Friday, June 30, 2006

“Fight Like the Devil”

June 30, 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Pettigrew
The sight that greeted Sarah Broadhead as she looked out her window on the west side of Gettysburg on the morning of June 30th, 1863 caused her to draw a sharp breath. There had been rumors, but the view of the Seminary and the ridge on which it stands was complicated by a large group of men, and the Confederate flags they were carrying. She would later write, “We had a good view of them from our house, and every moment we expected to hear the booming of cannon, and thought they might shell the town. As it turned out they were only reconnoitering.” She was looking at three North Carolina Infantry Regiments, some 1,800 men constituting most of a brigade under the command of Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew. Pettigrew, the highly educated and well lettered graduate of the University of North Carolina was the pride of his state.

Ordered forward on a supply gathering expedition, Pettigrew and his staff were anxiously searching the town and its environs for signs of Union troops. Numerous civilians questioned as to the presence of Union troops in the area gave a variety of answers, most of them based on rumors, but one thing became evident: there were many Union troops close by. It did not take long for their field glasses and telescopes to find the body of blue moving towards town from the south on the Emmitsburg Road. Mistaking a column of cavalry for infantry, Pettigrew turned his column around, 3 regiments of infantry, an artillery battery, and 27 empty wagons that were to have hauled the shoes, hats, and food back to their divisional camp near Cashtown on South Mountain. Instead, they returned almost empty-handed.

On his return to Cashtown, Pettigrew reported to his superior, Henry J. Heth, that there were large bodies of troops in and around Gettysburg and more were arriving all the time. Heth took Pettigrew to see their Corps Commander, General Ambrose Powell Hill. Neither Hill, nor Heth believed the report. Both graduates of the United States Military Academy, they had a disdain for the civilian soldier’s abilities, and Pettigrew was just that. Even though he was a battle-tested, wounded veteran of many engagements who had fought his regiments well, he was, and always would be, a civilian soldier, and not “one of them”, an Academy graduate. Hill and Heth graduated from West Point in the same class, 1847. Hill was 15th in his class of 38, and Heth was dead last. It did not matter. Heth was the nephew of General Robert E. Lee.

[Heth’s Division was not the advanced element of the Army of Northern Virginia, as that honor belonged to Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps, which passed through Gettysburg a week earlier on its way to York, and then north to Harrisburg. But Hill’s Third Corps was the lead of the main body of Lee’s army, which included Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps, still situated in the Cumberland Valley west of Hill’s advanced position at Cashtown.]

In a similar predicament to Pettigrew’s were his fellow brigade commanders in Heth’s Division. Brigadier General James J. Archer was a Mexican War veteran who joined the US Army before the war, and now commanded a brigade of Tennessee and Alabama troops. As such, he was a notch above Pettigrew professionally, as was Colonel John M. Brockenbrough, who was a graduate of Virginia Military Institute. Not so the fourth brigade commander under Heth, Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis, the nephew of Confederate General Jefferson Davis, and a pre-war politician in Mississippi.

[It was the same in the Union Army. Political and civilian officers were awarded commissions early in the war usually for raising a regiment, or at least a company. Major political figures such as Benjamin Butler, a Massachusetts Democrat, and his political and law student, Daniel Sickles, commander of the Third Corps, Army of the Potomac, and a key figure in the Battle of Gettysburg were exceptions to the rule. For the most part, the war was taken over by 1863 by the West Point graduates, and the civilian and political generals were relegated to side areas, or out of the army altogether. The West Point officers on both sides generally were much better all around officers, and had made the learning transition on maneuver and logistics concerning large armies, as the prewar US Army in which they served had, at most, 20,000 men…the size of a medium sized Civil War brigade.]

Pettigrew’s report was disbelieved. When forwarded to Lee, the report was also disbelieved based on the intelligence information Lee had at the time. Even so, the cautious Lee ordered Hill to advance on Gettysburg the next day and “feel” for the enemy. He was ordered not to bring on a general engagement. Hill ordered Heth to undertake the task and passed on Lee’s admonition to avoid spurring a large fight.

Buford
John Buford, Brigadier General, West Point ’48, commanding officer of the First Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, led his men up the Emmitsburg Road from Maryland into Pennsylvania and a few miles later, Gettysburg in the late morning of June 30. It was Buford’s command that Pettigrew had spotted from a long distance and mistaken them for infantry. At the time, the long column of blue-uniformed troopers may have been dismounted and marching by leading their horses, something cavalry did on the march to give both riders and horses a break while continuing to move.

Buford rode at the head of two of his three brigades. First Brigade, under Colonel William Gamble, comprised of the 8th and 12th Illinois Cavalry, and the 3rd Indiana, and 8th New York, was with him, as was the Second Brigade, under the feisty Colonel Thomas Devin. Devin commanded the 6th and 9th New York Cavalry, the 3rd West Virginia, and the 17th Pennsylvania. Buford’s Reserve Brigade, under newly promoted Brigadier General Wesley Merritt was left south of the area guarding the southwestern approaches to Gettysburg.

[Merritt, along with Elon J. Farnsworth, was promoted from Captain to Brigadier General (skipping Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and Colonel!) two days earlier in a last minute reorganization of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac by Major General Alfred Pleasonton, Corps Commander. Along with Merritt and Farnsworth, a young First Lieutenant was also springboarded to Brigadier General, and given command of the Michigan Brigade in Judson Kilpatrick’s Third Division of the Cavalry Corps. His name was George Armstrong Custer, last in his West Point class of 1861 in everything but equitation.]

Riding through Gettysburg just before noon Buford’s troopers were serenaded by the people of the town, particularly the young ladies and children. Showered with patriotic songs, some stopped to have flowers pinned on their dusty coats.

