Friday, June 30, 2006

A Sweeping, Historic Landmark

It doesn't take much to prod us media types into adjectival overload.

In our kit bag of clichés, every reform must be sweeping, every bill a landmark, every debate historic.

It reminds me of George Bernard Shaw's observation about the failing of the media of his day – it's inability to distinguish between a bicycle accident and the collapse of western civilization.

But, I do think we had a genuine, bona fide historic moment this week when Gov. Rendell signed the property-tax reform bill.

It was the culmination of a 50-year debate over how to wean local governments off reliance on property taxes as the principal means of paying for public education.

During that half-century, there was widespread agreement – at least among political and government types – that taxes on property tended to be unfair, cumbersome to administer and unsuited to the needs of modern government. An 18th century relic in the 21st century state.

There was even agreement on what to do about it: shift from reliance on property taxes to some form of income tax or consumption tax.

This was the suggestion of study commissions and tax legislation championed by George Leader, Milton Shapp, Dick Thornburgh and, most famously, Bob Casey Sr.

Casey even got the legislature to agree to a plan to reduce property taxes by increasing local income and sales taxes.

Because it required a Constitutional amendment, it was presented to the voters, who shot it down in 1989 by a 3-1 margin.

The whys and wherefores of that defeat have been picked over for years, but I'll try to summarize.

One. Such plans tend to be complex. In theory, it is a simple transaction – resembling a seesaw – property taxes go down, while other taxes go up to an equal degree.

In reality, because of the nature of the legislative process, what usually emerges is a three-dimensional hexahedral structure resembling Crick and Watson's model for DNA.

Second. People don't like taxes. When they think taxes, they don't want shift, they want cut. They are also suspicious, and rightly so, that when politicians say shift, they really mean increase.

They look at that hexahedral structure, with its interlocking strands, and say: Screw it!

The central tension of government is that people love the services it renders and loath the taxes required to pay for them. Partisan politics feeds on that contradiction.

To quote Sen. Russell Long, the attitude of most folks is: "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree."

Well, Ed Rendell found someone behind the tree willing to pay the tax.

Donald Trump.

There were legislators, particularly Republican legislators, who abhorred Rendell's idea of introducing casino gambling into the state. But, they loathed raising taxes even more. In effect, they became gambling's enablers.

There were others (I'm in this group) who thought it would be cleaner, simpler and more sensible to raise the sales or income tax to pay for the property tax relief. But they had gotten nowhere for 50 years.

Rendell's gambling idea changed the debate because it had an alluring aspect for legislators in both parties: When it came to taxes, why fight over how to slice the pie, when you can bake a whole new pie? The aroma of $2 billion in slots revenue proved irresistible.

You have to give Ed Rendell credit or, conversely, you have to curse him.

He came into office saying he would do two things:

One. Increase state taxes so we can increase the state's share of paying for public education, thus relieving local government of some of its burden. He did that.

Two. Cut local property taxes by introducing casino gambling into Pennsylvania. He did that, too.

And he seems perfectly happy to stand on that record as he seeks re-election.

Come to think of it, maybe that's another sweeping, historic landmark, too. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reality Check

Politics is 90 percent bullshit and 10 percent cold, hard reality.

Reality comes in two varieties: money and vote totals.

We won't know the vote totals until November, but we can look at the money now.

Here is a list of selected races using the cash-on-hand measurement -- the amount of money a candidate had in his or her campaign treasury as of the latest date available.

For state races that date is June 5th. For federal races it is April 26th.

This is the money these candidates have available going into the summer months.

* = Incumbent

Race - Governor
Ed Rendell * (D) $13,786,783
Lynn Swann (R) $3,250,331
Note: Ratio 4-1. Rendell has $13.7 on hand, despite spending $1.86 million in a statewide TV buy in May-June. Swann not only must run against an incumbent, but against one of America's premier fundraisers.

Race - U.S. Senate
Rick Santorum * (R) $7,789,703
Bob Casey (D) $4,474,331
Note: Ratio 1.75-1. A clear advantage to the incumbent. It allows Santorum to go up on TV now and stay up through the fall to "decalcify" the race, as his campaign manager put it. An effective statewide buy costs about $800,000-$900,000 a week.

