Jan 28, 2011

Schwank Vs. Medaglia in special election for PA Senate seat

What I know about Larry Medaglia Jr., the Republican candidate in the special election for the 11th state Senate seat in Berks County: The Berks County Register of Wills office is more efficient thanks to reforms Medaglia has instituted, saving taxpayers money.

What I know about Judy Schwank, the Democratic candidate: When she was chairwoman of the Berks County Commissioners four years ago, she was the deciding vote for a 34% property tax hike for Berks County homeowners and businesses.

The race is basically a fiscal conservative vs. a tax-and-spend liberal.

The election to fill the unexpired term of the late Sen. Mike O'Pake will be held Tuesday, March 15.

Schwank Vs. Medaglia in special election - Boyertown Area Times - Berks-Mont News

Jan 11, 2011

Rendell’s Legacy: High Taxes, Low Ratings And Clenched Teeth

It was a December night, late 90’s.  My entire family was in downtown Philadelphia taking in the Christmas attractions.  One of our traditions was marveling at the magnificently decorated, larger-than-life tree in the City Hall courtyard.  But when we arrived, the gates were locked.
Viewing the tree wasn’t going to happen.
Disappointed, we started walking away when none other than the Mayor himself came bounding out of City Hall right next to us, clearly in a hurry.  But he saw us, turned around, and shot the bull for several minutes.  Upon hearing our plight, he immediately summoned a police officer from his detail and instructed him to take us up to his office, which “has the best view of the tree,” for as long as we wanted.
That tree never looked so beautiful.
And through it all, that Mayor never asked us our names or where we lived.  Whether or not we were voting constituents had absolutely no bearing on him.  He instinctively did what he thought was right, in much the same way he operated while an Assistant District Attorney, and later, the City’s DA.  He was one of the good guys.
And after his two relatively successful terms as Mayor, hopes that he would lead Pennsylvania in the right direction were not unfounded.
But after eight disastrous years as Pennsylvania’s Governor, Ed Rendell being viewed as a “good guy” is as likely as the Eagles’ winning this year’s Super Bowl: nonexistent.
Up to this point, his legacy was known for three things: the introduction of gambling, which did not live up to the promise of tax-relief; huge tax hikes, coupled with a 40 per cent increase in state spending; and a perception of widespread pay-to-play within his Administration. Of lesser note but still sore subjects were his signing an unconstitutional legislative pay raise and not getting a single budget passed on time --- budgets that were full of smoke and mirrors, such as imaginary revenue from the failed I-80 tolling plan.
But now, the image of Rendell that is etched in people’s minds is the Governor blowing his top during one of his final interviews. 
With teeth clenched in a menacing growl, he karate-chops the air and literally screams at 60 Minutes interviewer Lesley Stahl that … “You guys don't get that. You're simpletons. You're idiots if you don't get that."   He was defending his position that gaming was good for Pennsylvania, under the rationale that if gamblers are going to lose their paychecks anyway, it’s better for state coffers if they lose them in Pennsylvania.
Truth be told, Rendell’s anger wasn’t really directed at Stahl.  An intelligent man, the Governor is all too aware that, under his watch, the state earned points in all the wrong categories: some of the highest taxes in the country; the nation’s most hostile legal system, causing doctors and companies to flee; a failing educational product; the country’s worst roads, and a decimated manufacturing base.
Pennsylvania’s biggest export is its children, and that, more than anything, has extinguished the hope for a better tomorrow under Rendell.
But if there is ever to be a turnaround, the time is now. Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett will be the state’s new Governor, a leader who has promised to run Pennsylvania in the mold of New Jersey’s Chris Christie.  And he definitely has the horses to accomplish his agenda: the Senate is solidly Republican, and the State House saw a thirteen seat swing to give the GOP a double-digit majority.
Many analysts postulated that Dan Onorato was defeated in the Governor’s race, and the Democrats lost control of the State House, because of the national Republican tidal wave, with Rendell playing little role in that result.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the off-year elections of 1994 and 2010, newly elected Democratic Presidents pushed unpopular policies: Clinton with national health care and gays in the military, and Obama with universal healthcare, cap-and-trade and the stimulus. In both cases, Republicans took advantage of the momentum and captured the U.S. House of Representatives and numerous Governorships, including the gubernatorial victories of Tom Ridge and Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania. 
