To this day, it is still regarded by critics as the best solo effort by a Beatle and is included on most lists of the best albums of all time.
His first post-Beatles single, "My Sweet Lord" was the No. 1 single for four weeks in the winter of 1970. It was followed by two other Top 10 hits from the album — "Isn't It A Pity" and "What Is Life." And there are a dozen other great songs on the album.
Enlisting the aid of Ringo Starr and longtime friend Eric Clapton as well as Billy Preston and Dave Mason, Harrison surprised everyone with the depth of his first solo release, which contained 16 original songs along with alternate versions of songs and extended jam sessions.
In addition to the title track, "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life," stand-out songs include "Awaiting On You All," "Art of Dying" and "Hear Me Lord." Pop gems like "Wah-Wah" and "Apple Scruffs" rival anything the Beatles released.
Although he dabbled with eastern mysticism from the days of "Sgt. Pepper," Harrison expressed a much deeper level of spirituality in "All Things Must Pass." While Harrison's lyrics can sometimes sound sanctimonious on their own, legendary "Wall of Sound" producer Phil Spector was brought in to create a sophisticated sound that often covers the awkwardness of the words.
Harrison's voice, never his strong suit during his Beatles days, matured during the recording "All Things Must Pass" and a confident Harrison offered strong vocals on all of the album's songs.
For a solo career that started with such promise, Harrison would never again duplicate the success of "All Things Must Pass" either commercially or artistically.
Harrison hit No. 1 again in 1973 with the single "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" from the album "Living In The Material World" but the record didn't sell anywhere near the copies of its predecessor and critical praise waned.
The best song Harrison wrote in 1973 was "Photograph," which he gave to Ringo Starr for his self-titled album. With Harrison on guitar and backup vocals, "Photograph" became a No. 1 hit for Ringo in October 1973 and still holds up today as one of the catchiest pop songs ever.
Harrison would release eight more albums in the 1970s and early 1980s to mixed commercial and critical success, occasionally cracking the Top 20. He would not have another major hit until "All Those Years Ago," his tribute to slain bandmate John Lennon, which peaked at No. 2 in 1981.
His last appearance on the pop music chart was "Got My Mind Set On You," a Jeff Lynn-produced remake of an early 1960s hit that the Beatles performed in their early days. Harrison's bouncy cover version went to No. 1 in the United States.
Harrison returned to the spotlight one more time as a member of the super-group the Traveling Wilburys, joining Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne to release two excellent albums. The group disbanded after Roy Orbison died.
George Harrison lost his battle with cancer in late 2001. He was 58. Unlike John Lennon's untimely death at the hands of an assassin, hardly anyone thinks about George Harrison anymore.
Five years after his death, we should recall the immense contributions George Harrison made to the world as a musician and a humanitarian.
Life is one long enigma, my friend. Live on, live on, the answer's at the end. Don't be so hard on the ones that you love. It's the ones that you love we think so little of.
— From the song "The Answer's at the End" by George Harrison
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The person who sent the e-mail is a well-known Republican who can't stand seeing what's happened to the party over the past two years.
This is the gist of the note:
"I just read the newspaper article, "Perzel says he won't move before House votes on speaker. " Perzel's spokesman Al Bowman was quoted as saying, "Rep. John Perzel does not plan to relinquish the offices that he occupies before the House votes on its next speaker Jan 2." He further states, it's a question of whether he feels he can still make a difference in the Legislature, and I don't see anything to the fact that he cannot."
Was Bowman out of the country when his boss passed up the opportunity to give real property tax relief (The Commonwealth Caucus Plan) for Pennsylvania taxpayers? Perzel teamed up with Democratic Gov. Rendell to legalize gaming in Pennsylvania that provides little relief for Pennsylvania taxpayers.
In addition, Bowman was still out of the country when his boss orchestrated the middle of the night pay grab to include unvouchered expenses, the vehicle used so that Legislators can pocket the cash immediately, a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Only upon public outcry was the pay raise repealed. Perzel's comments after a 2-month hibernation, was 'we did it in 1995' and migrant cow milkers make more money than legislators, so they deserve the pay raise.
As a result of Perzel's arrogance and ignorance, there were 26 open Republican seats in the 2006 election cycle. Almost half of the incumbent Republicans lost in the primary and the other half retired as a result of the pay raise vote. End result the Democrats are in the majority in the House. For that, the Dems have John Perzel to thank.
In response to Bowman's question, whether Perzel feels he can still make a difference in the Legislature, and he does not see anything to the fact that Perzel cannot. Perzel has made a difference, which is not in the best interest of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth and their families.
More than anyone else, Perzel has caused the defeat of the Republican majority in the state House. Perzel has this dream that he can persuade 1 Dem Legislator to either switch parties, stay a Dem but cast their vote for him for Speaker, or stay off the floor and not vote for speaker on Jan 2.
Rendell has already said publicly he will personally speak to Dem Legislators to prevent any of the scenarios from happening. My money is on Rendell. It is time for Prezel to face reality and move out of the Speaker's offices , and he has only himself to blame."
The Republican Party has flung itself over the cliff under the leadership of John Perzel, Robert Jubilirer and Chip Brightbill. And of course, you have the behind-the-scenes puppetmaster, Bob Asher. Their record is one of utter failure that has cost Pennsylvania Republicans a U.S. Senate seat, four U.S. Congressional seats, the governor's mansion and control of the state House.
What more will it take for Republicans to dump these failed leaders and begin rebuilding the party? The clock is ticketing.
Friday, December 22, 2006
The fat lady is singing up a storm in Chester County and the sound is carrying all the way to Northeast Philadelphia and the halls of the state Capitol in Harrisburg.
With Thursday's concession by Republican Shannon Royer in the last disputed Legislative race, the Democrats have officially won a majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Allow me to rephrase that. The Republicans lost the majority they held before the Nov. 7 election.
Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith won the 156th House District seat by a mere 28 votes, but that one victory tips the balance of power in Harrisburg for the first time in 12 years. Imagine that. Twenty-eight votes will mean the difference in where millions of tax dollars are spent and which party gets the lion's share of the patronage and the amenities holding state office has to offer.
The biggest loser is John Perzel, who goes from Speaker of the House to the Republican Doghouse. Perzel presided over the biggest disaster since the Titanic sailed on its maiden voyage.
The 109-seat majority the Republicans enjoyed before the November massacre is now a 102-101 Democratic edge.
I hate to say I told you so, but I warned every Republican who would listen back in June that Perzel would sink the party.
I spoke those words to several incumbent Republican legislators, Republican committee people and GOP candidates for legislature. Nobody listened. Or they heard me but decided they didn't have the backbone to stand up to Perzel.
The only chance Republicans had to hold on to the majority in the state House this year was to toss Perzel overboard before the November elections. The party faithful refused ... and they went down with the ship.
Now we have to live with two years of Bill "Mushmouth" DeWeese. And with DeWeese's brain (Mike Veon) surgically removed by the voters in Western Pennsylvania, the lights will be on, but nobody will be home in Harrisburg.
I guess I shouldn't be too upset at the GOP's reversal of fortunes. It's probably worth two years of Democratic control of the state House to finally be rid ourselves of John Perzel, whose arrogance and asinine behavior were allowed to fester unchecked too long in Harrisburg.
We can only hope Perzel will go away. During an interview with the Pennsylvania Cable Network earlier this year, Perzel said, "I don't think that I would want to continue doing this if my party were not to win. I would not enjoy being in the minority at this stage in my life, I would not enjoy that any more."
Of course, Perzel says a lot of things that he doesn't mean.
The ouster of Republican Senate leaders Robert Jubilirer and Chip Brightbill in the May primary and Perzel's downfall in November are steps in the right direction, not only for the Republican Party but for Pennsylvania in general.
Three of the biggest obstacles to reforming Pennsylvania's corrupt political system are gone. Unfortunately, we still have Ed Rendell, who couldn't spell R-E-F-O-R-M if you spotted him the first three and the last two letters.
