Friday, November 30, 2007

Joe Paterno's salary defines open-records debate

The world now knows how much Joe Paterno makes as head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

My life hasn't changed since I found out that Paterno earns $512,664 a year. I graduated from Penn State but I wasn't the least bit curious how much Paterno made when I attended school in State College or in the years since I left Happy Valley.

Paterno's salary was one of the best-kept secrets in Pennsylvania, a state where keeping the public in the dark is one of the primary missions of government. Pennsylvania ranks 49 out of 50 states for having the worst open-records law in the country.

The State Employees' Retirement System released Paterno's salary a week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that his salary and those of other top Penn State officials are public information.

How much the 80-year-old coach makes isn't as important as the fact that so many government and university officials worked so hard for so long to keep the information out of public sight.

The revelation that Paterno makes $512,000 was almost anti-climatic. Most people were under the impression that Paterno was making more than $1 million a year based on his longevity at Penn State and the success he has brought to the school’s football program.

"I'm paid well. I'm not overpaid," Paterno told reporters. "I got all the money I need."

What a refreshing statement from a public figure in a state where greed has become the norm. Pennsylvania legislators, already among the highest paid in the country, voted themselves pay raises of 16 percent to 54 percent during a middle-of-the-night session on July 7, 2005. Gov. Ed Rendell signed the pay grab into law. It took a backlash from Pennsylvania residents to get the Legislature to rescind the pay raise.

And let's not compare Paterno's salary to that of some other coaches who run big-time football programs. Alabama's Nick Saban is the highest paid coach at $4 million a year. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops makes $3 million. Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Florida's Urban Meyer and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier each make $2 million annually.

Paterno, the second winningest college football coach ever, is "underpaid" compared to other coaches. Paterno is Penn State. His value to the school cannot be measured in dollars and cents. And it's common knowledge that Paterno and his wife have donated $4 million to Penn State over the years.

It's hard to argue that Paterno isn't worth every dollar Penn State pays him. The salary revelation should put renewed focus on the current debate in the Pennsylvania Legislature over open records.

The reason the Harrisburg Patriot-News had to fight so hard in the courts to get the salary information is because Pennsylvania law presumes that all government and quasi-government agencies are entitled to keep secrets.

The public, through newspapers and other media outlets, have to persuade courts that the information should be public. This presumption is backwards. The burden should be on the government to show why information associated with how it spends the public's money or conducts the public's business should be kept from the public.

Political commentator Lowman Henry has an interesting take on the Paterno salary disclosure:

"Why then would Penn State's power brokers fight so hard to keep such information confidential? In a word: arrogance. It has become apparent they simply believe, despite the fact PSU receives hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year, We The People have no right to know what they are doing with our money. Clearly the Paterno salary is not untoward, and the university is generally perceived as one of the finest in the nation. Why then the secrecy?"

The Paterno salary story, which made the front page of every newspaper in the state, should be a wake-up call to Pennsylvania residents. They need to be engaged in the current debate about revising the state's open-records laws. This is not about giving newspapers special access. This is about giving the people of Pennsylvania the right to know how their elected officials are conducting the people's business.

A vote on revisions to the open-records law could come any day now. Make sure your elected representatives know you’re paying attention and will not tolerate any more secrecy.

Grinches wipe 'Christmas' from school calendar

The far left denies it, but there's daily proof that secular Grinches are working around the clock to deny Americans the right to celebrate Christmas. The secular movement has managed to force most public Christmas celebrations out of schools. Here's another glaring example of the war the militant secularists wage against Christmas.

From The Associated Press:

Wash. school newsletter omits Christmas from Dec. dates;
'Human Rights Day,' 'Kwanzaa' make list

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — They made a list, but they should have checked it twice.

In a December newsletter to the families of elementary school students, Spokane Public Schools' list of "important dates" didn't include Christmas.

Hanukkah, Human Rights Day, winter break, the Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha, first day of winter and Kwanzaa all made the list. But no Christmas.

"It was absolutely an error of omission," district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said.

"In our efforts to be inclusive, we missed the obvious."

The omission drew complaints from some parents that Christians are being overlooked in favor of other cultures and beliefs.

Greater Spokane Association of Evangelicals Executive Director John Tusant said the error surprised him.

"The stores have been decorated for the last month. How do you overlook that?" Tusant asked.

Hutton School parent Jane Harper noted the absence of Christmas but didn't think the omission was meant as a message to Christians.

"Christmas is so dominant in our society. I don't know that anyone should feel slighted," Harper said.

Roloff said the district would not have included Hanukkah and Eid al-Adha if it had intended to avoid religious celebrations. She said her office has been fielding calls about the newsletter from concerned parents, and that most have been understanding about the mix-up.

Christmas had been added to the "important dates" section of the online version of the school district's newsletter by Thursday afternoon.

Dear Santa letter

Bill McIntyre, one of my favorite citizen activists, has penned a letter to Santa. The Camp Hill resident has a Christmas wish list for Santa, asking for better government in Pennsylvania. If you're not on McIntyre's e-mail list, here's a copy of his letter below.

November 29, 2007
To: Santa Claus
North Pole
Subject: Christmas List

Dear Santa,

It's been over 65 years since I last wrote to you. I know you get many letters this time of year requesting various items and toys. I also know you read them as, when I was young; you always brought me what I wanted the most. Thank You!

I write again; but not for toys or personal items. Fortunately, I'm able to buy the needed items presently; but for how long is the question. You see, I live in Pennsylvania. We've so many problems here; I'm turning to you for assistance since you’ve never failed me before.

I've wrote letter after letter to our government officials since they celebrated their own Christmas back on July 7, 2005. The majority were bad boys and girls and had to return their gift of a pay raise. Many were good and voted against the raid on our treasury and refused to accept the illegal vouchers. Some are still bad. I'll let them write to you.

In my 74 years of celebrating Christmas; I've received enough personal gifts. This year I write, just not for me, but for the over 12 million other citizens and taxpayers of Pennsylvania. We’ve paid for much and received little in return.

You see, the many bad boys and girls who govern us are mean, stingy, self-centered and think only of themselves and their own welfare. They outnumber the good boys and girls in government who have done and are doing the proper thing. Please reward the good ones by returning them to office.

My wish list for Christmas 2007 follows, in no special order. If I listed everything we wanted and needed, this would take pages, but I know you’re very busy and will keep it very short.

REFORM – A Constitutional Convention is needed. Our present legislators can't or won't do it.

OPEN RECORDS – A simple request to see what our officials (employees) are doing (and not doing).

REPEAL ACT 44 – The bad boys and girls forced it upon us. Shame on them! Again they failed us.

That's short enough for now. Oh, one last request. Please help the bad boys and girls by bringing them a conscience, common sense, some ethics and loyalty to those who placed them in office. They are too absorbed in themselves to know they're missing these attributes.

Am I being harsh and cruel? Not really. Truthful is more realistic. Santa doesn't come to those who exhibit deceit and deception for personal gain. He does come to the good boys and girls who are honest and forthright.

Thank you and best wishes,

Bill McIntyre
Who was good this year and will be better next year

CC: All the Good and Bad Government Officials in the 3 Branches of PA's Government; All the Good People in My Address Book

Christina Aguilera is not sexy

Maybe I'm turning into Andy Rooney in my old age, but I'm tired of celebrities and more specifically, I don't want to see any more pregnant celebrities posing nude for magazine covers.

It's nearly impossible to walk past a magazine rack these days without being confronted by a cover of a nude celebrity showing off her pregnancy.

It started with Demi Moore in Vanity Fair. It continued with Britney Spears in Harper's Bazaar. And a host of other minor celebrities bared all for the camera for a chance to grace the cover of a magazine.

And now we have Christina Aguilera in the January 2008 issue of Marie Clare. I don't want to see Christina's growing belly as I wait in the check-out line at my local supermarket.

What is it about pregnancy that prompts these women to take off their clothes? Would they pose nude if they weren't pregnant?

And what's so sexy about pregnant celebrities anyway?

There's a bunch of pregnant celebrities out there these days. Our obsession with celebrity has to stop. Who's next to bare all? Jennifer Lopez? Halle Berry?

And it's not just celebrities. I hear there's a growing trend in something called maternity photographers who specialize in nude photos of pregnant women. Business is booming.

Maybe it's the latest sign in the decline of morals in our society. Kids grow up exposed to all sorts of risque images on television. Reality shows are the worst. And it's not just television. Have you walked into a high school these days? Do you have any idea what the kids are wearing?

By the way, when is Andy Rooney retiring? Isn't he close to 100?

Russ Diamond on Legislative COLA

Russ Diamond weighs in on the pay raise for Pennsylvania politicians at the PaCleanSweep Web site today. It's worth checking out just for the cartoon. Here's Diamond's take on Pennsylvania's overpaid political class:

Another COLA, please! Incumbo-Cola - in the twist bottle!