The State House was a different story. In 1994, the outgoing Governor, Bob Casey, Sr., was a popular conservative Democrat, and his influence helped the Dems maintain their slim majority. But Rendell was an albatross around the neck of Onorato, his protégé, and Democratic incumbents statewide.  Given that Corbett made Rendell’s legacy the focal point of his campaign, the Governor bears the most responsibility for his Party’s shellacking.
It’s legacy time for the Governor, and his approval ratings are downright dismal: twenties throughout much of the state and only thirties in his home base of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Poll numbers don’t lie, so when the vast majority of people say that Rendell’s eight years at the helm were a disaster, the realization of failure sets in, and backlashes occur --- hence the uncontrolled outburst on 60 Minutes.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Rendell’s unpopularity is that it occurred despite the media’s cozy relationship with the Governor.  That free pass culminated when Brian Tierney, (former) publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News --- the state’s largest papers --- sought a taxpayer bailout from Rendell himself, who was primed and ready to comply.  Thankfully, this was eventually nixed.
But if you read the glowing editorial in the Inky this past Sunday, you’d have thought Rendell walked on water. Consider these beauties:
“…he is leaving office as one of the most effective and capable governors that Pennsylvania has ever had.”
Nothing like telling 70 percent of Pennsylvanians they are dead wrong. And who says the media is elitist?
“…Rendell has led the state to impressive gains in public education.”
How?  By throwing an endless supply of taxpayer money into the black hole we call Philadelphia’s deathtrap schools?  If more funding was the solution, we’d have the best and brightest students.  Instead, we have unacceptable dropout rates, functional illiterates, low SAT scores and unaccountable teachers’ unions. But God forbid we try the only solution proven to work --- school choice.  The unions wouldn’t like that, and far be it for the Governor to offend a big contributor.
Speaking of which, from the bailout of Boscov’s to the millions bestowed upon Ballard Spahr, the Governor’s former law firm, Rendell has, first and foremost, taken care of his political pals and big-dollar contributors.  That, of course, was completely lost on the Inquirer’s editorial board as it opined, “Rendell's push for tax breaks resulted in the construction of Comcast's new corporate headquarters in Center City...”
Tax breaks?  Come on!  Those were blatant cash giveaways of OPM --- Other People’s Money! The Comcast-Rendell High Speed Money Connection was nothing more than corporate welfare to a multi-billion giant whose employees, political action committee, and executives (and spouses) --- including Rendell confidant, former Ballard boss and Chairman of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce David Cohen --- just so happened to throw almost $750,000 Rendell’s way. 
 “…The gaming part of Rendell's legacy has yet to play out. The new casino industry is providing jobs, as well as revenue for significant property-tax relief.”
Property-tax relief? Where?  Uranus?
Introducing addictive gambling as the centerpiece of an Administration and thinking it will lead to an economic revival is naïve, at best. But to rabidly defend it despite its obvious failures is deserving of our pity.
“…Overall, this governor was a friend of citizens whose voices don't often get heard in the halls of power. Pennsylvania has benefited as a result.”
Wait.  When did politically-connected law firms, unions and big-time fundraisers stop having their voices heard?
Here’s the sad reality.  If Rendell kept his word by not vetoing the Fair Share Act (limiting liability in lawsuits), if he hadn’t taxed people and businesses to the brink, if he had acted with a even a shred of responsibility when it came to budget spending, if he demanded accountability in our schools instead of being beholden to union interests, and if he instituted transparency and reform in state government, then Pennsylvania wouldn’t be near the bottom in job creation, economic opportunity --- and hope.
That this is lost on the insulated media is not surprising. But it’s certainly not lost on the only ones who matter --- the people. Tom Corbett and his Party would do well to always remember that.
To paraphrase a popular saying, a legacy is a terrible thing to waste.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newsApapers, and in Dick Morris' recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