And don't count on DeWeese to pull a Nancy Pelosi and promise to "drain the swamp" in Harrisburg. DeWeese has wallowed for decades in the political muck of Harrisburg.
Once again, Republicans took care of business while Democrats rewarded partisanship and greed.
New House members will be sworn in Jan. 2. Now is the time to get a message to your local legislator that you're on to them and you will remember in 2008 how they voted for legislative leadership positions. With Perzel out of the picture, the Pennsylvania Legislature can have a fresh start. But that means new leadership across the board.
Wouldn't it great if Democrats develop some backbone and unload DeWeese in favor of a true reformer? I won't hold my breath. The Democrats are lemmings. This is after all, the party that gave us the Three Stooges of Pennsylvania politics: Rendell, Catherine Baker Knoll and Bobby Casey Jr.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
What a load of manure.
First, it's doubtful Casey Jr. showed up for work even half the time in 2005 and 2006 and secondly, the fact that the office of state tresurer has managed to run by itself since Casey spent all of 2006 running for Senate shows you what a nothing job he had.
The headline on the AP story was "Senator-elect Casey touts record as state treasurer" but it should have been "Silent Bob Speaks, But Has Nothing To Say."
The most interesting part of the story was Casey's quote on the infamous pay raise.
"That whole saga, the pay raise, it's a dark, sad, disturbing chapter of Pennsylvania history," Casey said.
Well, duh. No kidding, Einstein.
While Casey finally put the pay raise fiasco in perspective, I find it amusing that it's taken him two years to figure it out.
This was, after all, the man who signed the paychecks that went out to all the payjackers in 2005.
Casey could have stood up for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and stopped the payjacking, but he decided to sit it out. Hide out was probably more like it. The election is over and we still don't have a clue about where Casey stands on any issues. He probably doesn't even know himself.
Back to the pay raise for one last time. Casey, according to the AP article, has been named a defendant in a lawsuit filed Monday that claims judges' cost-of-living increases — as currently structured — are illegal.
Casey was also a defendant in the original payjacking lawsuit, but somehow managed to weasel out of the entire mess. Much like his mentor (or should that be puppetmaster?) Ed Rendell.
Just like Teflon Eddie, Casey managed to fool enough people in Pennsylvania to elect him a U.S. Senator. And don't be surprised if the phone keeps ringing at the governor's mansion so Bobby Jr. can ask Uncle Eddie how to vote on bills in the Senate.
Here's a frightening thought. If Arlen Specter fails to complete his current term because of health reasons, Ed Rendell can appoint a replacement. There's talk that Rendell would appoint himself U.S. Senator. Can Pennsylvania (or the nation) survive Rendell and Casey in the U.S. Senate?
Monday, December 18, 2006
I will be returning to WPAZ 1370 Tuesday, Dec. 19, from 4:05 p.m. to 5 p.m. for more great talk radio. My Monday stint as guest host went very well, with 10 listeners calling in to join the broadcast, including state Rep. Tom Quigley (R-146th Dist.) who listened to the show on his computer in Harrisburg and called in to talk about the GOP legislative agenda for the new term starting in January.
As Rep. Quigley pointed out, no one is sure whether the Republicans or Democrats will be control of the House in 2007. A Chester County judge has ordered a hand recount of the ballots in the 156th Dist. race, where the Democrat was declared the winner by 23 votes. The winner of this race will tip the balance of control of the House. As things stand today, the Democrats have 102 seats and the Republicans have 101 seats.
(An appeal by the Democrats to have the hand count overturned was rejected late Monday. Commonwealth Court President Judge James Gardner Colins sent the matter back to Chester County Court, ordering the recount in the 156th District to begin Tuesday as scheduled and to be completed by 5 p.m. on Dec. 26.)
Monday's WPAZ show was a blur. We went through a variety of topics during the 50-minutes of air time, including the "pension crisis," the "transportation crisis," the "welfare crisis," the "healthcare crisis" and the "property tax crisis." Do you sense a pattern here? Pennsylvania is in serious trouble, but voters return Ed "What, Me Worry?" Rendell and most of the incumbent legislators.
For more on the sad state of affairs in Pennylvania, tune in Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. My guest will be Eric Epstein, coordinator of http://rockthecapital.org/, the Harrisburg-based watchdog group.
You can join in the discussion by calling WPAZ at 610-326-4000 during the live broadcast, which can also be heard through your computer by going to http://www.1370wpaz.com/ and clicking on the "live audio" button at the top of the page.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Why do so many people regret giving Rendell a second term? What if people realize they made a mistake the day after the polls closed? What if the governor starts behaving badly after winning a second term. One Philadelphia columnist has come up with a new nickname for "Fast Eddie." He's now calling Rendell "Crazy Eddie."
Maybe we should have a 30-day return policy on election returns. Can't voters change their mind before Rendell is sworn in to a second term?
Here's what Gov. Rendell has been up to since Election Day.
1) He vetoed a bill that would have allowed communities to spread out collecting of the $52 local services tax, effectively slapping Pennsylvania workers in the face. Instead of giving municipalities the ability to spread out the tax burden (maybe even $1 a week), Rendell wants the $52 to come out of your first pay check in 2007.
2) A week after the election, Rendell floated a trail balloon about raising the state gas tax (already the second-highest in the nation) by 12.5 cents. That would accompany raising vehicle registration fees and driver's license fees. And Rendell wouldn't mind seeing an increase in the realty transfer tax.
3) Rendell signed a bill (passed without debate by the Legislature) to permit casinos to serve free booze to gamblers.
4) Rendell appointed his favorite lobbyist (the guy who gets free rides on Rendell's private plane) to a committee that is supposed to draft new lobbyist disclosure regulations. Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop. Rendell's pick, lawyer and lobbyist Richard Gmerek, is the same man responsible for getting the state's last lobbyist disclosure overturned in court.
5) Rendell accepted a pay raise on Dec. 1, boosting his salary from $161,173 to $164,396 a year.
6) Rendell gave one of his political pals, Joe Conti, a $150,000-a-year job as CEO of the Pennsylvania's liquor store monopoly. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has operated without a CEO for decades and already has a three-member board overseeing the operation. Each of those board members makes $65,000 a year. But Rendell gave Conti a job without telling the three board members ahead of time. While Conti is a Republican, he is credited with helping push through Rendell's agenda (tax increases, casino gambling, the pay raise) through the Senate. In Rendell's world, party affiliation doesn't matter. If you scratch Fast Eddie's back, he'll reward you with a taxpayer-funded job (see Joe Hoeffel). Conti, by the way, chose to retire as a state senator and collect a big fat pension instead of facing the voters this year. But Uncle Eddie took care of him and sent you the bill.
7) Rendell has proposed turning over the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company in order to raise more money for his out-of-control spending.
8) Rendell has hinted he wants to raise the state sales tax in 2007. Not to cut property taxes, but to raise more money for his pet projects.
I didn't vote for Rendell. And judging from the letters and calls to The Mercury, nobody else is willing to admit voting for Rendell either.
Here's a sampling of recent reader comments about the governor:
"You asked for it. For all those who wanted "Slick Eddie" for four more years, grab your ankles. Not a week since the election and he was thinking of new taxes to help Philadelphia. Then he vetoed a bill that would allow you to pay a new $52 tax weekly (a new tax that was not mentioned prior to the election). He now wants to raise vehicle registration fees and the gas tax. This past election, voters imposed their own form of term limits. Do not forget that as your taxes go up over the next four years, you asked for it."
"Only five days since Fast Eddie Rendell was re-elected and already it looks like a tax increase on gas plus an increase for vehicle registration. I guess what really surprises me is that it took as long as it did. Way to go all you idiots who voted for him. He lied again and you fools believed him."
"I hope all you people who voted for Rendell are happy. He's only in office a week and already they're proposing higher taxes for gas and other taxes, too."