[These men were no longer the laughingstock of the Army. In the first two years of the war, the Union Cavalry had been ill used, poorly commanded, and severely abused when they came in contact with Major General James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart’s Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. In fact, an early war sentiment among the infantry was that “nobody ever saw a dead cavalryman.” But recently, with better commanders of the Army of the Potomac, and with a Corps Commander who excelled at the administrative side of running a cavalry unit, the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps distinguished themselves in battles along the gaps and passes leading into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and at such places as Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville. Finally, a surprise attack launched by Army Commander Joseph Hooker on June 9th caught Stuart at a very vulnerable moment. Attacking across the Rappahannock River while Stuart was conducting a grand review for General Lee and assorted visiting dignitaries, Pleasonton’s forces, backed up by a corps of infantry interrupted the review and fought a series of pitched battles around a place called Brandy Station. Eventually Pleasonton grew timid and withdrew his forces back across the river, but not before serving notice that his cavalry had matured into an outstanding fighting unit capable of standing toe-to-toe with the vaunted Stuart. It was a lesson that was ignored by Stuart and Lee, and thus to be repeated throughout the Gettysburg Campaign.]

Buford moved his men through town ordering Devin to bivouac his brigade north of the college in the open fields above town, and Gamble to set up his brigade camp west of the Seminary on the Chambersburg Pike.

Buford’s long years of experience as an Indian fighter out west before the war had taught him to be an excellent judge of terrain. Indeed, he was the man who initially decided the opening strategy of the Battle of Gettysburg, and how it would eventually play out. He reasoned that if he could hold the Confederates off west of town long enough for the Infantry to arrive and occupy the high ground southeast of town, he would have accomplished his goal and given the Infantry a large advantage in high ground, well suited for defensive positions, from Culp’s Hill, north around the upper reach of Cemetery Hill, and then south along the west side of Cemetery Hill and down Cemetery Ridge. He would need help, however, and later that evening he sat down near the Lutheran Seminary and wrote a letter to Union First Corps Commander Major General John Fulton Reynolds, telling him just that.

Stuart
James Ewell Brown “JEB” Stuart, 13th of 46 in his West Point class of 1854, where he was first exposed to Robert E. Lee. Lee was superintendent of the Military Academy, and Stuart was one of his prize cadets. Later, in 1859, after a few years fighting Indians out west, and dealing with the unrest in ‘Bleeding Kansas’ Stuart acted as Colonel Robert E. Lee’s aide during the suppression of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.

At the start of the Civil War, Stuart, a young Virginian with piercing dark eyes and a large beard, was commissioned a Captain of Virginia Cavalry. In little more than a year he was promoted to Major General commanding the Confederate Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Stuart’s early war exploits after taking command are legendary. He led his entire command unhindered on rides around the Army of the Potomac – twice! He was a skilled commander, and a trusted officer serving under his old mentor, Lee. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, he temporarily took command of Stonewall Jackson’s Second Corps after Jackson was wounded by friendly fire. He fought Jackson’s men with skill the next day. By the time of the Gettysburg Campaign his reputation as a dashing and daring commander was encased in the lore of the South. It was about to come undone.

Ordered by Lee to screen the movement of the Army of Northern Virginia north into Pennsylvania, Stuart proceeded to go on an extensive raid through Maryland, capturing several large wagon trains full of food and supplies belonging to the Army of the Potomac. These wagon trains seriously slowed his movements north and he lost touch with the Infantry he was supposed to be screening.

Late in June, he found his route north into Pennsylvania at Littlestown blocked by Union Cavalry (Kilpatrick), which forced him to move east to Hanover, in southern York County, just above the Mason Dixon Line.

Hanover
As Stuart was heading toward Hanover, intent on occupying the town, some of his units were skirmishing with Union Cavalry – elements of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, stationed on a line southwest of Hanover and northward, screening the town from any advance on it by Stuart. The 18th was struck by two regiments of Stuart’s cavalry in two separate places, sending them reeling back through Hanover. Stuart then entered the town along with his advanced units (Chambliss’ Brigade) and some of his Horse Artillery, which he quickly got into play by targeting the retreating 18th Pennsylvania.

As this was occurring, more Union Cavalry under newly promoted Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth appeared suddenly on a large farm at the south edge of Hanover, and Stuart moved to attack. Nearly surrounded, Stuart made his escape by riding his horse like a steeplechase, leaping the hedgerows that divided up the fields, and at one point leaping a 15 foot ditch. Regrouping in town, he awaited developments. Farnsworth moved his forces into town and forced Stuart to withdraw to the west and south.

Judson Kilpatrick heard the sounds of the fight and raced south to Hanover. Custer took up a position northwest of town, and in the late afternoon, began an advance on the Brigade of Fitzhugh Lee. Ordering 600 men from the 6th Michigan to dismount, Custer led them through the brush, part way on hands and knees, to get within three hundred yards of the Confederate line and its artillery that was shelling the town. Custer’s men opened up and drove off the cavalry support defending the guns. A second, similar attack followed on and convinced the Confederates that they must disengage and move out to York after darkness fell.

Gettysburg
Buford had laid out his plan well. He had Gamble’s Brigade astride the Chambersburg Pike just east of the steep defile through which Willoughby Run flowed. Gamble’s men were in position on the next high ground east of the stream, now called McPherson’s Ridge, so named for the farm that sat on the ridge along the south side of the road. The road itself was lined on both sides with stout five-rail fence, and almost parallel to the road, a sunken railroad bed, still under construction and without rails ran about one to two hundred yards from the road. Devin’s men were formed on Gamble’s right, and extended north to the Mummasburg Road.