Jan 8, 2011

Millennials join battle vs. abortion

Guest Column By Maria Vitale

Twenty-three-year-old Pennsylvanian Abigail Kiehl has never known a time when abortion wasn’t legal. Yet, when she’s not planning parties, making jewelry, or writing, she’s working within her church to educate members of her congregation about what she views as the civil rights struggle of her generation: Ending abortion.

“I used to think that I was too young to be involved with pro-life,” Abigail says. “But I have seen how abortion affects every age, race, and gender. Therefore I have given it my face and voice.”

Abigail has been motivated to lend her talents to a local pregnancy resource center and become involved in grassroots pro-life advocacy. She’s seen first-hand the heartache and tears which, she says, “shroud abortion.”

“I cannot bring back life that is gone, but I can be a voice of truth,” Abigail points out.

Andrew Bair, also 23 and also from Pennsylvania, is into the TV shows “Glee” and “The Office,” and spends a fair amount of time posting political news on Twitter. But he is also passionately pro-life. And he and Abigail have plenty of company. “As a generation we are keenly aware of human rights causes and are more willing to lend our support,” Andrew says. “Look no further than the ubiquitous ‘Save Darfur’ T-shirts worn by young people or the large number of fundraisers for Haiti sponsored by student groups. The 50 million unborn children that have lost their lives since Roe v. Wade are no exception. Many young people are speaking out for the right to life of all people.”

Research indicates a majority of the Millennials — those young people born between the late ’70s and the ’90s — are strongly pro-life.

A Knights of Columbus/Marist poll conducted last year found that 58 percent of people age 18 to 29 believe abortion is morally wrong. Students for Life of America chapters on college campuses have skyrocketed from 181 in 2006 to the current total of more than 570.

It’s also been estimated that at least half of the thousands of people who participate each year in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., are under the age of 30.

Why are these students, who grew up in an era when abortions are more common than liposuctions, pro-life? The answer may be more personal than political. With one in five pregnancies ending in abortion, these young people realize there are brothers, sisters, and cousins who are not here today solely because of Roe.

As Andrew notes, “Tragically we have never met many of our peers, classmates, and friends because they were aborted. Our generation is saying enough is enough.”

To a large extent, the pro-life story of the Millennial Generation is being told in pictures — ultrasound pictures which depict the development of the child in the womb. It’s hard to look at an ultrasound post on a social networking site and not recognize that you’re seeing an actual baby.

“Young people do not buy the pro-abortion myth that an unborn child is just a blob of tissue,” Andrew says. “When friends on Facebook post the ultrasound pictures of their little babies in the womb, it could not be clearer that the only difference between an unborn child and a born child is geography.”

Many of these young people have also heard the tearful testimony of women who have had abortions who experience profound regret, in addition to physical and emotional complications such as sterility, depression, and flashbacks. It has become clear that abortion not only ends an innocent life, but it can scar a woman for life.

For pro-life members of the Millennial Generation, ending abortion is not just a distant dream. They view it as a critical step in restoring a culture of life in their communities.

As Abigail Kiehl says, “There is an urgency for this generation to take a stand for life. We cannot let the fire for life die down.”

Maria Vitale is education director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation in Harrisburg.

Jan 3, 2011

U.S. National Debt Tops $14 Trillion

You may not have noticed it during the busy holiday rush, but the U.S. national debt has topped $14 trillion under Barack Obama.

It now stands at $14,001,550,000 - and rising by the second. Broken down by population, every man, woman and child in the United States owes $45,000.

The interest alone on the national debt has now topped $3.5 trillion.

Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have increased the national debt by more than $3 trillion in just two years.

The debt was $10.6 trillion when Obama took office in January 2009.