"Gov. Ed Rendell, the tax man, is on his way. He said he's moving Pennsylvania forward. Yes, he is — more gas tax, registration increase, who knows what other taxes. If he would not have given that federal money to Philadelphia for their transit, we wouldn't have to worry about taxes; the roads could have been repaired. He doesn't care about Pennsylvania; all he worries about is Philadelphia. Thanks Democrats for voting him in."
"Gee, what a surprise, announcing the tax hike right after the election. Ed never met a tax he didn't like."
"Gov. Rendell took millions of dollars in federal highway funds that should have gone to replace and repair our roadways and gave them to his cronies in Philadelphia SEPTA to buy some Democratic votes. He also very conveniently didn't mention this until well after the election. So people have a right to complain about Rendell. They were told he was a tax and spender and now it's coming true."
"Funny Rendell didn't manage to get his gas tax hike proposal in before the elections. Now they decide to let us know what they had proposed for us. A little late for our decision on who's to be governor."
"I think it's totally disgusting that they're going to raise gas taxes to fix the roads when the roads have been taxed and taxed and no one improves them. I have driven through most of the states in this union and we have one of the highest gas taxes now. Every other state has much better highways and some without even tolls. This is positively unacceptable."
"Oil is at a 17-month low. One would not know that looking at the rising gas prices recently. I'm not the least bit concerned because I'm just going to sit back and wait for my property tax rebate from the great Gov. Rendell. This will solve all my problems."
"I don't want to pay more in taxes to fund SEPTA and this other transit authority out in Allegheny County. Every time I see a SEPTA bus, the thing is totally empty. It's a joke supporting them. I never ride it and they're just a big traffic nightmare."
"Regarding the state lawmakers getting a 2 percent pay raise for the cost of living, what about the average citizens in Pennsylvania — haven't they been paying more to live for the past five or six years? Don't we deserve a 2 percent raise or deduction in our taxes so we can live better, too, just like you guys do?"
"Rendell gave the money earmarked for roads and highways to SEPTA to buy the Philadelphia vote and now he wants higher fees on cars and gas. If the suits in Harrisburg took a moment away from trying to enhance their income, they would realize the way to solve this is to raise ticket prices. Pennsylvania motorists pay to buy a car, insurance, gas and maintenance. Why should we pay for a system we never use?"
"In reference to the gas hike proposal to fix roads, how come Florida and Delaware can do it without taxing the middle class and the poor? That's all you're going to hurt by raising the tax on the gas. I hope the newly elected people in Harrisburg and Rendell tell this commission to stick it where the sun don't shine."
"Maybe instead of raising the taxes they should change the law so we don't have to pay a prevailing rate to have all these highways built or repaired. That's a little known law that most Pennsylvanians don't know about that the contractor must pay a prevailing rate which makes the highway cost more. If they got rid of that law, like many other states have, they could build a lot more highways for a lot less money."
"The proposed tax hikes to support mass transit is a blatant disregard for the people who do not use those services and have been paying for years just to drive their vehicle. This is totally unconstitutional. It's time they pass the rate increases onto the people who use those services and the money that we drivers are already spending should go to the roads that we use."
"Forget the vehicle registration and license increases, work on property taxes first. That's what you were sent back to Harrisburg to do. If you don't do it, you won't be re-elected. Rendell already gave half a billion dollars to SEPTA and that wasn't enough. Please look out for middle class taxpayers."
"Regarding the fee for vehicle registration and gas tax hike, possibly if we had state emissions for every county in the state, maybe that would help alleviate some of the shortfalls rather than having certain counties being responsible for all the emission testing."
"To those Republicans who said that the Democrats put Rendell in office, look in the mirror pal. A lot of Republicans voted for Rendell because they did not want Swann in office. Read all the papers and documents and you'll see that I am correct."
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The Democrats have a dilemma on their hands and we will soon find out how hypocritical the Democratic Party is when it comes to ethics.
Last weekend, Louisiana voters re-elected Rep. William Jefferson to Congress. Jefferson is the nine-term congressman who allegedly hid $90,000 in bribe money in his freezer, according to the FBI.
Voters in arguably the most corrupt state in the nation don't have a problem with congressmen who put their bribe money on ice. Granted, Louisiana Democrats are the dumbest voters in the country. How else do you explain New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin or Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco?
Jefferson's re-election will cause severe problems for the national Democratic Party. Although he hasn't been charged with any crime yet, Jefferson hasn't explained what $90,000 in cash was doing in his freezer.
Where is the outrage by Democratic Party leaders about Jefferson? Why no calls for his resignation? Why no demand for investigations? Why isn't the liberal media hounding Jefferson like they did Tom Delay and Karl Rove?
It will be interesting to see how the Democrats deal with Mr. Jefferson since the party spent all of 2006 complaining about the "culture of corruption" under Republican leadership.
Soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to make this "the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history."
On Tuesday, Pelosi sat down for an interview with Barbara Walters, who named Pelosi the "most fascinating person of 2006."
The topic of corruption came up and Pelosi once again vowed to "drain the swamp in Washington, D.C."
Pelosi told Walters that cleaning up Congress is her No. 1 priority.
"Until we bring integrity to the political process, we won't be able to go forward," Pelosi said. "It's a big, dirty swamp. That's why the very first day of Congress, we will break the link between lobbyists and legislation."
And what about Mr. Jefferson and the $90,000 found in his freezer? That subject didn't come up during the Walters' interview, which was the typical fluff piece Barbara does with celebrities and assorted liberals.
How will Mrs. Pelosi deal with Mr. Jefferson and the bag of frozen cash? Will she shun Jefferson? Will she force him to resign? Don't bet on it.
Republicans have a track record of taking care of their ethically challenged members. You don't have Tom Delay or Bob Ney in Congress anymore. But you still have Democrats William Jefferson, John Murtha and Alcee Hastings in Congress because Democrats refuse to clean up their own messes.
Why isn't the liberal media jumping all over the Jefferson scandal or Pelosi's unwillingness to deal with corruption in her own party?
Pelosi is too busy redecorating her new office to realize it, but the Jefferson scandal and the ongoing hypocrisy of the Democrats will be remembered by voters in 2008 when Republicans will regain control of Congress.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
73,614 -- The number of dollars paid to a freshman Pennsylvania legislator as of Dec. 1, 2006, when the 10th consecutive pay raise (they call it a cost-of-living-increase) for these "public servants" kicks in.
24,571 -- The annual per capita income of a Pennsylvania worker, roughly one-third of what a freshman state legislator makes.
2,451,832 -- Number of votes Gov. Ed Rendell received in the November election.
1,608,285 -- Number of votes GOP challenger Lynn Swann received in the November election.
8,182,876 -- Number of registered voters in Pennsylvania.
5,731,044 -- Number of registered Pennsylvania voters who did not vote for Gov. Ed Rendell the November election.
6 -- The number of days after the Nov. 7 election Gov. Ed Rendell's transportation commission waited to issue a report recommending $1.7 billion in new taxes and fees to repair Pennsylvania’s deteriorating roads and bridges and keep its failing mass transit systems afloat.
76 -- The current age of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, who would take over as the state’s chief executive should Gov. Rendell pursue national ambitions.
55 -- The number of Pennsylvania legislators fired by voters or forced into retirement in 2006. Unfortunately, there's still around 200 more legislators who were returned to office.
28 -- Pennsylvania's ranking on the list of healthiest states released this week by the United Health Foundation.
347,000,000 -- The cost in millions of dollars that Pennsylvania taxpayers shell out each year to support the largest state legislature in the country, including 253 elected legislators and 3,000 people who work for them.
2,700,000 -- The number of dollars in millions Pennsylvania taxpayers pay their legislators as a reward for showing up in Harrisburg. It's a racket called "per diem," in which legislators collect $141 each day they show up for work (on top of their $73,614 annual salary and the most lucrative benefits package in the country).