In case you haven't heard, legislators and the Governor will be receiving a pay raise as of Saturday, December 1, 2007. The cost of living adjustment (COLA) will add 3.5 percent to the gross pay of these public servants. More than 1000 Pennsylvania judges will receive similar increases in January.

In actual dollars, pay for members of the General Assembly will increase by $2550 to $76,163. That's just the base salary. Some legislators will make much more as committee and chamber leaders. Senate Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Speaker of the House Dennis O'Brien will have their salaries boosted to $118,896 each.

Governor Ed Rendell will receive almost $6,000 more in salary. The salaries of the state's attorney general, treasurer and auditor general will increase to $141,565 each. Justices of the Supreme Court will see their salaries increase to $181,000 annually.

The average Pennsylvanian earns less than $38,000 per year. Few private sector employees will receive a 3.5 percent pay increase. Rank-and-file state employees are not receiving these COLAs.

The COLAs were made possible by a law passed in 1995. Every year, the salaries of elected officials in state government are adjusted based on the highest-in-Pennsylvania Philadelphia cost of living index. Whether they need it or not, whether they deserve it or not, the annual pay raise kicks in. While average Pennsylvanians worry about how to pay for the commute to work and heating their homes, elected officials have a hedge against inflation.

We begrudge no one the ability to make a living, but it seems very unrepresentative for legislators to be insulated from the economic effects of their policies. It appears unstatesmanlike for the Governor to take a pay raise when most Pennsylvanians are pinching pennies. And another pay raise for judges feels a bit too much like injustice.

2007 kicked off with the initial Bonusgate revelations. In the Spring primary, Act 1 - the latest attempt at tax swapping to feign property tax reform - was overwhelmingly kicked to the curb by voters who knew better. The budget was over two weeks late and state workers were used as pawns in the negotiations. A dubious transportation bill was passed.

Meanwhile, $360 million in WAMs (walking around money) for legislators was found somewhere. Tax dollars have been used to conduct political polls. Documents have been shredded. A former Representative, a Superior Court judge and a sitting Senator have been indicted. All four caucuses of the General Assembly are under the cloud of an investigation by the attorney general.

There were some internal changes made in the General Assembly, but much ado was made over items that were mostly just common sense. The only real reform they've tackled - open records, which should be a slam dunk - has turned into the legislative equivalent of a tooth-pulling contest at a henhouse.

Did you receive a 3.5 increase in governmental value in 2007? Has government been 3.5 percent more productive? Are Pennsylvanians 3.5 percent better off this year? Did elected officials earn a 3.5 percent raise?

Fifty-five new legislators were sworn into office in January in the aftermath of 2005's pay raise scandal. Many of them hoisted the banner of reform over their campaign to get elected. For them, the 2007 COLA represents a moment of truth. The honeymoon will soon be over. They'll either quietly accept the extra salary and become part of what's wrong, or they'll refuse it to show their commitment to change and moving Pennsylvania in a better direction.

As for the rest of the legislative, executive and judicial branches, this is their opportunity to show they've changed their ways and are now on the side of the people they serve.

Another COLA? Puh-lease.

-- Russ Diamond

By the way, Russ Diamond's new book, "Tip of the Spear," makes a great stocking stuffer. You can find out more about the book at

Thursday, November 29, 2007

SE Pennsylvania legislators turn their backs on tax relief

Only 43 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have publicly supported House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007, by signing aboard as co-sponsors.

The vast majority of the 203 House members have yet to be heard on HB 1275, which was introduce by state Rep. Sam Rohrer and is supported by more than two dozen citizen taxpayer groups across Pennsylvania. The bill would eliminate school property taxes for all Pennsylvania homeowners.

Below is a list of legislators who represent districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania (all or parts of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties) conspicuously absent from the list of HB 1275 co-sponsors. (I won't bother with state reps from the City of Philadelphia since they don't consider themselves part of Pennsylvania except when they're looking for handouts and bailouts from the rest of the state's taxpayers.)

If you recognize any of the names below, you need to contact them today and ask them what's more pressing in Harrisburg than the elimination of school property taxes?

Find out why your representative won't stand with Pennsylvania taxpayers.

And remind them that you will not be voting for them when they stand for re-election in 2008.

The following state representatives are AWOL on property tax relief:

David Kessler (D-130)
Doug Reichley (R-134)
Tim Seip (D-125)

Paul I. Clymer (R-145)
Gene DiGirolamo (R-18)
John T. Galloway (D-140)
Chris King (D-142)
Anthony J. Melio (D-141)
Bernie O'Neill (R-29)
Scott A. Petri (R-178)
Marguerite Quinn (R-143)
Katharine M. Watson (R-144)

Thomas Killion (R-168)
Duane Milne (R-167)
Chris Ross (R-158)
Carole Rubley (R-157

William F. Adolph Jr. (R-165)
Mario J. Civera Jr. (R-26)
Robert C. Donatucci (D-185)
Thomas H. Killion (R-168)
Thaddeus Kirkland (D-9)
Bryan R. Lentz (D-161)
Nicholas A. Micozzie (R-163)
Ron Raymond (R-162)
Greg Vitali (D-166)
Ronald G. Waters (D-191)

Lawrence Curry (D-154)
Michael Gerber (D-148)
Robert Godshall (R-53)
Kate Harper (R-61)
George Kenney Jr. (R-170)
Daylin Leach (D-149)
Kathy Manderino (D-194)
Jay Moyer (R-70)
Thomas Murt (R-152)
Josh Shapiro (D-153)
Rick Taylor (D-151)
Mike Vereb (R-150)

Your right to celebrate Christmas

The American Center for Law and Justice, a sane alternative to the far left ACLU, has set up a special section on its Web site called the Christmas Resource Center.

"We want to make sure (people) are fully aware of what is permissible when it comes to celebrating the Christmas holiday according to (their) religious beliefs," says ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Alan Sekulow.

This is the time the secular Grinches come out of the woodwork and attempt to spoil Christmas celebrations in communities and schools.

The online Christmas Resource Center helps find answers - clearly spelled out - to the most common questions the ACLJ receives this time of year regarding legal rights to celebrate Christmas.

The site includes sample letters parents and students can use to educate school administrators about the proper way students can express their religious beliefs in school during the holiday season.

"I encourage you to visit this valuable online Christmas Resource Center and know your rights ... and the rights of your children or grandchildren ... when it comes to celebrating Christmas," Sekulow says.

You can learn more at the ACLJ Web site or you can also call the ACLJ at 757-226-2489.

Pennsylvania growers donate 'Trees for Troops'

I love the holiday season because so many people use their time and resources to help others. I had never heard of this program until I came across a press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. It shows the generosity of Pennsylvania tree growers and farmers.

Military families across the country and overseas will receive thousands of evergreen trees donated by Pennsylvania Christmas tree growers.

More than 30 Pennsylvania tree farms will participate in this year's "Trees for Troops" program, sponsored by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx.

More from the Dept. of Agriculture press release:

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard 1067 Transportation Company of Lehighton, as well as FedEx volunteers and local Christmas tree growers in Carbon County to collect evergreens at Yenser's Tree Farm as part of a national effort to provide military families with real Christmas trees.

"Pennsylvania Christmas trees are some of the finest in the nation," said Wolff. "I thank our local growers for providing cheer to military families who may be away from their loved ones during Christmas. These trees will allow them to enjoy the fresh scent and holiday spirit that comes with the season."

Fleming's Christmas Tree Farms, Indiana County, joined Yenser's Tree Farm as a drop-off location.

More than 15,000 trees will be delivered to troops stationed in the United States and abroad. Trees from Pennsylvania will be delivered to Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Bliss, Texas.

The following are the tree farms donating to this year's "Trees for Troops" program:

Abraczinskas Nurseries - Catawissa.
Baumgartner Farms - Kunkletown
Bizup Tree Farms - S. Plainfield, N.J.
Carino Nurseries - Indiana, Pa.
Christmas Tree Hill - Lehighton
Cloverdale Farms - Weatherly
Crystal Springs Tree Farm - Lehighton
Crystal Springs Tree Farm II - Lehighton
Ecology III - Orangeville
E-Mar Acres Tree Farm - Saltsburg
Evergreen Acres Tree Farm - Auburn
Fleming's Christmas Tree Farms - Indiana
Hague's Christmas Trees - Hatfield
Heritage Acres Evergreens - Bloomsburg
Hill Farms - Lehighton
Kramer's Tree Farm - Schuylkill Haven
Lake Forest Gardens, Inc. - Fombell
Lenhart's Tree Farm - Mertztown
Lone Oak Farm - Monongahela
J. C. Hill Tree Farms, Inc. - Orwigsburg
Jay & Stacy Michalik - Lehighton
Kuhns Tree Farm - State College
McCurdy's Tree Farm - Dillsburg
Misty Run Tree Farm - Annville
Quaker State Plantations - Bloomsburg
Regina Farms - East Stroudsburg
Schmidt's Tree Farm - Landenberg
Sugar Bend Tree Farm - Sugar Run
Walker's Tree Farm - Lehighton
Yenser's Tree Farm - Lehighton

Phillies unveil new uniforms

The Philadelphia Phillies, National League East Division champions, have unveiled a new alternate home uniform for the 2008 season.