Race - U.S. House

6th District
Jim Gerlach * (R) $1,096,164
Lois Murphy (D) $ 961,622
Note: Ratio 1-1. Now you know why this is one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country, with Gerlach considered among the most vulnerable incumbents.

7th District
Curt Weldon * (R) $826,466
Joe Sestak (D) $436,455
Note: Ratio 2-1. A textbook case of the advantages of incumbency, with Weldon stepping up his fundraising effort in the face of a serious challenge. His seniority on the House Armed Services Committee helps.

8th District
Mike Fitzpatrick * (R) $1,383,023
Patrick Murphy (D) $ 341,409
Note: Ratio 4-1. Murphy must do better to remain competitive against this first-termer.

10th District
Don Sherwood * (R) $474,255
Chris Carney (D) $ 83,663
Note: Ratio 6-1. Sherwood is potentially vulnerable because of charges that he slapped around his mistress, but Carney needs to do better to take the "potentially" out of this sentence.

13th District
Allyson Schwartz * (D) $1,133,222
Raj Bhakta (R) $78,806
Note: Ratio 15-1. So much for the power of celebrity.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Curt's Excellent Adventure

It's aftermath time on Rick Santorum's WMD claims regarding Iraq and also time to introduce a new player in the drama -- Curt Weldon.

For starters, though the Santorum claims are being poo-pooed by defense experts, etc., Pennsylvania's U.S. Senator is sticking by his guns. Or, rather, his shells.

As my colleague Chris Mondics reported today. An excerpt:

Santorum insisted that a just-released intelligence report proves that Saddam Hussein had weapons that in the hands of terrorists could have become weapons of mass destruction.

The partially declassified report, put together by a Defense Department agency, revealed that American forces have recovered about 500 rounds of chemical-weapons shells containing "degraded" mustard or sarin nerve gas in Iraq.

"Is 500 rounds a serious threat?" Santorum asked. "I would make the argument that we had reached the threshold. The concern with chemical and biological weapons was not so much that he would use them against us but that they would secrete out to terrorist organizations for them to use."

What does "degraded" mean? Apparently it means inert. The 500 rounds have been sitting around for so long -- perhaps as long as 25 years -- they don't pack any pop.

Santorum aside, there are folks who believe there are still uncovered WMD's in Iraq. The New York Times Times had a piece on one such guy the other day.

His name is Dave Gaubatz, a former Air Force investigator and civilian employee who spent several months in Iraq during the recent (and continuing) war.

Gaubatz has been searching out sites of possible WMD's and offering his information to various elected officials, in the hope of getting a hearing. One of them was our own U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.)

I found Gaubatz's web site and, sure enough, he tells his story there -- though it is clear that he currently is no fan of Weldon's, whom he came to suspect was interested in the the guy's WMD info only for political reasons.

He also says that, at one point, Weldon wanted to travel to Iraq with Gaubatz to personally uncover the sites (and, presumably, bask in the attendant publicity -- if he didn't get killed or beheaded first.)

As Gaubatz relates the tale:

On 16 Mar 2006, I had a meeting with Congressman Weldon and his Chief of Staff (Russ Caso) in Wshington DC.
Congressman Weldon did not want anyone in DOD or the NRO to be notifed, because in his words he did not trust them and they would attempt to take credit for locating WMD in Iraq.

Congressman Weldon advised he would go through private corporations to confirm the grid coordinates of the sites.

Toward the end of Mar 2006, I was contacted by a private imaging company (arranged by Congressman Weldon) and we discussed the site locations.

Several telephone conferences and emails between Congressman Wedlon, Hoekstra, and their staff were exchanged during the period Mar - May 5, 2006, pertaining to the WMD sites.

I had been requested by Congressman Weldon (who had telephoned me at home and work) to arrange a meeting with 3 Iraqi citizens who were aware of one of the WMD sites in Basra, Iraq.

On 4 May 2006, Congressman Weldon, Congressman Hoekstra, members of their staff, the three Iraqi citizens, and myself discussed the suspected sites in detail.

Congressman Weldon asked me several times during the meeting if I would go with them (to include the 3 Iraqis) to the four sites near Basrah and Nasiriyah, Iraq.