77 -- The average number of days Pennsylvania lawmakers were in session in each of the past five years. (Legislators typically take the entire months of July, August and December off).
2008 -- The next year voters will have an opportunity to continue the housecleaning in Harrisburg when 25 state senators and all 203 state representatives run for re-election.
50 -- The number of state senators in the Pennsylvania legislature. In contrast, California, with a population of 36 million, has 40 state senators in its legislature.
203 -- The number of state representatives in the Pennsylvania legislature. California, which has four times the population of Pennsylvania, has 80 state representatives. Unlike Pennsylvania, where lawmakers can serve for life, California has term limits for state legislators and they do not receive a taxpayer-funded pension. Pennsylvania lawmakers who stay in office for 20 years earn an average pension of $53,400 a year for life.
8 -- The number of Republican House seats lost in the Nov. 7 election under the leadership of John Perzel and Sam Smith. Inexplicably, Republicans re-nominated Perzel and Smith to leadership posts for the next two years.
7 -- The number of newly-elected House Democratic Caucus leaders (out of a total of 7) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
6 -- The number of newly-elected House Republican Caucus leaders (out of a total of 8) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
4 -- The number of newly-elected Senate Republican Caucus leaders (out of a total of 6) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
6 -- The number of newly-elected Senate Democratic Caucus leaders (out of a total of 7) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
501 -- The number of school districts in Pennsylvania, each employing a superintendent earning an average of $114,000 a year regardless of experience or the size of the school district.
33,000 -- The total number of children forced to miss school so far in 2006 by teacher strikes. Pennsylvania ranks No. 1 in the nation in teacher strikes.
0 -- The amount of money Pennsylvania residents have received in promised tax relief from casinos during Gov. Ed Rendell's his first four years in office.
0 -- The amount of time the Pennsylvania Legislature spent debating a bill that allows casinos to serve unlimited free drinks to gamblers.
0 -- The number of programs set up by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to help state residents with gambling addictions since casino gambling was approved on July 4, 2004.
Monday, December 04, 2006
They hit the jackpot, winning not only both houses of Congress, but the majority of governorships and many state legislatures. Could this be a seismic shift that will bring the Democrats out of the political wilderness or is it an anomaly? I'm leaning toward an aberration.
The 2006 election will go down as a footnote in U.S. history. It was a no-confidence vote on a president who led us into an unpopular war. The clock is already ticking on the Democratic Party.
Nancy Pelosi, the soon-to-be Speaker of the House, has already made a major blunder. She was rebuffed by her own members when they rejected John Murtha, Pelosi's hand-picked choice for majority leader. And Pelosi is having a difficult time controlling the oddballs in her party.
Take New York Congressman Charlie Rengel. He wants to re-institute a military draft, a move that would be political suicide for the party in power.
And how long will the far left fringe element of the party remain silent? The liberals control the party leadership and the money. They want to steer the country toward their own extreme agenda and expect Pelosi to start catering to them. Will she risk alienating her coalition of conservative Democrats from the South and West to appease the liberals from the East Coast and California?
Just before the election, I finished a book by Joe Klein, a well-known Democratic Party cheerleader. Even with the success the Democrats enjoyed Nov. 7, I suspect Klein would still say that the Democratic Party is headed nowhere.
A political columnist for Time magazine, Klein has written five books, the best known of which is “Primary Colors,” an inside look at how Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992.
Klein's latest, “Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You're Stupid,” takes a look at how both major political parties have veered off the deep end in the past decade.
Klein pulls no punches in describing the sad state of American politics.
“The Republican Party, once the home of a prudent conservatism, has gone foolishly radical — fiscally irresponsible at home intemperate and bullying abroad, purveyors of an intrusive religiosity that is shockingly intolerant of science or reason,” Klein writes.
Klein saves the harshest criticism for Democrats.
“The Democratic Party, once the home of democracy's more gracious impulses, has become a reactionary bastion — its signature issues of health, education and welfare held hostage by teaching and social-work bureaucracies that are utterly resistant to change; its spiritual vigor sapped by vehement secularism and an overdependence on the judicial system, symbolized by the fanatic defense of abortion rights; its soggy internationalism spineless in the face of a dangerous world,” Klein writes.
Klein sees both parties on the edge of precipice, with extremists on both sides ready to push the party faithful into the abyss.
“Both parties swan toward their extremes, since the extremists are the most adept at raising money and crowds, using direct mail, negative advertising, and the other dark arts of political consultancy,” Klein writes. “And individual politicians, ever mindful of the dangers on all sides, terrified that the next thing they say will become fodder for a thermonuclear negative ad, grow ever more cautious. We are drifting, I fear, toward a flaccid, hollowed-out democracy where honest debate is impossible — a democracy without citizenship.”
Much of the book is an insider's look at every presidential campaign from 1976 to 2004. Stuff only a political addict would be interested in reading. There are occasional gems, such as Klein's explanation of why Al Gore lost a presidential race he should have won in 2000: “He lost the election — actually, it was a dead heat — because he did not seem a credible human being.”
The next two years will be fascinating to watch for anyone who has even a mild interest in politics. It's the first time in 12 years that the Republicans have had to share power with the Democrats, who have steadily veered to the left.
Can the parties work together in a spirit of bipartisanship? That's what most of us hope for. But don't hold your breath.
Klein's book is a bit anti-climactic. He poses a lot of questions, but doesn't have many answers to the problems facing American politics. His advice to politicians is to get rid of the pollsters, consultants, focus groups and just “be themselves.” Not very profound.
I do find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with this observation in Klein's book: “Politics is no longer about governing. The political parties are the same in one regard. Politics today is about how to gain and keep power.
Friday, December 01, 2006
That may include raising the gasoline tax (already the second highest in the nation), the sales tax (one of the highest in the nation) and the income tax (raised 10 percent by Rendell in 2003).
In case you need a reminder of how much taxes Pennsylvania residents pay, here's the monthly recap from the Department of Revenue:
The state collected $1.6 billion in General Fund revenue in November, $56.4 million or 3.6 percent more than anticipated, according to Revenue Secretary Gregory C. Fajt.
Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $9.2 billion, which is $8.7 million or 0.1 percent above estimate, Fajt reports.
Sales Tax receipts totaled $669.4 million for November, which was $16.2 million below estimate. Sales Tax collections year-to-date total $3.6 billion, which is $26.7 million below estimate or 0.7 percent less than anticipated.
Personal Income Tax (PIT) revenue in November was $625.1 million, which was $8.8 million above estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $3.5 billion, which is $17.6 million or 0.5 percent above estimate.
November Corporation Tax revenue of $106.2 million was $48.7 million above estimate. Year-to-date Corporation Tax collections total $996.7 million, which is $32.6 million or 3.4 percent above estimate.
Other General Fund revenue figures for the month included $60 million in Inheritance Tax, which was $500,000 above estimate, bringing the year-to-date total to $296.9 million, which is $24.1 million below estimate.
Realty Transfer Tax was $39.9 million for November, bringing the total to $252.5 million for the year, which is $18.7 million less than anticipated.
Other General Fund revenue including the Cigarette, Malt Beverage and Liquor Tax totaled $126.4 million for the month, $25.3 million above estimate, bringing the year-to-date total to $574.7 million, which is $28 million above estimate.
In addition to the General Fund collections, the Motor License Fund received $171.3 million for the month, $11.7 million below estimate. Fiscal year-to-date collections for the fund total $1 billion, which is $11.5 million or 1.1 percent below estimate.
The Gaming Fund received $52.8 million in unrestricted revenues for November. Fiscal year-to-date collections for the fund total $102.8 million. Gaming Fund receipts include taxes, fees and interest. Of the total for the month, $2.8 million was collected in state taxes for property tax relief.
Other gaming-related revenues collected for November included $325,000 for the Local Share Assessment; $406,000 for the Economic Development and Tourism Fund; and $1 million for the Race Horse Development Fund.