The uniform, modeled here by ace pitcher Cole Hamels and MVP shortstop Jimmy Rollins, will be worn by the Phillies to commemorate the team's 125th anniversary in 2008, according to the Phils' marketing department.

Might as well cash in after the Phils' first pennant since 1993.

Styled after a uniform the team wore in the 1940s, the new alternate uniform will be worn for all home day games, starting with the April 3 Citizens Bank Businessperson's Special.

"It's a throwback uniform with a modern touch," said David Buck, senior vice president for marketing and advertising sales. "It has been a while since we wore a uniform at home that didn't feature pinstripes."

Buck said the new jerseys are made of a "cool base" fabric that provides for better comfort for our players.

Maybe the new uniform will help the Phillies get off to a better start in 2008. The team was almost buried in April and had to pour it on in September to win the National League East Division title on the last day of the season.

By the way, you don't have to wait until the start of the 2008 to buy the latest uniform. You can order it online at the Phillies Web site,

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Atheists get their own holiday display

If you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em.

A Southeastern Pennsylvania atheist group that has tried unsuccessfully for years to prevent public religious displays at Christmas, has decided to try a new tactic.

The atheists, who also failed to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the Chester County Courthouse, now want to put up their own holiday display next to a Nativity scene, a Menorah and a Christmas tree in West Chester, Pa.

News that The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia wants to put up its own holiday display was first reported by The Daily Local News in West Chester.

The decision by the Chester County commissioners to permit the atheists to display their "holiday tree" could serve as a seasonal model for other communities, according to reporter Jennifer Miller.

The new policy allows any group to put up a seasonal display on county property if it meets design, insurance and safety requirements.

That's a far cry from what the atheists originally wanted: An outright ban on public displays during the holidays.

"It makes us feel like whole citizens to be able to participate in this way," Margaret Downey, president of the Freethought Society, told the Daily Local News.

The group's display is entitled "The Tree of Knowledge" and it will feature a 15-foot evergreen with color copies of book covers as "ornaments." Some of the book covers will include the Bible, the Quran, "Ethics Without God," "Why I Am Not a Christian," and "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism."

I've heard of the first two books. Not familiar with the atheist tomes.

Chester County's new policy allows qualified applicants to set up a display between Nov. 30 and Jan. 15. The deadline to apply for a display has already passed, so the atheists are the only new addition to the outdoor display this year.

"If this works here, we're going to encourage other Freethought groups to do the same," Downey told the Daily Local News.

The county received four applications, and all were approved. In addition to "The Tree of Knowledge," the courthouse lawn will feature a Christmas tree, a Menorah and a crèche this year.

In case you'd like to join those fun-loving atheists for a festive tree dedication, The Freethought Society will hold a "tree ceremony" at 5 p.m. Saturday at the courthouse, located at 2 N. High St., in West Chester.

I've written before ("The left declares war on Christmas") about atheist Grinches trying to steal Christmas from the 85 percent of Americans who are Christians, but this appears to be a reasonable compromise.

Celebrate whatever you want, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice. More power to the atheists for wanting to display their "Tree of Knowledge." Just don't mess with Christmas.

If one of these atheist groups challenges your community or school Christmas celebration, you can find out what your recourse is at the Christmas Resource Center set up by the American Center for Law and Justice.

PHEAA Board Chairman admits 'mistakes have been made'

I came across this letter to the editor published in The (Delaware County) Daily Times from state Rep. William Adolph Jr., who also serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

PHEAA is the poster child of what is wrong with government or quasi-government agencies. They have no accountability. They squander millions of dollars. They reward incompetence. The people who are entrusted to oversee these agencies are morons or members of the Pennsylvania Legislature. Wait a minute. Isn't that the same thing?

The Delco Times, like many Pennsylvania newspapers, have been very critical of PHEAA's spending and its board's lack of oversight.

Adolph must be feeling the heat. He admits "mistakes have been made," which is the usual bromide politicians use when they've been caught doing something wrong. Adolph also promises that "PHEAA will continue to make the necessary reforms to ensure that every available nickel is spent in the best interests of our students and families."

Sure. And that property tax cut Gov. Ed Rendell has been promising me since 2002 is in the mail.

Here's his letter:

Adolph: PHEAA is getting back on track

To the Times:

Few would argue that my tenure as the new chairman of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Board of Directors has been anything less than challenging. In addition to dealing with suddenly changing market forces that affect how PHEAA earns money, the agency has been the subject of intense media scrutiny, an ongoing special performance audit by the state’s Attorney General and a torrent of critical barbs by opponents and other critics.

I will be the first to say that mistakes have been made in regards to spending, especially when every available dollar could best be used to help Pennsylvania students pay for college. And I say this regardless of the fact that PHEAA is supported by its earnings, not tax dollars.

By instituting a rigorous process of reform and refocusing, the board of directors is realigning PHEAA to it original role as an accountable state agency funded by its own earnings, but working solely in the service of Pennsylvania students and families at every level.

As a result, PHEAA is now operating under the most restrictive travel and business expanse reimbursement policy of any organization in the commonwealth. We have banned all business development "retreats" and instituted American's first voluntary Student Loan Code of Ethics — encouraging other student aid providers to follow our lead.

PHEAA has also conducted an aggressive and continual internal cost-cutting campaign, which includes the elimination of every nonessential expenditure.

We have slashed travel and promotional-related expenses by 78 percent when comparing the six months ending Sept. 30, 2007, with the same six months last year. And PHEAA has identified about $40 million in cost-cutting savings by evaluating every facet of its operations from top to bottom. But our goal is not just to cut costs – we must also grow PHEAA's business in order to generate more public service funding that is not at the taxpayers expense. Let's not forget that 60 percent of PHEAA's earnings during the last year came from business outside of Pennsylvania. This helped enable PHEAA to fund $200 million in student aid programs last year and nearly $1 billion during the last 10 years.

As chairman of the PHEAA board for the past eight months, I am pleased with our progress thus far. However, I want to assure every Pennsylvanian that PHEAA will continue to make the necessary reforms to ensure that every available nickel is spent in the best interests of our students and families.

By eliminating all unnecessary business expenses while simultaneously investing in business growth, all done in an accountable and transparent manner, we are not only making more funds available for student aid needs, we are also working to restore the commonwealth's faith in an agency that has helped millions of students achieve a higher education over the last 44 years.

State Representative, R-165
Chairman of the Board, PHEAA

Magazine predicts Democrats will hold their slim lead in Congress after 2008

Congressional Quarterly, a publication that has covered Congress since 1945, is predicting that Democrats will continue to hold their slim lead in the House after the 2008 elections.

That's interesting because many pundits are predicting a Democratic tidal wave in 2008. CQ says the Dems will basically end up where they are today, a majority but not enough to to override presidential vetoes (assuming a Republican wins the White House).

The current makeup of the House is 233 Democrats and 200 Republicans.

CQ predicts the 111th Congress will consist of 231 Democrats and 194 Republicans with 8 seats a toss up.

Keep in mind that the "running against Bush" tactic Democrats used in 2006 won't be as effective in 2008 and Democrats will have to defend their two years of control of the House when they face voters next November. Most polls show Congress under Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, with a lower approval rating than that of President Bush.

Here's the complete list of predictions by Congressional Quarlery.

I can't speak for how races will go in other states, but I know Pennsylvania politics. I have to challenge some of the predictions made by the Congressional Quarterly staff about the 19-member Pennsylvania House delegation.

Here's how Congressional Quarterly sees the Pennsylvania races by Congressional district:

1 - Bob Brady (D), safe
2 - Chaka Fattah (D), safe
3 - Phil English (R), leans Republican
4 - Jason Altmire (D), leans Democratic
5 - John Peterson (R), safe
6 - Jim Gerlach (R), leans Republican
7 - Joe Sestak (D), safe
8 - Patrick Murphy (D), Democrat favored
9 - Bill Shuster (R), safe
10 - Chris Carney (D), leans Democratic
11 - Paul Kanjorski (D), safe
12 - John Murtha (D), safe
13 - Allyson Schwartz (D), safe
14 - Mike Doyle (D), safe
15 - Charlie Dent (R), Republican favored
16 - Joe Pitts (R), safe
17 - Tim Holden (D), safe
18 - Tim Murphy (R), Republican favored
19 - Todd Platts (R), safe

Bob Brady can be beaten. He flopped in the race for Philadelphia mayor this year. He's not as well-liked as everyone thought.