During the meeting it was discussed that no member of their respective committees would be informed, specifically no member of the Democratic party.

Congressman Weldon whom I had respected very much then advised no member of the "Military" was to be informed because they could not be trusted with this intelligence information.

Congressman Hoekstra did not like this statement, nor did I.

I now did not feel comfortable going with Congressman Weldon because this was going to be a 'political personal venture" more so than for national security concerns.

It would also not be safe for two Congressmen to go to isolated locations in southern Iraq.

So, let's add it up:

Don't tell the Democrats.
Don't tell anyone in the intelligence community.
Don't tell the Department of Defense.
Don't tell the military on the ground in Iraq.
Just go and look for the WMD's Gaubatz believes he has located, dig 'em up and do a photo op.

Sounds like shameless grandstanding to me, in a war zone no less.
Sounds like it's kinda whacky, too.
Sounds like typical Weldon. Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 23, 2006

This & That for Friday

This: Lynn Swann outlines his program for public education. For some reason, he does not embrace my innovative, sure-fire Bake Sale proposal. (See No. 3)

That: The House passes a lobbyist disclosure bill and Dave Ralis thinks it's a crock.

This: After what seems to be a century of lobbying, supporters finally get the Senate to pass an increase in the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. It will go up to $7.15 an hour next year with some exceptions. Someone who deserves credit: state Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D., Phila.), for whom this bill has been a personal crusade.

That: Meanwhile, the Senate passes a proposed Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- but with an important change intact that allows civil unions. John Baer gives the Senate a pat on the back for doing the right thing, the second he's bestowed in the last 25 years.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Back In Business

After a haitus, this blog is back in business.

I had to shut down last week because of recurring problems with #$%*&%%, but I have ginned up some solutions (using Picassa to import pix, instead of the import system). I have twice purged my cookies, which sounds kind of gross now that I read it, but it did let me gain access to my blog page.

I have been able to post two items today that appear below.

Thanks for your patience.

-- Tom Ferrick

Do I Have Any Bids?

As Yoda would put it, stuck in the mud is Lynn Swann.

The Republican candidate for governor can't get a break.

One day he announces that he raised more than $1.5 million in 32 days -- and most of the media compare the size of his campaign fund (paltry) to that of Gov. Ed Rendell (humongous).

The next day out comes the latest Quinnipiac poll that shows Swann (gulp) 22 points behind Rendell. Worse yet, the same poll shows the Democratic incumbent with the support of 27% of Republicans. Geez.

Out of the rut must Swann pull his wagon. Here to help am I.

Here are 10 ways for the Republican gubernatorial candidate to raise money and build political support. I modestly call it the "Pathway to Victory."

1. Sell one of your SuperBowl rings on eBay to raise money for the campaign. It shows you are truly committed to your cause, it will probably net $100,000, and it will give you millions in free publicity. Good for 2 points.

2. Challenge Rendell to a football pass & catch competition, to be held at the Linc in Philly. Loser pays winner $1 million. Good for 2 points.

3. To appeal to the T, go to Lancaster to announce a new plan for property tax relief that can be done immediately and will not require legislative approval. Tout the Lynn Swann School Bake Sale Plan as "an entrepreneurial, free-enterprise, All-American way to fund public education." Get Pat Toomey to endorse the idea. Get him to wiggle his ears at the news conference. TV will eat it up. Good for 3 points.

4. Reach into the Post-Bug playbook to attract black voters. Go to Philadelphia, hold a news conference, and announce that you just learned you are the target of a federal investigation into corruption. Say: "It's just another example of the Bush administration targeting African-American politicians." If the U.S. Attorney denies there is an investigation, reply: "They'll do anything and say anything to deny me the governorship!" Good for 5 points.

5. Court the anti-pay grab crowd. Hold a news conference with Gene Stilp saying that if elected governor you will not accept any salary. In fact, you are going to voluntarily give the state treasury an annual payment of $25,000 "just for the privilege of letting me hold the job." Good for 2 points.