When he visited Devin that evening, Devin was in a high mood, and began predicting how easily they would dispense with the Rebels, the next day. Buford rounded on him and angrily exclaimed, “No you won’t! They will attack in the morning and they will come booming—skirmishers three deep. You will have to fight like the Devil to hold your own until supports arrive. The enemy must know the importance of this position and will strain every nerve to secure it, and if we are able to hold it we will do well.”

Novus Livy

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Rendell puts one over on senior citizens

The press release put out by Gov. Ed Rendell's office Tuesday began with a screaming headline: "Rendell Signs Bill to Deliver Largest Property Tax Cut in Pennsylvania History." That sure sounds like big news. Too bad it's not true. None of it.

Rendell posed in front of the cameras inside the Nanticoke home of senior citizen Nellie Hughes and put on a performance worthy of an Oscar.

"Today is a great day for Pennsylvania homeowners, especially seniors who have been driven from their homes as they attempt to escape the burden of skyrocketing property taxes for far too long," Rendell said. "After 30 years of debate and failed plans, Pennsylvanians like Nellie Hughes will finally get the tax relief they deserve."

Rendell is a smooth-talking politician who never lets the truth get in the way of self-serving adulation. The governor nearly dislocated his shoulder trying to pat himself on the back.

The $1 billion tax cut that Rendell took credit for Tuesday is not a tax cut after all. It's not even $1 billion. It's a rebate plan for a small group of senior citizens (600,000) who will have to hold on at least four more years to see any money. In other words, Nellie Hughes, who is 88, and the other seniors that Rendell is trying to snow may not live long enough to see their $200 rebate, which won't come until the 2009-10 school year at the earliest.

The rest of the state’s 12 million residents get nothing under Rendell's "property tax cut."

And the entire plan is predicated on the need for gamblers, many of whom are senior citizens, to lose $1 billion when the state's slot parlors finally open in 2009 or 2010. In the meantime, Rendell will borrow $400 million from the state lottery to fund the rebate scheme and pay it back from those future gambling revenues. This is what Rendell calls tax relief?

In the meantime, the school district Nellie Hughes lives in will raise property taxes in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 — guaranteed. If she's still alive, Nellie Hughes will most likely be paying more in taxes in 2010 than she is today. That's what Ed Rendell considers a property tax.

This is where the Kool Aid drinkers from the left chime in about how the tax rebate plan was passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate. That is correct. The measure passed the Senate and House by wide margins.

But it did not become law until Gov. Rendell went to Nellie Hughes' home and signed the bill. The buck stops with Ed Rendell.

The Lynn Swann campaign also put out a press release Tuesday about Rendell's "Band-Aid property tax bill" that is a lot closer to the truth than anything Rendell's propaganda machine spit out. Swann's press release has the more accurate headline on it: "Legislation Leaves 80 percent of Pennsylvania's Homeowners Without Any Relief."

"With the signing of this legislation, Ed Rendell has made it official — he has broken his election year promise to 'drop property taxes for every Pennsylvanian by 30 percent,'" Swann said.

Swann couldn't help but take a jab at Rendell's use of the term "historic" to describe the tax rebate ploy.

"The last time Ed Rendell signed property tax legislation that he deemed 'historic,' it was called Act 72, and it was rejected by 80 percent of Pennsylvania's school districts," Swann said. "Since then, property taxes have skyrocketed nearly $2 billion under this administration, and Pennsylvania's homeowners have been left in the cold."

Hoping to finally kick-start his sluggish campaign to unseat Rendell, Republican Swann went on the offensive: "As the Governor declares 'We did it!' and signs this Band-Aid legislation, the majority of Pennsylvanians are looking at their rising property tax bills and wondering 'You did what!?'"

Swann recently introduced a plan that will provide every property owner in Pennsylvania with tax relief during Swann’s first year in office. The full plan can be viewed at www.swannforgovernor.com

Rendell's "plan" is an afterthought that comes four months before the election. It took Rendell 3½ years to finally address property taxes, but leaving 80 percent of homeowners without relief is not exactly a plan.

Voters will have a clear choice this November when they elect a new governor. More of Rendell's broken promises and parlor tricks or Swann's pledge to deal with property taxes in his first year in office.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

178: “An Update from Democracy Rising”


Good friend Tim Potts at DemocracyRisingPA sends along these alerts and reminders to keep you posted on the hucksters we have elected to the General Assembly:

Democracy Rising PA News
June 28, 2007

In this issue:
· Another Fast One -- Lobbying Control Rushes Through the House
· Defending the Indefensible – Perzel and Smith
· Tick, Tick, Tick

Another Fast One – Lobbying Control Rushes Through the House
Last week, the PA House pulled another fast one with a lobbying control proposal, House Bill 700 by Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny. Introduced last year, it languished for 364 days on the House calendar before being sent to the Appropriations Committee for 61 days. Then it was back on the House calendar for nine days before a significant last-minute amendment and a vote on June 22 with just two hours notice to representatives and citizens. The procedure is similar to the way the pay raise, the gambling law, and other important legislation passes the House.

Despite 434 days of “legislative consideration,” citizens once again had no opportunity to tell their representatives their opinion about the final proposal before it was too late. As Barry Kauffman, executive director of
Common Cause/PA put it, “It was highly inappropriate to conceal a so-called good government bill from representatives and the public until just two hours prior to the vote.”

The final vote was 190-1. The lone “no” vote was Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware. Vitali alone argued against the fast-track while all other representatives who were present (12 were absent) were content to vote for something they didn’t have time to understand and that barely moves the needle of public integrity.

No Excuses:
There are no good reasons to compromise public integrity; there are only bad reasons. Here are three common excuses lawmakers give for failing to give PA the best lobbying control law in America.