Let's review. In the past four years, property taxes have risen by $2 billion for every Pennsylvania homeowner despite Rendell'’s promise to lower them. And thanks to Act 1, signed into law by Rendell, your school board will most like raise the Earned Income Tax or Personal Income Tax in 2007 AND also raise your property taxes. That's what Rendell has done for you in the past four years and you went ahead and gave him another four years in office.
Now that the Democrats apparently control the state House, it will make it that much easier for Rendell to get his way with raising taxes, so get ready to fork over more of your hard-earned dollars to Uncle Eddie.
Don't say I didn't warn you about re-electing Rendell. And now with Bill DeWeese will get his hands on the state budget, start packing. You won't be able to afford to live in this state much longer.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
In a stunning reversal of fortunes, Shannon Royer, the Republican candidate for Chester County's 156th House seat, lost the 19-vote lead he's been clinging to since Election Day.
Chester County officials today declared Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith the winner by 23 votes. Those 23 voters will have a dramatic impact on Pennsylvania's future.
Not only is Shannon Royer not going to Harrisburg as a state representative, but his loss caused a seismic political shift felt across Pennsylvania.
For the first time in 12 years, Democrats take control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a 102-101 margin. Before the voters went to the polls on Nov. 7, Republicans enjoyed a comfortable 109-seat majority in the 203-member House, but the GOP lost eight seats.
The most devastating loss was in the 156th District, a seat held by Republican Elinor Z. Taylor for the past 30 years. Royer was hand-picked by the Republican bigwigs in Harrisburg to hold the seat for the GOP. Not only did he fail, but he cost his boss, John Perzel, another two year-term as Speaker of the House.
Prince John Perzel was nowhere to be found Tuesday as other politicians (mostly of the Democratic persuasion) were popping champagne corks. What's that Shakespeare said about Prince John? Something along the lines of "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."
Perzel will be lucky to keep his head when the new Legislature convenes in January. Since the July 2005 pay raise fiasco, Perzel has led the Republican Caucus from one minefield into another. Prince John Perzel and his sidekick, Sam Smith, are responsible for the GOP debacle throughout the 2006 election cycle. Dozens of Republican legislators were led over a cliff by Perzel and Smith.
As much as I don't mind seeing Perzel and Smith lose leadership of the House, I can't help but think that a Democratic speaker, Bill DeWeese, will be just as bad for Pennsylvania. (And let's not forget that DeWeese was one of the architects of the July 2005 pay raise).
At least we won't have to put up with the charade of Republicans helping to push through Rendell's agenda anymore. Rendell got his wish, a Democratic House, and he'll get all the lemmings in the Democratic Caucus to back his proposals for higher taxes, expanded gambling and more corporate welfare.
The only hope for Pennsylvania residents is the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 29-21 majority. It's the last line of defense against Rendell's tax-and-spend brand of liberalism that will lead Pennsylvania to financial ruin.
This is a perfect time for the Republican Party to purge people like Perzel and Smith and begin the rebuilding process with an eye toward 2008.
(In the second close Chester County race, Republican Duane Milne beat Democrat Anne Crowley by 144 votes to win the 167th District seat, according to Tuesday's count. Milne had been ahead since Election Day, but this was another Republican district that should never have been this close. The final numbers show Milne with 13,556 votes and Crowley with 13,412 votes.)
Monday, November 27, 2006
Shades of Florida in 2000 when the fate of the presidency hung on paper ballots with hanging chads. Fast-forward to Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 2006, and we apparently still don't know how to conduct an election.
Three weeks after voters had their say, Chester County elections' officials still haven't finished counting the ballots in two crucial legislative races.
County officials gathered again Monday for more counting, but still have not declared a winner in two tight legislative races. The Republican candidates are ahead in both races, but those are unofficial numbers. Also on Monday, lawyers for the Democratic candidates filed the necessary paperwork contesting the election -- just in case their clients finish second in the final tally.
The results are not only of interest to the four candidates on the ballot, but will determine which party controls the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. There are 203 state representatives and Republicans lost most, if not all, of the majority they held before Nov. 7. The party breakdown as of today is 101 Democrats and 100 Republicans, with the two Chester County races still to be determined.
In the 156th District, Republican Shannon E. Royer finished ahead of Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith by a scant 19 votes in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, according to the vote total released Nov. 7.
In the 167th district, Republican Duane Milne held a preliminary lead of 136 votes over Democrat Anne R. Crowley, according to the unofficial vote total.
Those numbers could be reversed by uncounted absentee and provisional ballots. Why the counting of those ballots hasn’t been completed in the past three weeks is one of those great mysteries in life.
Republicans went into the Nov. 7 election with a safe majority of 109 House seats. Under the leadership of House Speaker John "Custer" Perzel and Majority Leader Sam "Waterloo" Smith, the GOP lost at least seven seats and Republicans are still holding their breath over the two races in Chester County.
Both seats were held by longtime Republicans and should have been won by Republicans, who enjoy a large voter registration advantage in each district. But with Perzel and Smith running the party, the 2006 election was more like the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
So what is going on in Chester County? On Monday, elections' officials concluded an unofficial review of some ballots cast by military and overseas voters, but were not expected to begin sifting through about 600 uncounted absentee ballots until today at the earliest, according to The Associated Press.
The best-case scenario for Republicans is to hold the leads in both Chester County contests and return to Harrisburg in January with a 102-101 majority. If the Republicans lose one of the disputed seats, say goodbye to 12 years of Republican control of the state legislature.
Regardless of the outcome, can any rational person explain why the Republican Caucus re-elected Perzel and Smith to leadership posts for the next two years after what these two buffoons did the party over the last two years?
Perzel and Smith rounded up enough Republican votes to pass Gov. Ed Rendell's massive income tax hike in 2003, the casino gambling bill in 2004 and the pay raise in 2005. With RINOs (Republican In Name Only) like Perzel and Smith, who needs Democrats in Harrisburg?
Perzel and Smith should have been run out of the state Capitol on a rail by their fellow Republicans instead of being rewarded again to leadership posts.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Some of Pennsylvania's imperial lawmakers who were tossed out of office by voters this year took a few parting shots at constituents and the news media as they cleaned out their desks and prepared to leave the royal surroundings of the state Capitol.
This is what happens when a class of political elite is allowed to propagate unchecked in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. These career politicians expect to stay in office for decades, and the longer they hold on to the trappings of power, the less interested they become in representing the folks back home.
Regardless of your party affiliation, one of the bright spots of 2006 was the fact that dozens of career politicians at the state and national level were fired by the voters of Pennsylvania.
The sour grapes began shortly after the May 2006 primary elections, when 17 incumbent Pennsylvania legislators were booted from office. Another 31 chose to "retire" rather than face the voters.
Dennis Leh, a 20-year veteran of the Harrisburg scene, had this to say when he lost to a no-name opponent who spent about $1,200 of his own money for signs and a few newspaper ads but did little else in the way of campaigning:
Challenger Billy Reed didn't beat me, Leh said. "The papers did. We deserved some of it, but the papers just crucified us." That remark was followed by a letter to the editor by Leh's wife questioning the intellect of the voters who ousted her hubby.
The Harrisburg housecleaning continued in November when several more entrenched career politicians, most notably Mike Veon (the No. 2 Democrat in the state House) were fired.
As the Legislature ended its session this week, some of the bums who were kicked out of office had a few choice words for the people they were elected to serve and for the reporters who cover Harrisburg.
According to veteran statehouse reporter Alison Hawkes, Chester County Republican Rep. Robert J. Flick lashed out at the media for intense coverage of the pay raise and at voters for taking the bait.
To the news media who "suckle at the bosom of disgruntled lawmakers — get a life, get a real job," Flick said last week, according to the Hawkes' article, "Lawmakers bitter over defeat."
Flick's comment was met with some applause on the House, Hawkes reported.