6. Dump that Matthews guy you've got running as your lieutenant governor and replace him with Ron Jaworski. Great balance: Steelers & Eagles; Quarterback & Receiver. Tell critics that Jaworski is perfect for the job because he won't favor any one area of the state. He lives in New Jersey. Good for 3 points.

7. Send out a flyer in suburban Philly criticizing Rendell's "secret plan" to have Bucks, Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties annexed by Philadelphia after the election. Better make this anonymous. I can give you the names of political consultants who specialize in these pieces. Good for 9 points.

8. Announce a "Building Pennsylvania Back Up Again Plan!" to attract new industries and jobs to Pennsylvania, with the goal of creating 250,000 new jobs. Good for 1 point.

9. The next day announce building jobs to Pennsylvania can't wait, Depart for a 20-state, 10-week tour of America to personally lobby businessmen to relocate to our state. Depart to cheers of supporters. Appoint Tom Ridge as your campaign surrogate and have him campaign for you through Labor Day. Good for 6 points.

10. After Labor Day, announce via teleconference from California that you are making progress in your "Building Pennsylvania Back Up Again Plan!" but that you must extend it through Halloween. Have Tom Ridge continue campaigning. Good for 5 points.

Return on election eve for victory party.

Savor headlines that call you "Landslide Lynn." Posted by Picasa

Pass the Mustard Gas

WMD's Found In Iraq!

That was the buzz yesterday on Fox News et al., a mini-storm created by our very own Sen. Rick Santorum, who held a news conference with the chair of the House Intelligence Committee to announce the revelation. Here is Santorum's blog on the issue.

Outside of Fox, though, the issue didn't get much play. I wondered why? Was the leftist-liberal-defeat-dog media once again suppressing info. that would back the President's case for invading Iraq.

Well, no. It turns out it wasn't news because it wasn't new.

These are old shells, with decayed mustard and nerve gas, that date from the Gulf War I in 1991. They were discovered and disclosed by the U.S. military two years ago.

The Washington Post, in reporting the Santorum news conference, included this pithy graph:

The U.S. military announced in 2004 in Iraq that several crates of the old shells had been uncovered and that they contained a blister agent that was no longer active. Neither the military nor the White House nor the CIA considered the shells to be evidence of what was alleged by the Bush administration to be a current Iraqi program to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Last night, intelligence officials reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Oh well. Good try.

P.S. I didn't hear it myself, but I understand Delaware County's own U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon was on WCAU "The Big Talker" yesterday, ranting about a piece I did in my column wondering how he could think there is credible evidence of WMD's in Iraq, an assertion he made to the Delco Times a few weeks ago.

It was one of those Quasi-Wacky Weldon Rants the embattled incumbent favors so much these days.

Weldon cited the Santorum news conference as proof that he was right and I was wrong.

Sorry, Curt it just doesn't cut the mustard.

(I couldn't help myself.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Crystal Ball Department

My pundit's crystal ball is out of the shop good as new, so I might as well peer into it and see what's what with the future.

Let me set it for 2010.

Hold on, an image is arriving. I see people lined up at a craps table at a big casino. At another, they are playing 21. I see a throng of gamblers around a roulette wheel. There are poker tables aplenty, each seat filled with players.

Where is this happening? I'll move my crystal-ball minicam to the outside and do a scan. What's that I see in the distance?

Why, it's the Philadelphia skyline!

Why am I not surprised? To use the adjectives employed by its supporters, the monumental, astonishing, incredible, breakthrough, historic property-tax bill passed by the state House on Wednesday is predicated on the state getting $1 billion in revenue from gambling.

Currently, slots is the only gambling permitted in Pennsylvania. (Not that any slots parlors are up and running yet. My crystal ball says the first won't even open until 2008.)

What happens when the slots yield less than the promised $1 billion, as it inevtiably will?

We will have three choices: (1) reduce the amount of property tax assistance offered by the state to our beloved seniors and local schools districts; (2) raise the income tax or sales tax to make up the difference; (3) allow gambling to be expanded to include other games of chance.

Which do you think the legislature and governor will pick?

You don't really need a crystal ball to answer that question.

In the meantime, there's a speedbump on the roadway to progress.

Ted Decker, chair of the state's Gaming Control Commission has warned there may not be any casinos in our future, unless the seven-member commission can agree on competing lists of slots suppliers.