1. “Sure it could be a lot better, but it’s better than nothing.” Some things are not better than nothing. Think of an insurance policy that doesn’t pay when your home is destroyed. Think of a pension plan that goes bankrupt when you’re ready to retire. You’ve paid into the policy and the plan for years, but you wind up with nothing. That’s not “better than nothing,” and neither is a law that fails to protect you from corruption by public officials as every lobbying control proposal now in the General Assembly fails to do.
2. “Sure it could be a lot better, but it’s the best we can do.” Would you take that excuse from a mechanic who couldn’t repair your brakes? Or would you find another mechanic – especially if the first mechanic (like today’s incumbent lawmakers) created the problem in the first place?
3. “Sure it could be a lot better, but the perfect is the enemy of the good.” This is one of Rep. Maher’s favorites. When it comes to integrity, the perfect is not the enemy of the good; it is the measure of the good. The harder we try to achieve the perfect, the more likely we are to get something good, perhaps the best in America.

Defending the Indefensible – John Perzel and Sam Smith
After firmly planting his feet in his mouth about the pay raise once again, House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, incredibly told Capitol reporters he would not have anything more to say about it. This is, you may recall, exactly what he said a year ago when hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians signed petitions demanding the repeal of the pay raise and Perzel tried to stonewall us.

This time, though, he says he means it. “I have been defending something that the people have determined to be indefensible,” he said.

But if he does mean it, he needs to amend his actions as well as his words. His mea culpa occurred on the same day that The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Mario Cattabiani reported that the state has spent more than $1 million of taxpayer money on lawyers to defend the indefensible. Not surprisingly, instead of using the dozens of lawyers already on the state payroll, the three branches of government have hired outside counsel at a cost of up to $625 an hour. Coincidentally or not, many of the outside lawyers are contributors to the campaigns of those who hired them.

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/front/14850240.htm

More than half of the money -- $561,000 – was spent to defend Sen. Robert Jubelirer, R-Blair, and Sen. Chip Brightbill, R-Lebanon. Both lost their primary elections last month.

But it was House Majority Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, who tried hardest to justify the cost. “I understand why people think it is a waste of money, but if we think we are right about the process, we have to defend it,” Smith said.

The
Harrisburg Patriot, in an editorial titled, “Just another outrage,” takes it from here:

“But let’s look at the process… The 15 percent to 54 percent pay increase for legislators, judges and high administration officials was approved late at night at the last minute, without public hearings or open committee meetings, in violation of the clear language of the Constitution intended to avoid the very tactics lawmakers employed to fill their pockets. And they further violated the Constitution – not to mention a decent respect for the opinions of their constituents – by collecting the increase before the finish of the term.

“That the taxpayers are now being called upon to pay for the Legislature to defend the indefensible is nothing short of an outrage, and another in a long list of reasons why the people need to reclaim their representative government.”

As we have suggested before, the three branches of government can and should stop wasting our money by dropping their opposition to the lawsuits against the pay raise and by deciding to work according to the Constitution they swore to obey.

Tick, Tick, Tick
· Days since the pay raise of 2005: 356
· Days until Election Day: 125
· Roadmap reforms enacted: 0

Read the
Roadmap to Reform at
http://www.democracyrisingpa.com/dr_fans/dr_news/20060526_roadmap.asp

Tim Potts, DemocracyRisingPA

Thank you Tim. As usual you bring us the ammunition with which we will be holding these hucksters’ feet to the fire.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!”
--
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"
--GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Russ Diamond: Dan and Joan

Dan & Joan
I'd like to tell you about Dan and Joan Sullivan. Dan is a retired truck driver in York County. Dan and his wife Joan are in serious danger of losing their home.

Why? In addition to their $1300 monthly mortgage payment, Dan and Joan also pay $300 per month in property taxes. Those property taxes are likely to go up in the next few years, but Dan and Joan are living on a fixed income.

If they can’t afford to pay their taxes, the government will seize Dan and Joan’s home and throw them out on the street.

To add insult to injury, the Governor just signed HB39 into law, a pitiful attempt at property tax “relief” put forth by our hapless General Assembly. Under this so-called plan, Dan and Joan won’t see any relief until at least 2008 – maybe even as late as 2009.

To make matters worse, any relief they do eventually get will come through borrowing from the lottery fund – which is specifically targeted to help people like Dan and Joan – and from imaginary slots money. Never mind robbing Peter to pay Paul – this is robbing PAUL to pay Paul!

Finally, any “relief” Dan and Joan eventually see will likely be more than offset by property tax increases before that “relief” arrives. HB39 is nothing but a cheap accounting trick by elected officials in Harrisburg trying to make themselves look good in an election year.

That's right - the same folks who had time to illegally raise their own salaries by 16-54% in the middle of the night last year aren't doing a darned thing for Dan and Joan.

How many other people are there like Dan and Joan in Pennsylvania? Far too many!

I’m dedicated to abolishing property taxes once and for all in Pennsylvania, so Dan and Joan can rest easy with the knowledge that the government will NEVER be able to force them out of their home.

If you think people like Dan and Joan should have the right to stay in their homes and enjoy their retirement, then help me gather 67,070 signatures by the end of July so I can get on the ballot and keep the property tax issue on the front burner.

If we don't, people who’ve worked an entire lifetime will be kicked out of their homes and the government will get their property. That’s not what good government is supposed to do – it’s supposed to protect Dan and Joan’s property rights.