Joe Sestak managed to defeat Curt Weldon thanks to a very negative campaign, but Sestak not endeared himself to Delaware County voters. A Republican can take back the 7th District seat.

Chris Carney in the 10th District is a one-term Congressman. Republicans will win back the seat.

Democrat Paul Kanjorski in the 11th District is not "safe" as CQ predicts. Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, a Republican riding high on his tough stance against illegal immigrants, can beat Kanjorksi.

And John Murtha is living on borrowed time. His is so weighed down with ethical violations that voters will eventually give him the boot.

Pennsylvania not only could determine the next president, but who controls Congress after the 2008 elections. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Impeach Rendell movement?

It appears my role as the leading critic of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has been usurped by two other political commentators. I don't mind. It's about time others figured out that Rendell is the worst governor in the country.

Over the weekend, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Colin McNickle made a convincing case that Gov. Rendell has repeatedly trampled the Pennsylvania Constitution.

"The governor and his corporatist cronies regularly violate Article VIII, Section 8, with each new corporate wealthfare scheme," McNickle writes. "Never mind that such lending of the commonwealth's credit -- guaranteed by the taxpayer swag -- is expressly verboten."

McNickle also cites Rendell's efforts to enact gun control measures as a way to stem the murder rate in Philadelphia as another example of ignoring the Constitution.

"Mr. Rendell is spitting and stomping on the state Constitution again. The governor went before the state House Judiciary Committee last week to plead his case for passage of four gun-control measures, ostensibly to reduce handgun violence," McNickle writes.

Lowman Henry, writing at Lincoln Blog, goes a step further, calling for Rendell's impeachment.

Citing the governor's testimony before a House committee, Henry says Rendell has crossed the line in calling for disarming Pennsylvania residents.

"Last week Governor Rendell did more than question that right, he took the extraordinary step of appearing before a state House committee to argue in favor of taking away the rights of citizens to bear arms."

Henry continues: "That is a clear cut violation of the constitution which he has sworn to uphold. That is an impeachable offense. This being just the latest and greatest blatant disregard for the constitution the time has come to decide whether or not the constitution actually means anything. If it does, he should be removed from office. If it is merely a dusty document having no bearing on the present day affairs of state government, then the latest transgression should be ignored."

I got one too. How about impeaching Rendell for lying about property tax relief? He promised to dramatically reduce or eliminate property taxes in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. Hasn't happened yet.

Now there's talk of a stealth tax increase because the Rendell administration has depleted the fund used to clean up damage from leaking underground fuel tanks.

Rendell wants all Pennsylvania motorists to pay an additional penny for every gallon of gas purchased at the pump. Pennsylvanians already pay one of the highest gasoline taxes in the country.

"We're disturbed that the administration would propose what amounts to a $50 million increase in the gas tax without apparent justification," Joe Pittman, the chief of staff for Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, the Banking and Insurance Committee chairman, told The Associated Press.

Rendell's people argue that the increase would mean about $9 more for the average household, but this governor has nickel-and-dimed Pennsylvania families to the poor house over the past five year.

Maybe impeachment is the way to go.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why is liberal a dirty word? What makes a good conservative?

I've always been fascinated about the use of the word "liberal" to describe persons of a certain political persuasion and how these very same people turned "liberal" into a dirty word.

Nobody wants to be called a "liberal" these days. It's akin to calling someone a "communist." Liberals now call themselves "progressives" largely because they've tainted the term "liberal" forever. Can a liberal change his spots?

Look at how well "Liberal" Ned Lamont did in the very liberal state of Connecticut in the 2006 Senate race. Look at how far shadowy liberals like George Soros try to conceal their influence over the Democratic Party.

Consider the demise of liberal talk radio when Air America went bankrupt or the continuing readership drop at the country's biggest liberal newspapers. Take a look at how poorly anti-American films by Hollywood's liberal elites have fared at the box office this year. Even Michael Moore's much-ballyhooed "Sicko" failed to attract an audience.

Take a look at how hard Hillary Clinton is trying to pretend she's not a "liberal" in every sense of the word. Can you blame her? Look what happened to the last few "liberal" candidates the Democratic Party nominated for president: Al Gore, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter, George McGovern.

That's quite a track record of failure the Democratic Party has followed. And the party will no doubt nominate another "liberal" to run in 2008.

On the other hand, "Conservative" has not been turned into a pejorative word despite the best efforts of liberals. But what is the difference between "conservative" and "Republican"?

Tom Barrett, who operates a Web site called, takes up the perennial question of conservative vs. liberal in an essay called "What is a Conservative?" (Hint: Think Ronald Reagan.)

It's fairly easy to define the liberal political philosophy: "Liberals believe that government should control every aspect of our lives," Barrett says. "And they know the best way to do that is to steal our money."

But it goes deeper than taxes and government regulations.

"The most pressing issue in this nation is its moral decline," Barrett concludes. "Yes, defense and taxes are important. But if we have a moral president, he can be convinced to defend the nation and save us from the taxes that are destroying our nation economically and causing the once-strong dollar to decline against world currencies. If we have a president without morals (as we did with Bill Clinton), we can look forward to four years of America losing itself even further."

Interesting stuff. The Democratic Party is about to nominate another liberal, a Clinton no less. Not to mention giving Bill Clinton the keys to the White House as "first husband." And you wonder why the Democrats have lost 7 of the last 10 presidential elections?

Barrett's column goes on to discuss the dilemma conservatives face with the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.

You can read Barrett's full column at

DeWeese on borrowed time

You know you're living on borrowed time when the state's biggest newspaper, the very liberal, the pro-Democratic Party Philadelphia Inquirer, is routinely running stories on its front page about Democratic corruption in Harrisburg.

Will Bill DeWeese survive the year as House Majority Leader? Will he be indicted before next April's primary election? Can the Democrats, mired in scandal, keep their 1-seat majority in the House beyond 2008?

The latest revelation about corruption and wasted tax dollars connected to the new Democratic majority in the state House ran Sunday under the headline, "Pa. taxes used for political polling"

Legislative leaders have paid out-of-state firms $466,000 so far in 2007 to conduct focus groups and public-opinion surveys, according to the newspaper.

The polling results are top secret. They are intended for the eyes and ears of DeWeese and other Legislative leaders.

Here's a prediction courtesy of the Phyrillas Poll: Even if DeWeese isn't indicted before April for his role in the bonus scandal, he will still lose in the Democratic primary. (This guy barely got re-elected in 2006 and it's been nothing but bad news for him and the Democrats ever since.)

If House Democrats had any sense, and that's a big if, they'd dump DeWeese as Majority Leader today before he not only loses the party's razor-thing majority, but sends the party of corruption into minority status for another 12 years.

History, which is DeWeese's forte, repeats. The Democratic Party took a decade to recover from DeWeese's last round of ethical lapses. He's sticking it again to his fellow Democrats.

Read the full story at the Inquirer's Web page,

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Best and Worst Movies of 2007 According to Me

I know all those snooty film critics are preparing their Top 10 Films of the Year lists, but who are you going to listen to? How many of those movies are you ever going to see? Have I ever steered you wrong? If you're looking for a good movie to rent, check out my recommendations below.

I'm willing to give any movie a try, even those foreign ones with the annoying subtitles. Here's a list of the best movies I've seen in 2007 (and some turkeys):

My Top 10...

300 (I have some relatives living in Sparta)
Meet The Robinsons
Bee Movie
Ratatouille (Yes, I love computer animation)
Ghost Rider (Nicholas Cage is believable as a flaming skull biker. What an actor)
Black Book (Outstanding but overlooked WWII drama. Don't let the nudity of the film's knockout female lead stop you from seeing one of the most tense dramas of the year. You never see the ending coming.)
Hot Fuzz (Funniest movie of the year. From the guys who brought you "Shaun of the Dead")
Next (you can tell I like Nicholas Cage)
Black Snake Moan (Christina Ricci in chains? What's not to like? This movie was poorly marketed. It's one of the best dramatic films of the year and both Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson deserve Oscar nominations.)

Worth picking up the DVD at the rental store...

Evan Almighty
Smokin' Aces
Catch and Release
Reno 911!: Miami
Norbit (Eddie Murphy in a fat suit again? But this time he's really funny)
Music and Lyrics (This really surprised me. I like Hugh Grant, but I can't stand Drew Barrymore, but together they make this romantic comedy worth watching.)
The Astronaut Farmer (Doesn't matter how dumb the plot, Billy Bob is watchable in almost anything)
The Last Mimzy (Based on a children's book, but I liked it)
Surf's Up
Pathfinder: Legend of the Ghost Warrior (What can I say? I love Viking movies)

The worst movies I've seen this year...