The gambling law requires that the casino operators purchase their slot machines from Pennsylvania-based firms which, astonishing as it may seem, have ended up being dominated by politically-connected investors.

The commission can't decide how to divvy -- I mean allocate -- the business among the competing firms. Stalemate has ensued. Without an approved lists, there can be no slots suppliers, without slots suppliers there can be no slots parlors, without slots parlors there can be no....well, you get the point.

The problem here is that the gambling legislation required the commission to operate under a "super-majority" -- any action is takes must be approved by five commissioners -- and the four appointed by each legislative caucus and the governor's appointee must be included in that majority.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why Are These Men Smiling?

Harrisburg keeps serving up surprises.

Sen. Jane Earll of Erie was the latest to serve one up Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee by taking the knife to a proposed Constitutional amendment designed to outlaw gay marriage.

As originally drafted -- and as passed by the state House -- the amendment read thusly:

"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this Commonwealth, and neither the Commonwealth nor any of its political subdivisions shall create or recognize a legal status identical or substantially equivalent to that of marriage for unmarried individuals."

Here is the language, apres the Earll amendment, which was approved by the committee 13-1.

"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this Commonwealth."

What's it all mean?

To quote that noted political analyst Mother Goose, Earll took the amendment and turned it in, turned it out and turned it into sauerkraut.

No wonder the pro-Family groups are in a dither.

By indirection, the Earll amendment allows counties and the state to approve domestic partnerships and/or civil unions. The original amendment banned such arrangements.

What's the difference between a marriage and a civil union? You got me. I thought marriage was a civil union (as opposed to Matrimony.)

Why the 13-1 vote? It was the Senate's way of saying to the House: "Go away and don't bug us with this cockamamie issue now."

My bet is, it kills the amendment.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No Habla Inglese? No Reado My Blogo

Beginning today and until further notice, if you cannot speak English you are not permitted to read my blog.

This is an English-only blog, for English-only readers.

The rest of you must scram -- and make it pronto!

The sina qua non of success in this country is knowing how to read and speak English.

English is the linqua franca of the world. If you live in this country, you better embrace English. And if you don't want to?

How about this: You can leave! Go back where you came from. Capice?

In this patriotic stance, I am inspired by Joe Vento, owner and proprietor of Geno's Steaks in South Philly, about 4 blocks from where I live.

Joe took a stand. He posted a sign in his window that says: "This is AMERICA. WHEN ORDERING, 'SPEAK ENGLISH.' "

I guess he was tired of those Frenchies coming and ordering a boef-stek avec fromage or those little Mexicans you see around the Italian Market these days. They are popping up everywhere. They are even taking over empty storefronts and opening groceries.

You know what's next: They are going to get married, start having children and settle down.

There goes the neighborhood.

Since Joe announced his ban, he's gotten worldwide publicity, lots of network interviews. He's been blogged to death.

This is all good and it got me thinking. Why can't I share in the limelight, or maybe get a little corner of it?

Why can't I have my 15 minutes of fame, even if it's as an ignoramus?

Vento told The Inquirer last month that: "If you can't tell me what you want, I can't serve you."

This applies not only to foreign-born people, but folks from elsewhere in America.

Let's face it, if you are from Cleveland or Minnesota or Tennessee or Mississippi you don't speak real English. It's ersatz, like a Esperanto or Yiddish or something.

We Philadelphians can barely understand you.

An example: I've heard people at restaurants in Philly ask the waitress for WHA-ter.

For the record, it's WOOD-er.

If you can't tell her what you want, how can she serve you?

Ditto for leg and egg.

In English, it is LAIG and AIG. Not LEHG or EHG.

If you go into a restaurant, you don't say:
Do YOU have any EHGS?

You say:
Do YOUZ have any AIGS?

Here are some other words often mispronounced by outsiders:

kEL-er. As in: I went to Best Buy's and bought a color TV.
bu-TEE-ful. As in: My, what a beautiful dress.
wid. As in, I'd like that cheesteak with cheese.
ANT-knee. As in: I often pray to St. Anthony for guidance.