Russ Diamond is an Independent candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. Visit his website at http://www.russdiamond.org/

Monday, June 26, 2006

177: “Your New Neighbor the Casino”


Here is a sample of how casinos, slots parlors, and racinos are “such good neighbors”. [Racino is a casino or slots parlor, or both at a racetrack.] This is a true story from the Monticello, NY raceway and casino. While the man, Mr. PS, misses the point where his own irresponsibility kicked in (when he made the decision to go to the racino in the first place), you must take note of his treatment at the hands of the racino staff.
I am a 54 year old disabled man with severe diabetes among other health problems. The criminal dirtbags at Monticello racino managed to convince me to accept a few(3-4) free drinks while gambling there. After I lost all my money (over $5000.00) and left the building, their "security" folks notified me that they were "watching me" and would report me to the State Police if I attempted to leave the parking lot. I asked them why they waited until that point in time to do this. If I was drunk, why didn't they stop giving me free drinks? The answer was that I was still gambling. I asked for some place to lay down as I was hypoglycemic. They refused.

I asked for a cab. They refused. I asked if either one of 2 employees there were on duty and could give me a ride. They refused to find out.

I then sat in my car for an hour and dozed off. When I left the premises, they called the State Police and I was pulled over for no reason regarding my driving or vehicle and was arrested for DWI.

It is a well known fact that diabetics are especially susceptible to DWI as hypoglycemia greatly increases the b.a.c. of anyone tested. Mine was .01 over the legal limit. I am not sending you this report to excuse my irresponsible act of accepting their free drinks. However I am sending this info to you so that you may advise other folks and especially diabetics of the dangers they face when doing "business" with these criminals.
So, they got his money inside, and maybe his health, got his dignity outside, and then proceeded to probably take his license via the call to the State Police.

And yes, very importantly, the man has full responsibility for almost all of this. But so does the Racino, which plied him with free drinks without having any idea of underlying medical conditions that would exacerbate the effects of alcohol, and make alcohol use prohibitive. That is reckless endangerment. Good neighbors do not treat their neighbors this way.

Gambling establishments typically ply their customers with free drinks, using one addictive entity to fuel another: gambling.

What’s worse is the way the man was treated on exiting the gambling area to go home. He was properly warned not to leave in a vehicle he was driving as he was apparently under the influence of alcohol. But all attempts to be a good neighbor stopped there, far short of what a good neighbor should do. The man asked for a cab, but would anyone call one for him? No! Would they provide him with someplace to wait while the effects of the alcohol on his disease ravaged body wore off? No! Would any of them drive him home? No!

Instead, they forced him into his car where he slept for too short a time, and then exited the facility to the cat-called warnings of the staff that they would call the cops. Indeed, they did just that.

I hope this man has a good and litigious attorney.

Remember the wave of bars and bartenders that were successfully sued for “giving drinks to a drunk”, who then went out and killed someone with his vehicle?

There is a responsibility on the part of anyone who serves alcohol to ensure that no one drives drunk.

By essentially offering this man absolutely no assistance in his own efforts to avoid driving drunk, the racino employees crossed the line. And the requests were simple…someplace to wait, doze, get something to eat and some coffee, perhaps, or even better, call the man a cab? How hard is that to do? Instead, they put their employer at risk by not helping the man, and then put that lack of effort on record by calling the state police when he drove out himself. That was, however, the only positive thing they did for the man, when any number of other solutions would have better served everyone involved.

In prior essays, we have pointed out exactly how casinos are terrible neighbors to the communities in which they are situated. The above example is just one of the ways this happens.

Can you imagine if this gentleman had gone into a diabetic coma? The way the staff were acting they would have concluded he was simply a passed out drunk. They would likely have called the police, and it is doubtful the police would have called an ambulance unless they were savvy enough to smell the man’s breath and realize the sweet smell on it was the result of his blood chemistry reacting to the overload of sugar into his bloodstream (alcohol becomes a sugar in the liver), causing a diabetic coma.

We have also pointed out that despite the repeated mouthings of good neighborliness expressed by David LeVan and Barbara Ernico, investors in the proposed casino at Gettysburg, the one thing they can never guarantee is the good neighborliness of their customers.

It is easy to imagine some alternative scenarios to Mr. PS’s story. Suppose he was not as good natured as he apparently was? Suppose he had decided to take out his anger over losing, and getting drunk because of his condition. Suppose there is a school, or a little league field, or a playground or park nearby. Can you imagine the nightmarish scenarios that may play out under these conditions?

Can you afford to put your community at risk?

Can you afford to put your children at such risks?

Can you afford to put the disabled in your community at such risks?

Can you afford to put yourself at such risks?

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"
--GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Russ Diamond: Smoking Them Out

Much has been written and said lately about banning smoking in public places. The City of Philadelphia recently passed a smoking ban which could go into effect as soon as January, 2007.

Let’s examine the facts:

Smoking kills. Tobacco use ranks among the top leaders in cause of death for people in modern society. And is there any thinking person who doubts the cold hard facts about second-hand smoke? No one should be subjected to second-hand smoke against their will.

For these very valid reasons, many people have voiced their support for a ban on smoking in public places. Where they completely miss the boat, however, is in their definition of a public place.

Like nearly every other question or issue government faces, whether to ban smoking or not is actually a question of property rights. At any given time, ask yourself one simple question: Whose property am I on?

If you’re at the Capitol building in Harrisburg, your county courthouse or the local elementary school, you are clearly on public property. That property is owned by the public at large and administered by some governmental body for the common good. As a member of the public at large, you can claim some right to be on that property.

If you’re in a bar, restaurant, tavern or any other business establishment, you are on private property. You are there at the invitation of the owner. Patronizing any given business is not a right, but a privilege - the owner can un-invite you just as easily as he or she invited you.

The ability of smoking ban proponents to blur the distinction between public and private property baffles me. It especially baffles me in Pennsylvania, where the number one political issue is property taxes.

The property tax battle, at its very core, poses a nearly identical question: Who owns our property? Should we own it outright or should we rent it from the government in perpetuity?