Rep. Roy Baldwin, a Lancaster County Republican who lost in the primary, said the pay raise "taught me how the media can take control of an issue and blow it out of proportion" to sell more newspapers. "In my opinion, the media is influencing the direction of this House much more than it should."
Again applause, according to Hawkes.
Yeah, Roy, I can see how that media can blow a 54-percent pay raise approved at 2 a.m. out of proportion.
The comments were unusual in that farewell speeches are normally used to praise fellow members and staff, speak of accomplishments, tell inside jokes and offer departing wisdom, Hawkes wrote.
Hawkes also spoke to Tim Potts, coordinator for Democracy Rising PA, who said the angry comments, particularly against the media, show lawmakers are unable to recognize that their wounds are self-inflicted.
"The media can't report on the pay raise if they didn't do the pay raise. The media can't report on secrecy if they are not secretive," Potts said. "The only thing delusional about what's in the media is the attitude of the members themselves."
Another veteran Harrisburg observer, Michael Race, also wrote about the departing legislators in an article headlined, "Political sour grapes," for the Times-Shamrock Newspapers.
While most have been reflective, a few have opted to toss bombs on their way out the door, Race reported.
Rep. Stephen Maitland, R-Adams, whose constituents ousted him in the May primary, unleashed a bitter rant last week, essentially telling the voters of his district they were closed-minded fools for ending his political career.
"I don’t regret my pay-raise vote one bit," Maitland said. "I just wish the voters had listened with open minds about it. In a very short period of time, I’ll be making two to three times what a state representative makes," Maitland added, a reference to his budding career as a lawyer. "You passed up a bargain."
Race also highlighted Rep. Robert Flick's bizarre comments about the media who "suckle at the breast of disgruntled lawmakers."
"Get a life," Flick told members of the journalism community. "Get a real job. You couldn’t accomplish half of what the good men and women in this chamber do for the public and for the commonwealth."
It's hard to feel sorry for any of the legislators who were tossed out on their keisters by the voters. They're set for life. They've made tons of money by feeding from the public trough for decades. They took a lot more in cash and gifts from lobbyists that we'll never know about. They will get taxpayer-paid pensions (many in the $50,000 to $100,000 a year range) and free medical care for themselves and their families for the rest of their lives.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The legend of Sisyphus speaks about the futility and hopelessness of some tasks.
If Sisyphus lived in modern-day Pennsylvania, he probably would have been appointed to a tax study commission by his local school board.
All across Pennsylvania, hundreds of volunteers have been meeting to make recommendations to their respective school boards on the best way to levy taxes to fund school budgets.
The tax commissions are a requirement of Act 1, the so-called property tax relief bill the state Legislature came up with after an eight-month special session. Act 1 was promptly signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell, who went on to proclaim he delivered on his promise to cut property taxes, although his plan delivers rebates to 20 percent of Pennsylvania residents.
As the tax commissions make recommendations to school boards over the next few weeks, it will become apparent to all Pennsylvania taxpayers that Act 1 is one of the biggest scams ever perpetuated on an unsuspecting public by politicians.
Most Pennsylvania residents will end up paying more in taxes under Act 1. One area school district calculated that 73 percent of its homeowners will pay more in taxes under this "property tax relief" plan.
Frequently heard comments about Act 1 at tax commission meetings include: "an exercise in futility," "a sick joke," "a no-win situation," "a dead end" and "two steps up, three steps back."
One area tax study commission reviewed a dozen scenarios for tinkering with the school district's tax rate and concluded that the majority of its taxpayers would be worse off under all 12 scenarios.
Some say Act 1 was a deliberate slap in the face to school districts by Gov. Rendell and the Legislature because more than 80 percent of the state's 501 school districts rejected an earlier "tax relief" plan known as Act 72. Remember last year when Rendell questioned the intelligence of school board members who voted against Act 72?
Could Act 1 be payback by Rendell and the Legislature because Pennsylvania's political aristocracy was forced to confront the property tax issue for most of its last session?
Many school districts are holding out hope that the Legislature will come to its senses and repeal Act 1 once 55 new legislators are sworn into office in January. But the recent election of the same party leaders who pushed through the pay raise of 2005 and Act 72 and Act 1 makes you wonder if anyone in Harrisburg has any clue at all.
If Act 1 is not repealed, taxpayers will have to learn phrases like "back-end referendum" and "front-end referendum." Act 1 will pit elderly homeowners against younger wage earners to see who pays more in school taxes. Act 1 gives voters a chance to say "yes" or "no" to a tax shift from property taxes to an earned-income tax (EIT) or a personal-income tax (PIT). Who is going to vote "yes" to raising their own taxes?
Back to Sisyphus. If voters turn down a recommendation to switch to an EIT or PIT when they go to the polls in May 2007, school districts fall back on the property tax. And even if an EIT or PIT is approved, school districts can still raise property taxes each year. Also keep in mind that renters will never receive a tax break under Act 1. Any reduction in the property tax goes only to low-income homeowners who file the necessary paperwork.
Why are Rendell and the Legislature making property owners jump through rings of fire to get a few hundred dollars in property tax relief? That's a question voters should have asked themselves before re-electing Rendell and so many incumbents to the Legislature.
The only viable answer to the property tax quandary is the total elimination of property taxes under the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future, commonly known as the Commonwealth Caucus Plan. But Rendell and every single Democrat in the state Legislature oppose the plan. The most votes the Caucus Plan received in the last session was 74, all Republicans. A majority of 102 is needed to pass the House.
Gov. Rendell and the Legislature shirked their responsibility by punting the property tax question back to voters. We elect these people to represent us and we reward them handsomely to make decisions. Rendell and the Legislature should not have forced residents to pick their poison with Act 1.
Contact your legislator today and demand they repeal Act 1 and support the Commonwealth Caucus Plan to eliminate property taxes. No more excuses. If your legislator wants to keep his or her job, they have to start doing their job.
Remind them that 2008 will be here in no time and you have a long memory. The job of cleaning up Harrisburg has just begun.
Friday, November 17, 2006
The first body blow came when Democrats and Republicans in the state House each re-elected the same leadership team that orchestrated the July 2005 legislative pay raise.
Despite all the talk of reform and promises by incumbents to mend their evil ways, little has changed in Harrisburg. One in five legislators were forced into retirement or voted out in the May primary and November general election, but the remaining members of Pennsylvania's political aristocracy decided to maintain the status quo.
Another blow to taxpayers came Friday when officials announced that the Legislature, the governor and most other statewide officials would get an automatic 2 percent pay raise. The legislators will see more money in their paychecks starting Dec. 1. The governor, his cabinet and state judges will get theirs come Jan. 1.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, one of the architects of the July 2005 pay raise, will be the highest paid elected officials in Pennsylvania in 2007 with an annual salary of $180,336. The other six members of the state Supreme Court will earn $175,236 a year.
Gov. Ed Rendell, another prime mover behind the pay raise, will be paid $164,396. (This would be the very same Ed Rendell who vetoed a bill to allow communities to spread out collection of the $52 local services tax. Workers will see the entire amount removed from their first paycheck of 2007. When you’re making $164,000 a year, $52 means nothing, but when you work for a living, a $52 hit in your paycheck is significant.
House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, another originator of the July 2005 pay raise, will pocket $114,916 a year.
The Senate president pro tempore will also get $114,916, but we won't find out who that is until next week when the Senate picks its leadership slate. The last pro tempore, Robert Jubelirer, was voted out of office in the May 2006 primary.
The starting salary for a Pennsylvania legislator will rise to $73,614 on Dec. 1, keeping the Pennsylvania's House of Lords among the highest paid lawmakers in the country, behind only California, Michigan and New York. Because Pennsylvania has the largest full-time Legislature in the country, it keeps its ranking as the most expensive in the land.
Pennsylvania politicians get an automatic pay raise every year unless they vote to turn it down. That hasn’t happened in the past 10 years. This year’s 2 percent increase is the lowest cost-of-living adjustment for state officials since 2002. In other years, the pay increase has exceeded 5 percent.