And for the Kool-Aid drinkers out there who can't accept the fact that Obama has plunged the nation into uncharted debt territory, consider that it took George W. Bush eight full years to increase the debt by $4.9 trillion.

Left unchecked, Obama is on pace to push the debt to $16.5 trillion in 2012 (his last year in office) or $6 trillion more than the day he was sworn in.

If you can stomach it, follow the real-time debt at http://www.usdebtclock.org/

Jan 2, 2011

If you're waiting for Superman at school ... think again

Guest Column By Jake Miller 

I have a revelation to make: I'm no Superman.

I'm not faster than a speeding bullet; I cannot outpower a locomotive; and I am unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I cannot use X-ray vision, am not invulnerable, and I lack super-hearing and freezing breath. I am neither a bird, nor a plane. I'm a teacher.
But I am prone to the negativity of kryptonite. You can read it in the newspapers, see it on television or watch it on the big screen.

Every time this small group of vociferous people - from former Washington, D.C. Education Chancellor Michelle Rhee to the local blogosphere - publishes their next anti-teacher diatribe, I, like Superman, feel pained, nauseated and immobilized to perform my job.

And I have found this kryptonite is not just hurting me, but the future of America.
First, let's come to terms - we are on the cusp of an educational revolution. Fifteenth place in reading and 20th place in mathematics is by no means a comfortable place in our world. Something needs to be done, so most of the public turns its attention to teachers.

Studies have shown - from dissertations to Davis Guggenheim's recent film "Waiting for Superman" - the most effective way to better educate a child is to have great teachers.

More than new gadgets, laptops on every desk, class sizes, socio-economic status and curriculum, the best education begins with a huge heart in the center of the classroom.

But being the pulse for 25-160 students is a difficult and trying task.

Each of the students on my roster becomes a variable that pulls at the strings of my heart. I have had students with cognitive and reasoning disabilities, and others who spoke limited English. I also welcomed a few who are dyslexic, while others have autism, ADHD, ADD and had reading and math disabilities. But these are only the documented issues.

Off the record, students come from broken homes; others are bullied in school, while others see no importance in education. Some live alone; others have parents who place a greater priority in their drug use than in raising their children. Other students dabble in those vices themselves; while many more sleep so little on the average school night that they're just as incapacitated.

I see my students only 42 minutes a day for 180 days, but some of my students will spend more time playing the X-Box video game "Call of Duty: Black Ops" during their holiday break than they will in my classes for the year. Why?

Because students feel like they're in school held against their will.

We are teaching students for jobs that we don't even know exist, and yet we're doing it in an old-fashioned, factory-output method. In our nation's early educational history, students enjoyed education because it was a privilege to be educated.

Today, it is an obligation that some students equate with a prison sentence. And from this abyss some Superman is supposed to save the day.

That obligation can be much more valuable if it were a more community-supported one. Here are things you can do to build a community-supported school:

Go to school board meetings. You would be surprised how small the turnout is at a place where the American citizen can have the most impact.

Volunteer at your school. Every school can use an extra set of eyes, ears and hearts.

From tutoring to reading to students, PTOs, to walking the halls or being involved in extracurriculars, there's a place for you if you have the time, and not just in elementary school.

Become a mentor for a student. Some school districts have mentor programs, other nonprofits (such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Area) fill that void. There are so many students who could use someone to look up to.

Share a word of thanks to someone who changed your life - and then model their guidance.
Empower students, don't coddle them. It feels like many of us - from parents to teachers to others - are more comfortable allowing students to be spectators in their own lives rather than motivated and aspiring stars.
Work with school district curriculum managers to build skills you hope to see at the university and workplace levels, instead of rote memorization.

Support great teachers, because sometimes they lose a little faith in their abilities, even if they're not akin to Superman's.

Just because we're expected to be made of steel doesn't mean we are.
While we teachers cannot outpower locomotives or leap from buildings, we can teach children.
We just need your help, not your kryptonite.

Jake Miller is a teacher at Cumberland Valley High School.