America was founded on the right to own private property. Our God-given right to “life, liberty and property” was included in the original version of the Declaration of Independence. (The text was changed to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” at the behest of Benjamin Franklin.)

Our God-given right of “acquiring, possessing and protecting property” is firmly ensconced in Article I, Section 1 of the PA Constitution. Note that property is so important that it is listed in the very first declaration of the document, right after “life and liberty.”

Even the smallest child understands the basic concept of property rights: “Mine!”

In light of these realities, is banning smoking inside public places a good idea? Yes.

Given the litigious nature of society today and the potential liabilities associated with second-hand smoke, banning smoking in public (government) buildings makes sense. In addition to the duty of government to provide for the use of that property in some way benefiting the public good, it also has a duty to protect the public from any negative effects of that property’s use.

But banning smoking on private property makes about as much sense as passing a law preventing businesses from going smoke-free. The best solution - as always - is to let the free market decide.

In my hometown, there are three different taverns/eateries. Two allow smoking; one doesn’t. All three do their fair share of business. Those who prefer a smoke-free atmosphere patronize the smoke-free establishment. Those who don’t, don’t. And of course, there are those who do not make their decision based on this particular issue and patronize all three.

If at some point, the respective owners of the two smoking establishments perceive they are losing business to the smoke-free establishment, they will consider changing their policy. Conversely, if the smoke-free establishment loses business to the smoking-allowed establishments up the street, they will consider changing their policy as well.

Either way, it will be a matter of business survival. The decision rightfully belongs to those business owners.

Allowing the nanny state to further trespass on private property is not the direction we need to go in Pennsylvania. What this Commonwealth needs is a reaffirmation of our God-given private property rights, as enumerated by our Constitution.

Russ Diamond is an Independent candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. Visit his website at www.russdiamond.org

176: “Gettysburg Ups and Downs”


UP…The Housing Market is taking a hit in Adams County. This is good news! It will drastically slow the rate of development.

DOWN…2005 was the second worst year for Adams County in its history. Not only did developer Bob Monahan tear up the landscape at the junction of routes 15 and 30, and then proceed to construct three of the ugliest building you ever saw, but he then sold (conditionally) the old driving range to fellow traveler David LeVan for his casino. Straban township plans to add 2,000 homes in the next few years, something that has Adams County planners a bit alarmed. And the Straban Zoning Committee will recommend how any new zoning will be worded, possibly, but not necessarily taking the County's concerns into consideration. Further, they seem to be totally ignoring the group Concerned Citizens of Straban Township completly. Nice to know the good elected officials in Straban Township are so senstitive to their constituents. In any other country, they'd have all be run out of town on a rail!

UP…Local citizen groups, for holding the feet of their township supervisors to the fire over water and sewer issues for planned development. There is a finite amount of water available to Adams County residents, and every new house built reduces the amount available to each household.

DOWN…Plans to pipe 300,000 gallons per day from the Susquehanna River to Gettysburg are simply ludicrous. First, the pipeline has to be laid. What will this cost the taxpayers? Why is it necessary? Because of all the development. Can you honestly sit there and say, “This is a good thing?” Of course, it never hurts to have water available, but the cost of this project for such a paltry amount of water is prohibitive. And please note, no one is saying what this will cost! Oh, no, the Gettysburg Slimes would never publish that information first. So, who do you think will be using this water? Have you looked at the Crossroads Casino Website and their planned design? Look at that gorgeous lake out front, with the great fountain in it. Is this what you want your tax dollars to go toward?

DOWN…David LeVan and his shill Jeff Ernico, for sticking it to the good citizens of Adams County. Anxious to force all objection to his casino organization out of the way, LeVan is questioning the integrity of two members of the Straban Zoning Board (not everyone is like you, David). Apparently one signed a petition against the casino in church immediately after the casino was announced, and long before any zoning issues arose. Indeed, it was not until last fall that the State Supreme Court struck down the part of Act 71 that eliminated all local avenues of opposition to the placement of a casino by overriding all local zoning ordinances. The boardmember had, at the time of signing the petition, a reasonable expectation of never having to officially act on the matter. The other member’s name appears on a petition against the casino, but claims his wife signed his name without his knowledge or authorization. Both state unequivocally that they are quite capable of rendering a fair decision in the zoning issue. LeVan and Ernico have taken the matter to County Court. Now, by rights, they should foot the entire cost of this enormous waste of time and resources. What really ticks LeVan off the most is that he simply cannot buy enough goodwill where he needs it most.

UP…The Straban Township Zoning Board, who have a golden opportunity to accomplish a number of things. The issue before them is simply this: do current zoning ordinances in place at the location of the proposed casino allow for the use of the parcel as a casino. In other words, is gambling permitted. What they must keep in mind is two things. The spirit of Act 71, as passed by the legislature said this was not an issue, the casino should go in. However, the State Supreme Court struck that from the law, and put the issue back on the table. So here is the zoning board, poised on the brink of thumbs up, or thumbs down for the casino. If they deny, you can bet your bottom dollar that LeVan will sue. The second issue they must keep in mind is child safety. Why is that an issue here? Because immediately next to the parcel on which the casino will be built is a small, 14 acre recreation park containing some ballfields on which local youth leagues play. Allowing the casino next to that park will put the children at risk to all manner of dangers from folks who gamble next door. Those who exit the casino under the influence of alcohol, or losing their money, will tend to be addicted to alcohol and or gambling. Addicts are the primary source of predators. That is, most predators are also addicts to some form of chemical. David LeVan and Barbara Ernico can spout off all they want about how good a neighbor the casino will be, but they cannot guarantee anything about their customers.