The Condemned
Bridge to Terabithia (Maybe I should have read the book first, but this was marketed as a children's fantasy film. Be warned. The subject matter is very dark.)
Shrek The Third (All the charm of the first too films is gone. Strictly merchandising.)
The Fountain (Did you ever spend two hours watching a movie and then realize you can't describe what you just saw. This is awful.)
Epic Movie (Never laughed once)
Happily N'Ever After (Yes, there is such as thing as bad computer animation)

Friday, November 23, 2007

43 sponsors for property tax elimination bill

One of "The Missing" state lawmakers has surfaced.

Earlier I posted a list of state legislators from Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties who have not signed up as co-sponsors of House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.

Many of these lawmakers campaigned on a promise to reform Harrisburg and deal with the state's onerous property tax. After 10 months in office, these lawmakers have nothing to show for their efforts.

And when the opportunity came up to put their money where they mouths were, many Southeastern PA lawmakers went AWOL. Some of these lawmakers are freshman who fooled taxpayers into thinking they would support property tax reform (David Kessler, Tim Seip, Mike Vereb, Jay Moyer, Duane Milne) or veteran politicians who forgot why they were sent to Harrisburg (Doug Reichley, Chris Ross, Kate Harper, Carole Rubley).

One of "The Missing" has stepped forward. Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith, a Chester County Democrat, is now the 43rd member of the House to publicly support House Bill 1275.

Here's the complete list of co-sponsors, which includes 35 Republicans and 8 Democrats. If your representative is not on the list, they have some explaining to do. And if you don't see their name on this list, you've got another good reason to vote them out in 2008.

HB 1275 Sponsors

Rohrer (R-Berks)
Cox (R-Berks)
Yewcic (D-Cambria/Somerset)
Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill)
Quigley (R-Montgomery)
Denlinger (R-Lancaster)
Phillips (R-Northumberland/Snyder)
Stern (R-Blair)
Baker (R-Bradford/Tioga)
Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware)
Bastian (R-Bedford/Somerset)
Caltagirone (D-Berks)
Cappelli (R-Lycoming)
Creighton (R-Lancaster)
Everett (R-Lycoming)
Gabig (R-Cumberland)
Gibbons (D-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence)
Gillespie (R-York)
Goodman (D-Schuylkill)
Harris (R-Juniata/Mifflin/Snyder)
Hennessey (R-Chester)
Hershey (R-Chester)
Hess (R-Bedford/Fulton/Huntingdon)
Kauffman (R-Cumberland/Franklin)
Mackereth (R-York)
Mahoney (D-Fayette)
Mantz (R-Berks)
McIlhattan (R-Armstrong/Clarion)
McIlvaine-Smith (D-Chester)
Mensch (R-Montgomery)
Moul (R-Adams/Franklin)
Mustio (R -Allegheny)
Perry (R-Cumberland/York)
Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna)
Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana)
Readshaw (D-Allegheny)
Roae (R-Crawford)
Rock (R-Franklin)
Santoni (D-Berks)
Saylor (R-York)
Schroder (R-Chester)
Steil (R-Bucks)
Swanger (R-Lebanon)

Extreme Makeover: Rendell Edition

You know things must be slow in the state capital when the daily newspaper in Harrisburg is fussing about Gov. Ed Rendell's "new look."

Rendell, who has never been mistaken for pretty-boy John Edwards or even Mitt Romney, did not get to where he is on his looks.

But Jan Murphy can't help but wonder why Rendell looks different in a recent article, "Rendell sports new look, and maybe, new hair color."

Murphy speculates Rendell may have had a dye job and even interviews a Harrisburg-area salon operator for a professional opinion on Rendell's new look.

Political pundit Terry Madonna, whose own hair often has a life of its own, is also quoted in Murphy's story to provide more credibility I guess.

Maybe Rendell is trying to look good for his next potential employer, President Hillary Clinton?

Here are some recent photos of Rendell. You be the judge.

Atheists target prayer in Pennsylvania

From today's editorial page of The Mercury:

THORNS to a group calling itself Americans United for Separation of Church and State for threatening to sue Pennsylvania because the state Senate routinely opens its sessions with a benediction. As has been the custom for hundreds of years, the Senate invites religious leaders to open its session with a prayer. The prayers are non-denominational and great care is taken to invite representatives of all religions to participate. The Washington, D.C.-based Americans United says any prayer in a public setting is unconstitutional. Tell that to Congress, where the House and Senate also begin their sessions with prayer. This is an attempt by a fringe group to impose its views on the majority of Pennsylvanians. Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said he will fight any attempt to change the Senate tradition of inviting representatives of Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other religious traditions to offer the benediction. He also noted that the opening prayer on Tuesday was given by Sensei Anthony Stultz of the Blue Mountain Lotus Society, a Buddhist group in the Harrisburg area.

You can read more about the brewing controversy in an article by Tom Barnes of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Legislative pay raise kicks in Dec. 1

The gift that keeps on giving ...

Yes, it's that time of year. The Pennsylvania Legislature is on its 12-day Thanksgiving holiday. (I don't know about you, but I was lucky to get Thanksgiving Day off this year.) The latest break comes after a two-week recess around the Nov. 6 election, so the Legislature has been in session for about 45 minutes so far in November.

What has the most expensive state legislature in the country ($320 million annual operating costs) accomplished so far in 2007? Let's review. Property taxes? Nothing. Health care reform? Nothing. Open records reform? Nothing. Energy independence? Nothing. Transportation. Other than agreeing to toll Interstate 80, nothing to solve the long-term problems of the state's crumbling infrastructure and its bloated, inefficient mass transit systems. School funding reform? Nothing.

That means the 253 members of the largest and most expensive state legislature in the country will have to work extra hard in December before taking a one-month holiday recess.

This is on top of the two months the Legislature took off for the summer. It would have been longer, but their summer vacation was cut short by 16 days because the Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell couldn't agree on a state budget until 16 days into the new fiscal year.

For all the hard work this Legislature does, the members will be rewarding themselves on Dec. 1 with another pay raise.

According to Jan Murphy of The Harrisburg Patriot-News, the automatic cost-of-living-adjustment enacted by the Legislature in 1995 will kick in Dec. 1 when the base salary of a Pennsylvania lawmaker will jump to $76,163, up $2,549 from last year. This does not include the $152 a day "per diem" lawmakers collect for just showing up for work in Harrisburg.

The increase is based on the cost-of-living index in Philadelphia, which is much higher than the rest of the state. Nothing but best for our Pennsylvania lawmakers.

The 3.5 percent pay raise the Harrisburg Hogs are giving themselves is much higher than the 2.3 percent COLA adjustment Social Security recipients will receive in their monthly checks next year.

The same 1995 law provides automatic pay raises for members of the executive and judicial branches of Pennsylvania government. Those raises begin Jan. 1.

At the high end, Gov. Ed Rendell will earn $170,150 in 2008, or an increase of $5,754. Speaker of the House Dennis O'Brien and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati will collect $3,980 next year, bringing their salaries to $118,896.

Ron Castille, the next chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, will earn $186,582 in 2008. Murphy notes that Castille's salary will be $6,246 higher than outgoing Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, who set the whole 2005 pay raise debacle in motion by complaining that judges weren't paid enough.

That led to a deal between Gov. Ed Rendell, then-Speaker John Perzel and GOP leaders in the Senate to enact the middle-of-the-night pay raise on July 7, 2005.

We all know how well that deal went over. See Russ Diamond's new book "Tip of the Spear" for a blow-by-blow account of the pay raise and the aftermath. There are 55 new Legislators thanks to the pay raise vote and four of the seven seats on the state Supreme Court have turned over since the pay raise vote.

And let's not forget that all 203 members of the state House and 25 members of the state Senate will face re-election next year. The pay raise. The bonus scandal. The PHEAA mess. Ghost workers collecting taxpayer-paid salaries. Secret leadership accounts. It just goes on and on.

Other than giving its members annual pay raises and the best perks and benefits other people's money money can buy, the Political Class has done nothing to benefit Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Read the rest of Murphy's story, including some excellent comments from citizen activists about politicians' pay, at

Why the anti-Cyprus propaganda in the mainstream media?

Any organization that helps publicize the plight of the Cypriot people and the power the Turkish lobby has over Congress is alright with me.

I recently became aware of the Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA), a grassroots, not-for-profit movement created to support self-determination and human rights for the people of Cyprus.

Cyprus has been occupied by 40,000 Turkish troops since the island-nation was invaded by Turkey in 1974. Despite dozens of United Nations resolutions calling for the end of the occupation, Turkey refuses to leave Cyprus.

And whenever anyone in Congress threatens to cut off billions in U.S. aid to Turkey, the powerful Turkish lobby steps forward.

CANA has launched a new campaign to fight what it perceives as pro-Turkish sentiment in the mainstream media.

It's odd that the media would side with the aggressor, Turkey, when it comes to reporting about Cyprus.