So practice after me:

"ANT-knee, I want a cheesteak wid and my bu-TEE-ful wife would like a fried AIG sam-ITCH. I'll take a Pepsi. She's want an ARNGE soda. How mudge do I owe youz? Ten BUGS? Dat's a lot. I kin get it for cheaper from the Mexikins down the street. "

Practice and you'll do okay at Geno's. If you are refused service, not to worry.

There's a little Mexikin place called La Lupe across the street.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rubik's Cube

Now, it is the House Republicans turn to solve the Rubik's Cube of property tax reform.

GOP House members last month rejected a proposed compromise worked out between Gov. Rendell and the state Senate.

Word is that the House is mulling (I love it when they mull) a proposal that would increase the state sales tax from 6% to 6.5% to raise about $650 million that, in combination with slots revenues, would go towards lowering property taxes. The Patriot News has a piece on it today.

Is there any reason to think this plan will succeed where others have failed? You got me.

After the primary, I sent my crystal ball into the shop for some much-needed repairs.

Two quick notes, though:

1) If the plan calls for an increase in state taxes (in this case, a 12% increase in the sales tax) it's not the best timing, this being an election year with so many incumbents jittery over voter anger.

2) How can Harrisburg justify increasing taxes when the state has a huge surplus, which currently amounts to $722 million?

FYI: Rendell has a plan to spend some of that surplus (a mix of tax cuts, new spending and socking some of it away in the state' Rainy Day Fund.)

At its base, I think there's a disconnect between policymakers' and regular folks' understanding of what constitutes "property tax reform."

The policymakers see it as tax redistribution -- lower property taxes but keep the size of the pie the same or even make it bigger by raising some other tax (sales tax, local income tax?) or finding new revenue (from slots, etc.)

Voters tend to see it -- simply and plainly -- as tax reduction. They are happy to have their taxes property taxes cut, but what makes anyone think they like the idea of having other taxes raised to make up for the lost money?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another Message from God

First, let Me say that I am eternally grateful to the author of this blog for giving Me this space to allow Me to elucidate on My support to Gov. Rendell, known as "Eddie" to Me.

And when I say eternal, I mean eternal.

People were surprised when I endorsed Eddie. They expected Me maybe to support Lynn Swann? Get a life! Everyone who knows Me knows I am a Cowboys fan. I could never forgive Swann for what he did to us in SuperBowl X, not to mention SuperBowl XIII.

And when I say never, I mean never.

People have said to Me: "God, Swann's campaign isn't doing well. He's behind in the polls. Even the Washington Times has given his campaign a C-. Isn't your endorsing Rendell just an example of piling on? It doesn't seem fair."

I reply unto them: Who said life was fair? I am the God of Israel. The God of the Old Testament. I'm not the touchy-feelie-turn-your-cheek-the-other-way God of the New Testament. I smite people. I whack them around. I punish them in terrible ways. Think Job. Think Lot. Think Jonah. Think Sodom. Think Gomorrah.

Speaking of Sodom and Gomorrah, I am reminded of Harrisburg.

I am not at all amused by the antics there. I sent that message in the primary with Jubelirer and Brightbill and the others (Yes, it was Me.) and what happens when they get back? The first thing they do is pass a constitutional amendment about gay marriage.

This whole gay marriage thing is My territory not yours! It's not up to you to sit in judgment. That's My job. It's in the specs.

I would suggest that before you start trying to take over My job, you start doing your job better. Yes, I am talking to you John Perzel. And the rest of you.

I'm going to give you forty days and forty nights to straighten up and fly right. I'm talking lobbyist reform. I'm talking property tax reform. I'm talking about true reform of the legislature.

Get on the stick and do it before the November election break and I will be well pleased.

Lollygag and dilly-dally, drag your feet and do the usual hemming and hawing, and I may smite you.

And when I say smite, I mean smite.

I'm not going to tip my hand, but I will give you a hint: If I were a member of the legislature, I wouldn't stand too close to any electrical outlets.

Think about it.

In the meantime, Vote for Eddie. He's My Man.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bulletin! God Endorses Rendell

This just in, as reported by Michael Race in today's Scranton Tribune.