Although the base salary for legislators is $73,614, many of the 253 legislators will make much more because they hold various caucus leadership positions or serve as committee chairmen.
Salaries for 28 elected caucus leaders will range from $106,657 for majority and minority leaders, to $83,940 for caucus secretaries, administrators and policy committee chairs, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
And the salary is just the beginning.
Lawmakers receive a lifetime pension (an average of $50,000 a year), full medical, dental and vision plans for themselves and family members, taxpayer-funded life insurance, long-term care insurance, free use of a state car or $650 a month to lease a car of their choice, gasoline reimbursement and $141 per diem for showing up for work in Harrisburg.
The per diem system is ripe with abuse. One legislator who lost re-election this year was known to drive to Harrisburg daily, sign in to collect his $141 per diem and then take the rest of the day off to play golf. Legislators can collect tens of thousands of dollars each year in per diems on top of their salary.
Taxpayers end up paying about $2.7 million a year in per diem reimbursements to legislators. The average legislator who was eligible claimed about $24,000 in per diems last year, according to The Associated Press. And some did a lot better. Rep. Gaynor Cawley, D-Scranton, collected a total of $39,998 in per diems from Jan. 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, according to The Citizens Voice newspaper in Wilkes-Barre.
And this is just the perks taxpayers pay for.
Legislators also receive free meals, free trips, free lodging, free tickets to sporting events and concerts and all sorts of other gifts from lobbyists trying to influence legislation.
Pennsylvania voters sent a message in 2006. They want reform. Instead, the legislators who went back to Harrisburg this week betrayed the voters and returned the same self-serving leaders who gave us the July 2005 pay raise and repeatedly blocked efforts to eliminate property taxes. Putting Republicans John Perzel and Sam Smith and Democrat Bill DeWeese back into power is a travesty.
The ouster of 55 legislators was a start, but it's painfully obvious that hundreds more, both Democrats and Republicans, must be removed from office.
As of Friday, Republicans and Democrats each hold 101 seats in the 203 House. Republicans claim they won the final contest, the race for Chester County’s 156th Dist., but the counting continues. Another close race, in Chester County's 167th Dist., is also being reviewed by elections officials.
Republican Shannon Royer apparently won the 157th seat on Election Day by 19 votes over Democrat McIlvaine Smith. Unofficial results have Royer with 11,500 to McIlvaine Smith’s 11, 481 votes.
But the results are not yet officials, leaving some doubt over which party will control the state House in 2007 and who gets to be Speaker of the House.
Chester County officials issued the following statement Friday afternoon:
"The Provisional Board has finished reviewing all voters’ registration issues for the 156th District. The determination is that, of the 38 provisional ballots cast on Election Day, only 20 were validated for inclusion in the final vote count. The Provisional Board validation process began today for the 167th, in which 64 provisional voters will be reviewed. The Board of Elections will meet Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006, at 10:30 am to hear challenges concerning the provisional and absentee ballots cast in the 156th and 167th Legislative Districts. The meeting will be held in room 171 of the Government Services Center, located at 601 Westtown Road in West Chester, PA.The Computation Board has completed the process for all precincts in Chester County, except for those precincts within the 156th and 167th districts. Until all challenges have been heard and decided upon, the districts cannot be certified."
In the 167th Dist., unofficial results show Republican Duane Milne received 13,309 votes, and Democrat Anne R. Crowley had 13,173 votes. Democrats have challenged the results.
Before the Nov. 7 election, Republicans held 109 seats in the House. The GOP's best-case scenario is a loss of 7 seats. And this is why the Republican caucus re-elected John Perzel as speaker and Sam Smith as majority leader? These two men presided over the loss of those 7 seats.
Perzel and Smith were also behind the July 20005 pay raise fiasco that started the whole anti-incumbent movement. Perzel and Smith also blocked all reforms and oppose efforts to eliminate property taxes.
If Republicans are wondering why they're no longer in control in Pennsylvania, look no further than Perzel and Smith (and the dimwitted Republicans who re-elected them as their caucus leaders).
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
While I was disappointed that Ed Rendell and his young ward, Bobby Casey Jr., won their respective races — both are bad for Pennsylvania — I can't say that I was surprised Republicans lost control of Congress.
The GOP majority over the past few years has betrayed the Republican cause and acted just like Democrats. They got lazy and greedy — just like Democrats. And there's no arguing that the Bush administration has botched the Iraq War. Republicans deserved what they got.
Having said that, my biggest worry over the next two years is that President Bush won't be able to appoint a solid conservative to the Supreme Court should one of the aging liberals on the court kick the bucket. Instead of a John Roberts or a Samuel Alito, we'll probably end up with another Anthony Kennedy or David Souter. That's the biggest downside to a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Otherwise, I had a pretty good Election Day.
My favorite candidate, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-6th Dist.), won his race against the heavily favored Lois Murphy. It was a close contest, decided by just 3,000 votes. Gerlach beat the Democratic wave that sank so many other incumbent Republicans because of two reasons. First, he's a good Congressman who has done a good job representing his district. Second, Gerlach's campaign used excerpts from my columns in their newspaper and television advertising and also in direct mailings. I can't tell you how many Democrats, Libertarians and independents approached me to say they saw the commercials and had second thoughts about Gerlach's far left opponent. I'm convinced my endorsement put Gerlach over the top.
One of my favorite political sites, www.politicspa.com, compiled a list of the Best and Worst Political Campaigns of 2006. At the top of the list is Jim Gerlach for Congress.
Here's what the folks at www.politicspa.com had to say: "Let's be honest ... Congressman Jim Gerlach ran abysmal campaigns in the last two cycles. This time, Gerlach imported Mark Campbell. Campbell ran an aggressive, mean campaign — the only kind of campaign that might have given Gerlach a shot to avoid the strong Democratic tide this year. He is responsible for driving up opponent Lois Murphy's negatives to the point where some in the press even believed she was a lobbyist and plagiarizer. Campbell is the kind of guy you want running your race when everyone thinks you are going to lose. A week before the election, Chuck Todd (National Journal's Hotline editor) said of PA-6, "I'm picking Gerlach. He's run the best race of the cycle."
In some other races, 7 of the 10 legislators I endorsed in Berks County won their races. That's a pretty good batting average. Also, 11 of the 14 legislators running in Chester and Montgomery counties who I supported won their races.
This was a difficult year to be a Republican, but 2008 is right around the corner. George W. Bush will be leaving office and the Democrats won't be able to run against an incumbent president in 2008.
Democrats will also have two years of Congressional votes to defend. I can see the campaign ads already: "Democrat John Doe voted to give himself a pay raise in the past two years. Congresswoman Jane Doe voted with Nancy Pelosi 98 percent of the time."
What goes around comes around in politics and the Democrats will be on the defensive in 2008. They have to defend the most seats. The Democrats sat on their hands over the past two years and offered no solutions to any of the country's problems. Now that they're in the majority, they have to lead.
The GOP will make a strong comeback in 2008, winning back both house of Congress by large majorities and keeping the White House in Republican hands. It doesn't matter who the Republican presidential candidate is. Anybody running against Hillary Clinton will win.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Rendell's Ministry of Propaganda and his allies in the news media worked hard in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election to persuade millions of Pennsylvania voters that things couldn't be any better in Pennsylvania. Now that the election is over, and Rendell gets another four years in the governor’s mansion, it's time for the truth to come out about the sorry state of the Commonwealth.
You didn't really believe those Rendell campaign commercials did you?
The first crisis that Pennsylvania has to deal with involves transportation. It will be followed by many more. Look for the pension crisis, the school funding crisis, the budget crisis, the healthcare crisis, etc.
Every one of those neglected areas will need billions of dollars to fix. And guess who will be paying the bill?
The chickens are coming home to roost for Rendell's first four years of runaway spending and irresponsible borrowing, corporate welfare and the diversion of funds to prop up poorly managed mass transit systems in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
One week after the election, the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, appointed by Rendell to study the state’s transportation infrastructure, has come back with some bad news.