From a CANA press release: "The Cyprus Action Network of America is greatly concerned with the wave of Anti-Cyprus sentiment by the Turkish government's international industry of denial, lies and intimidation. In just the part two months, two major global financial newspapers, on both sides of the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal in New York, and Financial Times in London, have issued articles and op-eds promoting false historical revisionism and anti-Cyprus propaganda with an eye toward legitimizing Turkey’s major war crimes of ongoing military-occupation, ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide in Cyprus."

Resolutions calling for a just end to Turkey’s brutal occupation of Cyprus, introduced into the current US Congress, have met fierce opposition, even at this late date, they have yet to cross the 10-percent plateau of support among Congressional representatives, CANA reports.

CANA is looking for support to counter the Turkish lobby and biased press coverage of the invasion and 33-year-old illegal occupation.

You can learn more by going to the Cyprus Action Network of America Web site at

Trimming the fat from school spending

While the elimination of school property taxes remains the No. 1 reform Harrisburg must pass during the current Legislative session, there's also other ways to curb runaway spending on public education in Pennsylvania.

This editorial from today's edition of The Mercury discusses some recent findings from a report on ways to put the brakes on school spending.

Hundreds of millions of dollars can be saved without jeopardizing the quality of education students receive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

GOP chairman needs to look in the mirror

Today's word is leadership, as in "an act or instance of leading, guidance, direction." Our second word of the day is teamwork, as in a "cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause."

Leadership and teamwork are two words not in Ken Davis' vocabulary. Davis is chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, a position he has held for the past three years. His tenure was been marked by dissension, discord and a noticeable decline in the once dominant Republican Party in Montgomery County.

Under Davis' rule, the party has lost seats in the state Legislature and failed to deliver Republican votes for the governor's race or U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, who wins Berks and Chester counties, but loses the Montgomery County portion of his 6th Congressional District.

Under Davis, the Republican Party has allowed Democrats to narrow the voter registration gap and the all-important money gap. This is why the race for Montgomery County commissioner was much closer than it should have been.

Under Davis' helm. the GOP lost five county row office contests on Nov. 6. All five have been held by Republicans for as long as anyone can remember, but in January there will be five Democrats hanging out at the Montgomery County Courthouse, planning their next political run while collecting a paycheck from taxpayers.

You can thank Davis for giving the Democrats new life in Montgomery County.

Based on the results of the row office fiasco and Davis' pitiful record over three years, you'd think Davis would have stepped down by now. Or at the very least offered a plausible explanation of why the Republican Party has fallen so quickly during his tenure.

Instead, Davis spent the days after the election pointing fingers.

Davis put the blame for losing the five countywide races — clerk of courts, prothonotary, coroner, register of wills and controller — on Bruce L. Castor Jr., the current Montgomery County district attorney who ran for county commissioner.

Castor did what he said he would: Keep the commissioners' board where it has been for 138 years — in Republican control. Castor finished with 84,735 votes and helped keep the GOP majority by getting Jim Matthews re-elected.

Davis didn't want Castor to head the GOP ticket. He supported Matthews and the other incumbent county commissioner, Tom Ellis. That says a lot about Davis' lack of political savvy. A Matthews-Ellis ticket would have guaranteed Democratic control of the county commissioners.

Castor not only had to face two tough Democratic opponents in Joe Hoeffel and incumbent Ruth Damsker, and take the lead in the Matthews-Castor ’07 campaign, but he also had to contend with Davis' constant sniping and backbiting.

Inexplicably, but no doubt with Davis' support, Matthews ran his own side campaign for commissioner and conveniently left Castor’s name off most of his mailings. An informed source tells me Matthews spent $300,000 on his own campaign, syphoning money that could have helped the entire Republican team.

Davis said Castor is responsible for the five row offices going to Democrats. Castor's coattails should have carried every Republican candidate to victory, according to Davis. Last time I checked, Davis was still the party chairman. When Republican candidates lose, the chairman has to look in the mirror before placing blame.

When you lose a battle, you don't blame the soldiers. You look at the general and his plan of attack. When your favorite team loses, you look at the coach and his game plan.

Davis should have gotten on his hands and knees the day after the election and thanked Castor for keeping Montgomery County in GOP control for another four years.

If you take a look at the political mailings authorized by Matthews-Castor '07, you'll find references to the "Republican Team" and profiles of all 11 GOP candidates who ran for county office, including the five row offices that ended up in Democratic hands.

Contrast that with Matthews' campaign literature, where there's no mention of anyone else on the "team." It's all about Matthews. And by extension, it's all about Davis and the man who pulls his strings, Bob Asher, a big-time GOP fundraiser and national GOP committeeman.

Asher is another party leader with a lousy track record. Republicans lost most of the statewide judicial races this year, which followed a disastrous 2006 when Pennsylvania Republicans lost control of the state House and turned over four Congressional seats to Democrats.

Davis promised to unite the party three years ago. He failed to deliver. And as party chairman, the loss of the five row offices rests squarely on his shoulders.

The Montgomery County Republican Party needs unity and leadership, especially with the presidential election year approaching.

Davis has shown repeatedly he's not a leader or someone who can put his own interests aside and be part of a winning team.

It's time for county Republicans to cut their ties with Davis and Asher.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Talk is not cheap

I came across an interesting article by Kori Walter of The Bucks County Courier-Times about a consultant who collects $25,000 a month in taxpayer dollars for offering advice to House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese.

Here's the rub. The firm does not put its advice down on paper. It's all done verbally.

No paper trail. This is brilliant. The last thing DeWeese and other top Democrats need is more evidence Attorney General Tom Corbett can use against them in the ongoing bonusgate scandal.

You have to read this story in today's Courier-Times to fully grasp what a cesspool of corruption we have in Harrisburg.

The consultant, William G. Chadwick, specializes in risk management, as in how far are House Democrats willing to go before they risk losing their 1-seat majority in the state House. Or what's the risk of DeWeese losing re-election in 2008 (he barely won his seat in 2006 and that was before everyone found out about the bonus scandal.)

An open-ended $300,000 a year contract for a firm that provides nothing in writing. Does DeWeese have to meet Chadwick in a parking garage to get this expensive advice?

Lots of conservatives, but they're cheap

The state's newest conservative newspaper, the Pennsylvania Republican, has printed its first issue, but whether there's a second issue is anybody's guess.

Publisher Chris Voccio set a fairly modest goal of 900 subscribers for his first edition, but paid readership has fallen way short of expectations.

Only 75 people have signed up for the monthly newspaper by the time its first edition hits the street tomorrow.

The December issue is 28 pages, with content from various sources including the Allegheny Institute, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, state Rep. Rick Geist (R-Altoona), and various other writers, Voccio said in a press release.

"I'm obviously disappointed with the low subscription number," Voccio said. "But I'm hopeful that once this first issue gets out there, we'll cover lost ground and begin to grow."

I think Voccio is on the right track. There are a lot of people in Pennsylvania who are not happy with the liberal slant of most of the state's newspapers.

An alternative voice is welcome. The trick is convincing people to fork over a few dollars for printed information when so much is available for free on the Internet.

Voccio has a goal of signing up 20,000 subscribers over the next three years. A one-year subscription to the newspaper is $34.95.

For more information about The Pennsylvania Republican, visit the paper's Web site at

Education reform begins with property tax elimination

The editorial in today's edition of The Mercury has an interesting take on the chicken-or-the-egg debate about whether property taxes can be eliminated while funding for education can be increased.

It's getting harder for the obstructionist legislators (mostly Democrats) to justify their stalling tactics for passage of House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.

Friday, November 16, 2007

No tax hike in Berks County in 2008 ... or maybe never?

Berks County is projecting an $83 million budget surplus as the county commissioners prepare to approve a $460 million spending plan for 2008.

So much for the dire predictions of financial ruin by the current Democratic board, which pushed through a 34 percent property tax hike in 2005.

How would you like to be Democrat Tom Gajewski, the soon-to-be former commissioner who voted for the 34 percent property tax hike?

Gajewski and his fellow Democrat Judy Schwank blew it with their sky-is-falling predictions and their 2-1 vote to pass the second biggest tax hike in county history.

That vote was the main reason the Board of Commissioners will be controlled by Republicans for the next four years (and the No. 1 reason Gajewski was voted out on Nov. 6.)

Schwank dropped out of the race over the summer to head an advocacy group in Harrisburg. Gajewski will be looking for work come January.

Even with a 6.5 percent rise in spending for 2008, the county will not need a tax increase. And don't count on any tax increases over the next four years.

The new Republican majority, Mark Scott and Christian Leinbach, ran on a campaign of fiscal discipline. Leinbach came right out and said during the campaign that he would never vote for a tax increase as long as he served.

County officials are predicting a budget shortfall in 2009 and beyond, but that's assuming county government will continue to grow.

Leinbach and Scott are expected to put the brakes on runaway government spending. Unlike many in government, Leinbach didn't run for commissioner to qualify for a government pension. He's going to be looking for ways to trim the fat and there's plenty to trim.