Minister: God Backs Rendell Re-election
During a voter awareness event in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, the incumbent Democrat received word via a Lycoming County minister — a registered Republican, no less — that God has “decreed” he will be re-elected to a second term.

“I was a little stunned, to be honest,” a smiling governor said afterward.

The campaign bombshell was dropped by the Rev. Carl Vining, pastor of the nondenominational House of Judah Ministries in Montgomery and a chaplain-on-call for the state Senate.

As the reverend introduced Mr. Rendell to a packed Rotunda, he told those gathered that “the God of Israel” recently sent word through him on the outcome of this year’s gubernatorial election.

“The God of Israel said, ‘One more term,’” the Rev. Vining told Mr. Rendell.

The announcement sparked applause from some in attendance and chuckles from others.

The Rev. Vining later insisted it’s no joke.

“God spoke to me to tell Governor Ed Rendell that he was anointed by the God of Israel for another term,” he told a reporter. “That means he’s going to win the election.”

Did God give a reason?

“God has his own reasoning. It’s the will of our father in Heaven,” the Rev. Vining said.

The Rev. Vining said he has received similar decrees on other matters, usually more personal in nature.

He said this marked the first time he has received a message from a higher power regarding a gubernatorial election.


What effect will this surprise endorsement have on the race?

Political analysts were divided:

"Endorsements don't mean as much as they used to," said Terry Madonna, adding that even though he was named after the Blessed Virgin Mary, "it didn't make it any easier for me to get tenure."

Jon Delano said he doubted the Deity's endorsment would have an effect in western Pennsylvania, where Rendell's popularity is weakest. "You have to remember, the people out here are pretty dense," Delano said.

Delano said that God would have to send a clear sign that He is serious about His support for the Democratic incumbent.

"Forty days and forty nights of rain ought to do it," said Delano, "maybe followed by a a plague of locusts."

Meanwhile, Daily News columnist John Baer said he originally had doubts about God's endorsement of Rendell. Joked Baer: "I thought He only endorsed Republicans."

But, Baer said that he changed his mind when, in the midst of writing a skeptical column, his hair and teeth fell out. "Call me convinced," Baer wrote.

Tim Johnson, a spokesman for Lynn Swann, Rendell's Republican opponent, wondered out loud whether Rendell backers had pressured God to support the incumbent.

"This looks like just another example of the low and dirty tactics used by the Rendell campaign," Johnson complained.

Johnson then turned into a pillar of salt.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said he was genuinely surprised by the endorsement.

"In all my conversations with God, He's never mentioned Rendell," Santorum said.

Santorum told God "not to be too hasty" in endorsing any Democrats. He also warned God "not to go snooping around my Penn Hill's house."

Santorum was then struck by a bolt of lightning.

Meanwhile, dark and ominous storm clouds gathered over the Republican "T" and the National Weather Service issued a severe weather warning, calling for "periods of torrential rain, along with scattered brimstone."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Questions & Answers

Question: Who had two big helpings of humble pie yesterday? Answer.

Question: Is 2nd prize two days? Answer.

Question: Ever hear of the PR Client from Hell? Answer.

Question: Is he having second thoughts? Answer.

Quote of the Day:
From an admiring Democratic operative on John Perzel (as quoted by John Baer): "He kills his wounded and eats his dead."

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Whole Pig

Pull up a chair. Someone get the popcorn.

The Pennsylvania Legislature is back into session today for the first time since the May 16th primary, when a record number of incumbents went down.

Now, let's watch the ramifactions of that voter revolt, particularly for the Republicans who control the House and the Senate and who suffered serious losses in the election.

For starters, I hear there may be a challenge to leadership of the House Republican caucus, with Majority Leader Sam Smith the most likely target.

Why Smith? Because the newly energized conversatives in the caucus know they don't have the votes and don't have the candidate to oust House Speaker John Perzel.

If they are inclined to go after Perzel, though, the dissidents have more ammunition today, thanks to an article Sunday in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which catalogued some lavish spending by Perzel from his campaign fund -- spending that includes trips to the Super Bowl and Las Vegas and scads of big expense account meals, one of which included $150 bottles of wine.

Very Roman. Very Imperial. Very dangerous disclosures, given the climate in Harrisburg.