DOWN…Bob Monahan will be finding out soon that he has broken the law. To quote the U.S. Department of State:
Title 18 of the U.S. Code, as revised in January 1971, prohibits use of the likeness of the Great Seal or any facsimile in “any advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet, or other publication, play, motion picture, telecast, or other production” for the purpose of conveying a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the U.S. Government under threat of a fine of not more than $250 or imprisonment of not more than 6 months, or both.
Mr. Monahan has plastered the likeness of the Great Seal of the United States all over his Gateway Gettysburg project. This is illegal, and Monahan, who was a member of that department under the Reagan administration, knows better. He should remove the likenesses immediately. A letter is on its way to the United State Attorney in Harrisburg. Frankly, we cannot find any reason whatsoever that a great president like Ronald Reagan would have tolerated a jerk like Bob Monahan in his administration. Wait a minute, wasn’t Al Haig Secretary of State at one point? That explains it.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!”
--
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"
--GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Tax rebate ploy isn't fooling anyone

The verdict is in.

Even before Gov. Ed Rendell has had a chance to sign the compromise Senate-House tax rebate bill into law and stand before the TV cameras to pretend he's delivered on his promise to cut property taxes, just about everybody agrees the bill stinks to high hell.

Forget any political mileage Rendell and the legislators who voted for it anticipated to get. I've yet to come across a single person dumb enough to believe that House Bill 39 is anything more than a feeble attempt by career politicians to fool voters. Rendell and the Harrisburg bunch aren't fooling anyone but themselves.

The scheme has been panned by the Pennsylvania Taxpayer Alliance, an umbrella organization that represents a dozen grassroots citizen groups across the state.

Lynn Swann, the Republican candidate for governor, and Russ Diamond, the founder of PaCleanSweep and an independent candidate for governor, has also blasted the rebate plan. "Call this bill 'relief' or 'reform' is a joke," Diamond said.

Even members of the legislature have been uncharacteristically frank in their assessment of the compromise plan.

"The people of Pennsylvania deserve more than a legislature that takes the course of least resistance just so something can be passed. This is nothing more than political appeasement, and we are going to be right back where we started in only a year or two as property taxes continue to rise," stated Rep. Curt Schroder, a Republican from Chester County. "This plan simply just does not go far enough to help the hard working families of Pennsylvania."

Under the plan approved by the House, seniors with an annual income under $15,000 will get a few hundred dollars back in 2009 or 2010 — if state revenues from casinos reaches $1 billion. Seniors still have to pay property taxes.

Schroder pointed out that relatively few seniors in his district will be eligible for the tax rebates because of the low income threshold. He also cautioned that the rebates could quickly be eaten up in future years as school districts again increase property taxes. In other words, don't spend that $200 right away because you may end paying $600 more to support your local school district.

Schroder was one of 61 House members, mostly Republicans, who voted against the tax rebate plan previously approved by the state Senate and championed by Rendell.

Many of the 61 conservatives in the House supported an amendment that would have increased the sales tax by 1 percent and eliminated property taxes.

"We had an opportunity to provide the citizens of this Commonwealth with significant relief, but we settled for a plan being pushed by the governor and the Senate," said Schroder, pointing fingers at the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Senate.

Another Republican who took his frustration out at his fellow House members was Rep. Sam Rohrer, chairman of the Commonwealth Caucus, a group of legislators who've been pushing for the elimination of property taxes by expanding and increasing the state sales tax.

The House has taken three votes on the Commonwealth Caucus in the past year, but too many Republicans joined Democrats to defeat the measure.

"The reality that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives cannot agree to eliminate 100 percent of school property taxes when the opportunity was handed to them for a third time on a silver platter is impossible to accept for Pennsylvania property owners who have been promised this economic relief for more than three decades," Rohrer said. "They are tired of being insecure in their properties that they have toiled, saved and raised their families in for years. They are tired of living under the very realistic fear of losing their homes, farms or businesses due to property tax bills they can no longer afford to pay. They are tired of political pandering. But most of all, they are tired of being ignored by their elected officials at all levels of state government from the General Assembly to the governor’s office who talk about taking revolutionary action and ultimately choose to decide against the crystal clear will of the people."

Wow! When was the last time a politician was so candid?

Although the theme of the past year has been a clean sweep of Harrisburg politicians, there are some decent legislators who are looking out for the people of Pennsylvania, including Schroder and Rohrer. Other Pottstown-area representatives who voted against the rebate scheme include Raymond Bunt, Jackie Crahalla, Tim Hennessey and Tom Quigley.

The problem is there aren't enough of them to move the roadblocks put up by self-serving Philadelphia politicians like Ed Rendell and Republican House Speaker John Perzel.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

Thursday, June 22, 2006

PennLiberty: Minimum Wage Folly

The Patriot News posted the following article on the minimum wage.

Call me a cold-hearted Republican. Maybe I am, but frankly, I find all this talk about the minimum wage to be ridiculous.

I do not support an increase in the minimum wage. I don't support the existance of a minimum wage at all.

Wages are supposed to be determined by an agreement between the employer and the employee.

As a business owner, if I don't work my butt off, get clients, and earn money, guess what happens - I don't get any money - none. There is no minimum wage for employers. I know of many employers who scrape by and hold off on paying themselves, just to ensure that their employees get paid. These small business owners really do care about their employees, so they voluntarily go without paying themselves sometimes, in order to keep their employees on board. No government agency or rule forced them to do that. They know that their employees are invaluable to the survival of their businesses. Many would love to pay their employees more, but can't afford to. Many would love to pay for their employees' health care, but they can't afford to.

The minimum wage is one of the worst ideas that I can think of (ranks right up there with Social Security). Wages are not a government mandate, they are determined by the market - which always gives a fair wage.