Even the new Democrat commissioner, Kevin Barnhardt, bragged about bringing business experience to county government. Let's hope he keeps his promise and start working with the GOP majority to trim the fat from county government.

Some people say we shouldn't blame Gajewski for voting to raise taxes and spending every year he served on the commissioners' board. He is a creature of government and has collected a paycheck from taxpayers for the past 30 years. Raising other people's taxes is all this guy knows. (See Hillary Clinton on the national stage).

You can read more about the budget online at

Pennsylvania's do-nothing Legislature

You've heard of the do-nothing Congress in Washington, D.C., but we also have a do-nothing state Legislature in Harrisburg. This item from The Mercury's editorial page sums up where things stand with the most expensive state Legislature in the country:

THORNS to those folks in Harrisburg for the disorganization, procrastination and self-serving interests that contribute to legislative business as usual in one of the most inefficient state governments in the nation. The failure to enact meaningful open-records reform has sadly been indicative of this current session’s lack of leadership. In January, legislators were promising a new era. But this year has been more of the same old way of doing things. No tax reform, no open-records reform, and no efficiencies in the conducting of legislative business. When it comes to thorns, Harrisburg is a thicket.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another bogus holiday for government workers

Did you enjoy your day off on Flag Day earlier this year? (Did you even know there was a Flag Day? Probably not, unless you're a government employee used to getting the day off as a paid holiday.)

Montgomery County government workers, who already enjoy 13 paid holidays a year, will be getting another day off next week. The Board of Commissioners recently decided to give workers off on the day after Thanksgiving.

"Black Friday" is now a legal holiday for county workers. That will give the 3,400 full-time Montgomery County employees a four-day weekend and a chance to get a jump on their holiday shopping.

The county commissioners do not control scheduling in the courts so the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown will remain open on Nov. 23. Crime does not take a holiday.

How long that tradition holds up is anyone's guess. How would like to come to work knowing that 3,400 of your fellow government workers were shopping at the mall? At least for 2007, the courts and court-related offices will remain open. Well, that's not entirely true. Most of the judges take that day off, so don't expect much more than a skeleton crew at the courthouse on "Black Friday."

And for those court employees who do show up for work, the county commissioners are offering an additional "personal" day they can use anytime during the year.

Republican Commissioners' Chairman Thomas J. Ellis told reporter Margaret Gibbons that the day off is a "reward" for the hard work by county employees. Hey, most of us work hard, Tom.

Ellis estimates the county will have to spend an additional $150,000 to pay workers with an extra personal day for working on "Black Friday." It's not like he's spending his own money, right? How many private sector workers have "Black Friday" as a paid holiday?

And when did Pennsylvania add "Black Friday" as a legal holiday for state workers?

The gap between the Political Class and the people who pay the bills just keeps getting wider.

Pottstown plans tribute to WW II veterans

A grassroots effort by a small group of dedicated volunteers to honor the men and women from the Pottstown area who served in World War II is making progress.

The World War II Memorial at Manatawny Park project even has its own Web site,, thanks to Matthew Mickletz.

The Memorial will stand "as an everlasting testament to the over 3,900 men and women from Pottstown and its nearby suburbs who served during this great conflict from 1941to 1945, according to the Web site.

The project needs money, material donations and volunteers. Learn more about how you can help by going to the Web site. You can even make your tax deductible donation online.

IRS owes Pa. taxpayers $2.7 million

The Philadelphia Business Journal has an interesting posting today about the Internal Revenue Service looking to refund $2.7 million to Pennsylvania residents.

I've heard of the IRS going after people to get money, but whoever heard of the IRS trying to find people to give money back to?

Nearly 3,265 Pennsylvania taxpayers are due more than $2.7 million, or an average of $826 statewide, according to the article. The IRS is trying to return more than $110 million in refunds nationwide.

I already checked. I'm not on the list.

Taxpayers who think the IRS owes them some money are directed to the "Where's My Refund?" tool at to check the status of refunds.

If you don't have access to the Internet, you can call a toll-free number at 1-800-829-1954. But then again, how are you reading this if you don't have the Internet?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Missing

Previously I listed 42 members of the Pennsylvania House who are co-sponsors of House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.

Since there are 203 members of the House, the vast majority of lawmakers have yet to be heard on HB 1275, which is endorsed by more than two dozen taxpayer groups across the state.

Below is a list of legislators from my neck of the woods (Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties) who are conspicuously absent from the list of HB 1275 co-sponsors. If you recognize any of the names below, you need to contact them today and ask them what's more pressing in Harrisburg than the elimination of schools property taxes? Check the previous list of co-sponsors to see if your legislator is on your side.

Find out why they are not standing with Pennsylvania taxpayers. And remind them that you will not be voting for them when they stand for re-election in 2008.

Here are The Missing lawmakers who represent districts in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties:

David Kessler (D-130)
Doug Reichley (R-134)
Tim Seip (D-125)

Thomas Killion (R-168)
Barbara McIlvaine Smith (D-156)
Duane Milne (R-167)
Chris Ross (R-158)
Carole Rubley (R-157

Lawrence Curry (D-154)
Michael Gerber (D-148)
Robert Godshall (R-53)
Kate Harper (R-61)
George Kenney Jr. (R-170)
Daylin Leach (D-149)
Kathy Manderino (D-194)
Jay Moyer (R-70)
Thomas Murt (R-152)
Josh Shapiro (D-153)
Rick Taylor (D-151)
Mike Vereb (R-150)

More support for elimination of school property taxes

A few more members of the Pennsylvania House have added their names to the list of co-sponsors for the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007 (House Bill 1275).

The latest sponsors are Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) and Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny), bringing the total number of co-sponsors to 42.

I posted the full list of 40 original sponsors on Friday.

Is your state representative on the list? If not, why not? Call or e-mail your local legislator and demand that he or she stand with Pennsylvania taxpayers in support of House Bill 1275, which would eliminate school property taxes.

A programming note:

On Monday, Nov. 19 at 7:00 PM, Rep. Sam Rohrer (R-Berks), the prime sponsor of House Bill 1275, will be on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) Call-in Program to discuss property taxes. Appearing with him will be Rep. David Levdansky, the prime sponsor of HB 1600, the fraudulent property tax "relief" plan that is actually a tax increase in disguise and is strenuously opposed by the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition and the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayers Associations.

Taxpayer groups are urging their members to call the program to voice your support of HB 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007, and especially to let Rep. Levdansky know that Pennsylvania homeowners will no longer tolerate more valueless, recycled approaches like HB 1600.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Weather Channel founder exposes global warming fraud

Meteorologist John Coleman, founder of The Weather Channel, recently blasted the global warming fear-mongers in an op ed piece largely ignored by the mainstream media, which is busy fanning the flames of global warming hysteria.

This is must reading originally posted at the Web site of ICECAP (International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project).

Coleman called the Al Gore-led global warming bandwagon, "the greatest scam in history."

We know what drives a megalomaniac like Gore, but Coleman also chides scientists "with environmental and political motives" for misleading the public about climate change.

It's all about the money, according to Coleman, who argues that a vocal segment of the scientific community "manipulated long term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming." Their motivation is to keep the research money flowing to find a solution to non-existent problem.

Throw in self-serving politicians and their allies in the mainstream media and you've created the perfect storm for worldwide hysteria.

"Environmental extremists, notable politicians among them, then teamed up with movie, media and other liberal, environmentalist journalists to create this wild 'scientific' scenario of the civilization threatening environmental consequences from Global Warming unless we adhere to their radical agenda," Coleman writes

"I do not oppose environmentalism. I do not oppose the political positions of either party. However, Global Warming, i.e. Climate Change, is not about environmentalism or politics. It is not a religion. It is not something you 'believe in.' It is science; the science of meteorology," Coleman writes. "This is my field of life-long expertise. And I am telling you Global Warming is a non-event, a manufactured crisis and a total scam."

Coleman says he and other skeptics will be vindicated in time, but the world, and the United States in particular, will have squandered precious resources on a "manufactured crisis."

"In time, a decade or two, the outrageous scam will be obvious. As the temperature rises, polar ice cap melting, coastal flooding and super storm pattern all fail to occur as predicted everyone will come to realize we have been duped. The sky is not falling. And, natural cycles and drifts in climate are as much if not more responsible for any climate changes underway. I strongly believe that the next twenty years are equally as likely to see a cooling trend as they are to see a warming trend."

The link to the ICECAP posting also directs readers to the full article by Coleman, who now works for KUSI TV Channel 51 in San Diego. Anyone who still has an open mind about the global warming hype should arm themselves with the facts presented by Coleman and stand up to the environmental fascists ... before it's too late.

Russ Diamond writes a book

Musician, businessman, politician, citizen activist, revolutionary.

Russ Diamond has been a lot of things during his 44 years. Add author to the list.