In the Senate, Republicans are wondering who will do the negotiating for them on the state budget, which is supposed to pass before June 30.

Should it be Bob Jubelirer and Chip Brightbill? They are the lamest of lame ducks, ousted by voters in their districts in the primary. Sen. Noah Wenger, head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is retiring voluntarily.

Word is the GOP may tap Sen. Roger Madigan as a temporary, de facto caucus leader for budget neogitations. Madigan has no ambitions to leadership, so he's seen as a safe and steady choice.

Meantime, let's look at the current spin on the primary, beginning with Jubelirer, who told the Patriot-News over the weekend that he was felled by "what he still sees as a strange alliance of extreme right-wing Republicans, motivated by pay-raise anger, and a liberal media challenging voters to do something about it."

For an example of what he's talking about, see the Inquirer's recent Citizens of the Year editorial.

How long will that strange alliance last? My guess is: about 15 minutes.

Having attained a piece of power, conservatives are making it clear they didn't run just to pass a few bills on ethics and lobbyist disclosure.

They want to go after the whole pig. State government.

In short, they are looking forward to driving their leaders, not to mention Gov. Rendell, crazy.

This looks like the end of the Era of Pragmatic Partisanship, personified by the Rendell-Perzel relationship.

And the beginning of what? How about a holy war, ala the crusades, with Republicans wearing the insignia of the Club for Growth, which I think is a pair of scissors.

Here is Pat Twoomey's take on the primary -- and a call for action -- in a piece that ran in the Inquirer. Or read Mike Folmer, who defeated Brightbill, in the Wall Street Journal calling for a return to the core Republican values of "lower taxes, less spending and limited government." Finally, there is Louis Petolicchio's blog post on Keystone Review, that crows about the conservative victory on May 16th, and never once mentions the liberal allies (such as Tim Pott's Democracy Rising) that helped engineer the coup.

It you want a taste of what these Republicans would like to see happen, check out the long screed by the Commonwealth Foundation, titled "The Piglet Book" that calls for a Sherman's March through the state budget, with $4 billion in cuts.

The situation reminds me of Theodore White's Law of Unintended Consequences, which states that for every action often is an equal and -- and totally unforeseen -- reaction.

Friday, June 02, 2006

To Be Or Not To Be

The feds are making a move against state Sen. Vincent Fumo.

In dawn raids on Wednesday, the FBI arrested two lowly computer techies employed by the senator and charged them with obstruction of justice.

Their alleged crime: systematically wiping out all emails and other material from Fumo and Fumo staff computers whilst the feds were seeking said material and emails from the computers.

Obviously, the feds want to squeeze these two defendants to see if they can flip them and get them to testify against their boss.

See The Inquirer's package of stories for details.

As a result of the file purging, very few Fumo emails got into the hands of the FBI, but there is one included in the federal documents released as part of the indictment. It is rant to an unnamed aid.

According to the fed document, Fumo wanted to know details of what the feds were asking one of the company's involved in the investigation, but the company's lawyers were refusing to divulge anything, citing attorney-client privilege.

When the aid emails Fumo that the company's attorney probably won't tell him anything, Fumo responds with a rant that, to me, reads like free-form poetry. Here is my parsing of the Fumo email, including original spelling and capitalization. Warning: It contains explicit language.

Vincent's Soliloquy

FRIENDS are supposed
to help FRIENDS!!!
Not give them that kind of
NO ONE is ever going to tell
the fucking client
But if that is the way
they want to be
to a freind then
fuck them.

Ask anyway,
so that we will know
if we have
a future friend
or an enemy
in your current friend!!!
There is no middle ground
in this one!!
You know how serious
and almost
life threatening
this is.

So let them know that
and if they still want to
fuck us
or stand by and watch
as we get fucked
then so be it.

We will nevver forget.
One way or the other.
And right now
they owe us big time!!!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Questions & Answers

Another current events quiz, ripped from today's headlines.

Question: Guess who's running for re-election? Answer

Question: Is that hot breath he feels on his neck? Answer

Question: Which state agency needs a new personnel director? Answer

Question: Who refuses to take "No" for an answer? Answer

Question: What is one-third of $25 billion? Answer