In a 150-page report, the commission says Pennsylvania needs $1.7 billion to fix the state's highways and bridges and bankroll the perpetually failing SEPTA system. And where will this money come from? The commission would like Pennsylvania residents to cough up more to obtain a driver's license, register their vehicles and fill up a tank of gas.
The specifics will have to be ironed out by Rendell and the state Legislature, but the commission wants to see the 19-cents-per-gallon oil franchise tax raised by 11.5 cents per gallon. The higher gas tax, coupled with increased motor vehicle registration and license fees, would generate about $900 million for highway and bridge projects, the commission says.
The tax hikes won't stop there. The report also calls for raising $65 million for bridges and highways owned by counties and municipalities through an additional 1-cent increase in the oil franchise tax. The commission is also recommending a combination of state and local taxes to raise another $760 million for mass transit. The Rendell administration would raise its $576 million share by raising the 1 percent realty transfer tax by less than one percentage point; counties and municipalities would raise their shares by imposing local sales, earned-income, or realty-transfer taxes.
(Keep in mind that this new round of tax hikes is separate from the tax increases being considered by your local school board under Act 1, which Rendell signed into law earlier this year. Many school districts will be imposing earned-income tax hikes or increases in the personal income tax in a hair-brained scheme to lower property taxes. But in some school districts, up to 70 percent of taxpayers will end up paying more in taxes under Act 1. That's what Rendell and the state Legislature came up with as "tax relief" after months of negotiations. Also, Act 1 does not prevent school districts from raising property taxes every year.)
Rendell formed the transportation commission in early 2005 when the Republican-controlled Legislature refused to bail out the state's mismanaged transit agencies. Rendell siphoned more than $400 million in federal highway funds to keep SEPTA afloat until 2007. Guess what? SEPTA is running out of money again. SEPTA and the Port Authority of Allegheny County expect to run up an $80 million deficit in the first six months of 2007.
Don't you feel like a jerk right about now for re-electing Rendell? This is the thanks you get? He is going to raise the gas tax and make you pay a higher mortgage. The Associated Press calculates the typical driver will pay $84 more a year to cover the higher gas tax and fee increases. The proposed realty transfer tax increase would add about $60 a year to a 30-year, $150,000 mortgage for homeowners, according to The Associated Press.
And this is just the beginning. By re-electing Rendell, Pennsylvania voters guaranteed four more years of higher taxes to pay for the massive expansion of state spending — $6 billion so far — under Rendell. And don't forget about that $4 billion in borrowing during Rendell’s first four years in office. You and your children and your grandchildren will be paying off those loans long after Ed Rendell has moved on to bigger and better things.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Are you having second thoughts yet? If not, consider this.
The day after the Rendell landslide, the governor held a press conference to discuss his second-term agenda. What hot issues will Rendell tackle in 2007? He mentioned education, economic development, mass transit funding, the environment, health coverage, term limits for the state Legislature and campaign finance reform.
Conspicuously absent from the governor's list of priorities was property tax relief.
That's right. The No. 1 issue that voters want addressed escaped the governor's mind.
This is the very same governor who promised four years ago to cut everyone's property tax bill by 30 percent while standing on his head. The very same governor who called for a special session of the Legislature last September to deal with property tax relief.
The very same governor who has tried all kinds of parlor tricks (Act 72, Act 1, Slot Machines) to distract Pennsylvania taxpayers from the fact that he has failed to deal with property taxes.
Now that he's been re-elected, Rendell doesn't even want to discuss property taxes. Feeling duped?
Get ready for four more years of tax hikes. Rendell will push for an increase in the sales tax, the income tax and the gas tax in 2007. Get set for more spending. And brace yourself for more borrowing.
Right before the election, a report came out that Pennsylvania's debt has risen to $10 BILLION. It went up by $4 BILLION under Gov. Rendell. This is on top of record spending by Rendell, which has brought the state budget to $26.1 BILLION.
Pennsylvania is spending a twice the rate of inflation. And we're deeper in debt. That is Rendell’s legacy. We are going to be paying for Rendell's spending for generations to come.
And this Monday, the long-awaited report on the state of Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure comes out. Interesting how the report is being released a week after the election.
The report will say that Pennsylvania needs to find billions more each year to fix its roads and bridges. And if you've been listening closely to Rendell, the state needs to find a "dedicated source of revenue" to subsidize mass transit in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Translation: Get ready to pay more at the pump. Pennsylvania's gas tax will be going up!!!
Don't say I didn't warn you.
In the meantime, get in touch with Rendell and remind him that he still works for you. Here's where to call or write: Gov. Edward G. Rendell's Office, 225 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120. Call 717-787-2500. E-mail at this Web site: www.governor.state.pa.us
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
George W. Bush lost his first national election Tuesday.
The president wasn't on the ballot anywhere in the United States, but clearly Tuesday's vote was a repudiation of Bush's handling of the Iraq War.
Bush still has two years left in the White House, but voters punished the Republican Party for the Bush administration's failures in Iraq by turning control of the House of Representatives over to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years. The Senate could end up tied 50-50 or in Democratic hands depending on the outcome of one race that is still too close to call.
The resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday was another casualty of Tuesday's vote. What if Rumsfeld had quit a week ago? Would the Republicans have held onto Congress?
While Nancy Pelosi is busy picking out curtains for her new office as Speaker of the House, was this really a mandate for the Democrats? Eighteen of the House seats that went to the Democrats Tuesday were won by 5,000 or fewer votes. They could easily swing back to the Republicans in 2008. And many of the Democrats who won Tuesday are moderates or conservative. How far are they willing to follow Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal?
Now that Democrats are in the majority, they no longer can sit on the sidelines and just complain. They actually have to get off their duffs and do their jobs, something they haven't done since 2004. Saying "no" to every initiative offered by President Bush offers won't cut it anymore. Democrats will actually have to lead, something they're not very good at doing.
My prediction is that Pelosi and her liberals will fall flat on their faces over the next two years, clearing the way for an even bigger GOP majority in 2008. Remember that Bush won't be a factor in 2008. When your entire strategy is to run against the president and he's done with his term, you have no strategy at all.
For Pennsylvania Republicans looking for a glimmer of hope following Tuesday's Election Day drubbing, here's a few points to consider:
* Incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach won re-election against heavily favored Lois Murphy. Gerlach was the No. 1 target of Democrats in this year's House races. Despite millions of dollars poured into the Murphy campaign and visits from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, Lois Murphy was rejected by voters in the 6th Congressional District. This is a race Democrats wanted to win badly, but they blew it.
* Seven other incumbent Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania won re-election Tuesday: Charlie Dent, Joe Pitts, Phil English, John Peterson, Bill Shuster, Tim Murphy and Todd Platts.
More bright spots for the Republicans:
* Mike Veon, the No. 2 Democrat in the state House and one of the architects of the July 2005 legislative payjacking, lost to a GOP reformer in western Pennsylvania. Veon was the only legislator voting against the pay raise repeal in November 2005.
* Seven of the 10 Republicans running for state Legislative seats in my neck of the woods, Berks County, won their races. The group of 10 ran as a reform coalition and promises to stir things up in Harrisburg.
* It doesn't appear Democrats will win control of the state House despite Gov. Ed Rendell's coattails and the $3 million Rendell tossed into Legislative races to help get a Democratic majority.
* Republicans hold a solid majority in the state Senate and with Rendell cronies Bob Jubilirer and Chip Brightbill gone, don't expect cooperation from the Senate leadership when it comes to pushing Rendell's tax-and-spend agenda.
* Three candidates endorsed by the Pennsylvania Club for Growth PAC, Mike Folmer (48th Senate District), Jim Cox (128th House District) and Todd Rock (90th House District) won their respective races Tuesday, showing the growing influence of GOP conservatives in Pennsylvania.