The founder of PACleanSweep, which led the fight to repeal the July 2005 pay raise and punish members of the Legislature for their betrayal of the public trust, Diamond has chronicled his efforts to reform state government in a new book, "Tip of the Spear."

Subtitled, "A Unique Perspective on Pennsylvania's Political Revolution," the 452-page book retails for $19.95.

As someone who has followed Diamond's career since 2005 (yes, that is my blurb on the back cover), I'm anxious to read the book.

You can order a copy at

The Web site also offers excerpts from the book until your copy arrives.

Makes a wonderful holiday gift for that political revolutionary in your life.

I'm sure Russ Diamond is sending autographed copies of the book to Gov. Rendell, Chief Justice Cappy and members of the Legislature his group helped oust. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Analysis: Pennsylvania has run up $105 billion in debt

There are some sobering statistics posted today by Nathan Benefield at POLICY BLOG, which is affiliated with The Commonwealth Foundation in Harrisburg.

According to numbers compiled by The Foundation, "Pennsylvania taxpayers have $105 billion in outstanding debt, or about $8,500 per person ($34,000 per family of four)."

And that's a conservative estimate of the total debt because some of the numbers are two to three years old.

A good chunk of that debt is by the state and guess who's been running the show over the past five years? None other than Ed "Tax-and-Spend-and-Borrow" Rendell.

Check out the numbers and be very afraid of where this state is headed, especially if the economy continues to falter.

Rendell (and his cronies in the Legislature, both Democrats and Republicans) have spent this state into the poor house over the past five years. And the sad part of it is that we'll be paying their debt for decades to come.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Third Best 'Shrek' Ever

I've decided to branch out into film criticism today.

I've learned to take those blurbs on movie ads from so-called critics with a grain of salt. "Spectacular!" "Superb!" "Outstanding!" Come on. How many movies can you say that about? In most cases, you're lucky if you can stay awake for the entire film.

"Shrek The Third" is coming out on DVD on Tuesday. Dreamworks is using a quote from a critic who said the third installment of the computer animated series was "The Best Shrek Ever." I saw "Shrek The Third" and all I can say is that it was "The Third Best Shrek Ever." The first two films were much better. The latest "Shrek" entry had "product" written all over it, as in the studio released a product to boost toy sales.

The plot was contrived. The jokes were lame and it was clear everyone did the film for a paycheck.

I'll talk more about individual movies in the future, but today, I'm going to give you my list of the best film I've seen so far in 2007 and some clunkers.

The Best Films of 2007 according to Tony Phyrillas:

Ghost Rider
Meet The Robinsons
Hot Fuzz
Black Book
The Last Mimzy
Black Snake Moan

Worth Watching on DVD:

Surf's Up
Evan Almighty
Smokin' Aces
Reno 911!: Miami
Catch and Release

I'm sure there's something better on C-SPAN

Shrek The Third
Bridge to Terabithia
Epic Movie
Happily N'Ever After

Now you know where "Shrek The Third" stands. Not the worst film I've seen this year, but pretty darn close.

Honor our veterans by supporting our troops overseas

As we pause on this Veterans Day to remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, let's not forget active U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We can all do our small part to help these dedicated Americans as they spend the holidays away from loved ones.

There are many organizations working to make our troops a little more comfortable while they fight thousands of miles away to protect our nation.

One of these groups is in our own backyard, Berks Enduring Freedom.

The organization is holding a drive throughout the month of November to collect items for care packages that will be delivered to American servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Collection bins have been placed in public areas around Berks County. You can find out more about what's needed for the care packages by going to the Berks Enduring Freedom Web site.

The group is also looking for more volunteers to keep this worthwhile effort going.

As you do your holiday shopping or planning for holiday parties, think about your fellow Americans oversees and the sacrifices they are making for us.

Let's all pitch in and support Berks Enduring Freedom to make the lives of our troops a little more comfortable.

Freshman lawmakers abandon taxpayers

On Friday, I listed 40 members of the Pennsylvania House who are co-sponsors of the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.

While the list of 40 co-sponsors features several members of House Republican leadership -- Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), Phillips (R-Northumberland/Snyder) and Stern (R-Blair) -- conspicuously absent are many of the members of the freshman class of 2006 who were elected on promises to reform Harrisburg and/or do something about property taxes.

Only 11 of the 50 new House members elected in 2006 are co-sponsors of House Bill 1275. They are: Cox (R-Berks); Everett (R-Lycoming); Gibbons (D-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence); Mahoney (D-Fayette); Mantz (R-Berks); Mensch (R-Montgomery); Moul (R-Adams/Franklin); Perry (R-Cumberland/York); Roae (R-Crawford); Rock (R-Franklin) and Swanger (R-Lebanon).

Where are the rest? Why isn't your legislator on the list? Why have they broken their promises to constituents? If you state legislator is not on the list of co-sponsors, find out why they oppose the elimination of school property taxes and remind them that you will vote them out in 2008 if they don't stand with taxpayers.

Newspapers want no part of gutted open records law

The Pennsylvania Legislature is back in session Tuesday and the leadership is promising action on revisions to the state's open records law. But like everything the Legislature touches, things are about to go from bad to worse in Pennsylvania.

The state's newspapers are united in their opposition to the House version of government openness.

Read this editorial from today's edition of The Mercury and contact your lawmakers to tell them you won't accept another smoke-and-mirror approach to legislation.

Friday, November 09, 2007

33 Republicans, 7 Democrats back bill to eliminate property taxes

Good news on the property tax front.

The School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007, the only measure endorsed by the two dozen active citizen taxpayer associations in Pennsylvania, has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 1275 has received the backing of 33 Republican and 7 Democratic members of the House. My first question: Why isn't your state legislator supporting this effort to eliminate property taxes? A bill needs a majority of 102 votes to pass the House.

Now is the time to get your lawmaker on the record when it comes to property tax relief. Find out where he or she stands on House Bill 1275 so you can decide if they deserve re-election 2008.

Is there a more pressing issue facing Pennsylvania than property tax reform? Don't settle for half-measures (House Bill 1600) pushed by House Democrats. That bill offers a temporary reduction in property taxes and a permanent increase in other taxes to make up the difference. Homeowners will end up worse off under this so-called tax relief plan.

The only solution is elimination of property taxes, which is the goal of House Bill 1275.

According to David Baldinger of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition, the following 40 House members have co-sponsored House Bill 1275.

Rohrer (R-Berks)
Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill)
Quigley (R-Montgomery)
Cox (R-Berks)
Yewcic (D-Cambria/Somerset)
Denlinger (R-Lancaster)
Phillips (R-Northumberland/Snyder)
Stern (R-Blair)
Baker (R-Bradford/Tioga)
Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware)
Bastian (R-Bedford/Somerset)
Caltagirone (D-Berks)
Cappelli (R-Lycoming)
Creighton (R-Lancaster)
Everett (R-Lycoming)
Gabig (R-Cumberland)
Gibbons (D-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence)
Gillespie (R-York)
Goodman (D-Schuylkill)
Harris (R-Juniata/Mifflin/Snyder)
Hennessey (R-Chester)
Hershey (R-Chester)
Hess (R-Bedford/Fulton/Huntingdon)
Kauffman (R-Cumberland/Franklin)
Mackereth (R-York)
Mahoney (D-Fayette)
Mantz (R-Berks)
McIlhattan (R-Armstrong/Clarion)
Mensch (R-Montgomery)
Moul (R-Adams/Franklin)
Perry (R-Cumberland/York)
Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana)
Readshaw (D-Allegheny)
Roae (R-Crawford)
Rock (R-Franklin)
Santoni (D-Berks)
Saylor (R-York)
Schroder (R-Chester)
Steil (R-Bucks)
Swanger (R-Lebanon)

If your state representative is not on this list, get on the phone or e-mail today to find out why they won't stand with Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Beware of this 'family movie' from Hollywood liberals

One of my regular readers passed this information on to me today. I'm sure this movie will be marketed as a holiday film for the entire family, but make no mistake about it. This is not "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."

Here's the e-mail:

"THE GOLDEN COMPASS," a new movie targeted at children, will be released Dec. 7, 2007. This movie is based on a the first book of a trilogy by atheist Philip Pullman. In the final book a boy and girl kill God so they can do as they please. Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that "My books are about killing God." The movie is a watered-down version of the first book and is designed to be very attractive in the hope unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the the movie and that the children will want the books for Christmas. The movie has a well known cast, including Nicole Kidman, Kevin Bacon and Sam Elliott. It will probably be advertised extensively, so it is crucial that we get the word out to warn parents to avoid this movie. (I don't know Sam Elliott's political leanings, but Bacon and Kidman are liberal activists, like 99 percent of Hollywood.)

You can research this for yourself. Start with this article on

There's also an interesting take on the controversy surrounding "The Golden Compass" at