Let's examine if the minimum wage was eliminated. Would some wages go down, sure in some cases. I suspect that in most cases, it wouldn't have any effect. I'll tell you what, having the minimum wage in place artifically holds down other wages. Why? Because if you have multiple employees you may not be able to pay all of the employees what they are worth for the job that they do. Simple jobs should be paid less, if people are willing to do them for less. But if you are forced to pay a higher wage for a lower value job, how can you pay a higher wage for a higher valued job?

Back to the whole idea of the minimum wage as a bad idea. Where does it say that government can determine how much a person should be paid? Why the arbitrary number that is chosen. If $5.15 an hour is too low, why is $7.15 the ideal amount - why not more? Why not ensure that everyone gets paid $50,000 a year? The fact remains that the minimum wage is an arbitrary number. The whole system is ridiculous. It's another example of government sticking its nose in an area it doesn't belong. Government has no business determining wages, just as it has no business determining what kind of health care people should have, how they save for retirement, and a whole host of other areas.

My hope is that the legislators who supposedly support small businesses get some backbone and tell the truth about this issue, instead of trying to look good and feel like they care.

PennLiberty

Tony Phyrillas: Paying for Rendell's poor judgment

Gov. Ed Rendell has signed a lot of bad legislation during his first four years in Harrisburg.

In 2003, Rendell put his signature on a $1 billion increase in the state income tax that put the breaks on economic growth in Pennsylvania while much of the rest of the nation has experienced a booming economy.

In 2004, Rendell signed a bill that ushered in the era of casino gambling to the Keystone State, but the bill was so poorly drafted that we still don't have tangible signs of gaming today other than the bureaucracy Rendell set up to administer gambling. But the Gaming Board is so inept that it's unlikely the state will see any revenues until 2009 or 2010 at the earliest.

The companion legislation to gambling was Act 72, Rendell's hair-brained scheme to fund public education using those pie-in-the-sky gambling revenues. The law was so full of ambiguity and loopholes that it was rejected by 80 percent of the state's school boards.

In July 2005, Rendell signed the infamous pay raise bill into law, giving himself, judges and the bloated state legislature raises of 16 percent to 54 percent. We know how well that turned out.

Pennsylvania residents were so outraged by the middle-of-the-night pay grab that they tossed out a state Supreme Court justice seeking retention vote in November 2005. Voter anger continued through the May primary when voters threw out 17 incumbent legislators, including the two most powerful men in the state Senate.

There's plenty of other ways Rendell has hit working Pennsylvanians where it hurts — in the wallet.

Under Rendell, the state gasoline tax has risen to 32 cents per gallon, the second highest in the nation. Fees to inspect your car or to go hunting and fishing or just to have a piece of paper notarized have jumped to record highs under Rendell, a classic tax-and-spend liberal who believes government should take more of your money and spend it any way it wants.

And don't get me started on the state liquor store system that Rendell loves so much. Pennsylvanians who want to enjoy a bottle of wine or other spirits have to buy from a state-run monopoly that rivals the Soviet Union for mismanagement and price gouging.

Rendell apologists are quick to point out that all bills came out of the Republican-controlled legislature. True, but none of the bills mentioned could become law until Rendell signs them. The governor can veto any legislation that isn't in the best interest of Pennsylvania residents, a priority that generally finishes a distant second behind Rendell's personal political interests.

Republicans don't have enough of a majority in either chamber of the state legislature to override any of Rendell's veto because the lockstep Democrats always back Rendell, so the buck stops with the governor.

Sadly, Rendell's biggest allies in the legislature appear to be Republicans, who share equal responsibility for the sad state of Pennsylvania affairs.

Without the help of Senate Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, Senate Majority Leader Chip Brightbill and House Speaker John Perzel — the top three Republicans in the legislature — Rendell would never have been able to get his liberal agenda through the General Assembly.

Take note that Jubelirer and Brightbill were voted out of office May 16 by Republican primary voters in their respective home districts and Perzel (rhymes with Rendell) has to get through the November election unscathed to continue assisting his good pal and fellow Philadelphian, Ed Rendell.

Another bad piece of legislation Rendell signed into law was almost forgotten until a recent traffic accident involving the star quarterback of Pennsylvania's best football team. (Hint: It wasn't Donovan McNabb).

Rendell signed a bill in 2003 that repealed a 35-year-old law that required Pennsylvania motorcyclists to wear helmets. The helmet law repeal made absolutely no sense, but Rendell couldn't pass up an opportunity to kiss up to a few thrill-seekers who don't want to wear helmets while hurtling through the state's highways at 80 mph with only their skulls to protect their brains from macadam.

Rendell's repeal of the helmet law has resulted in hundreds of serious crashes involving motorcycle riders who died or suffered serious injuries.

The most publicized crash was June 12 when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle sans helmet.

State law requires that motorists wear seatbelts or face fines if they're pulled over for other infractions. There are laws protecting infants and children riding in cars. Kids riding bicycles must wear helmets. Why would you allow a motorcyclist to ride without a helmet?

Just like the people who choose to ride without helmets, you have to wonder about Rendell's impaired judgment when it comes to signing bills into law. Rendell's record of failure speaks for itself. Pennsylvania can't afford four more years of Ed Rendell.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

“Housecleaning”


We wish to welcome to the blogs, new contributing members, including Russ Diamond, Randy C., Penn Patriot, Penn Liberty, and of course, the inestimable Tony Phyrillas! More may be joining in the near future, including some surprises. Stay tuned.

The new contributors are added voices to the Reform movement. We think that you will like seeing the different voices, with divergent styles and converging thoughts. The Reform movement is alive and well here.

---------------------------------

We will be moving this blog to a dedicated server sometime next month. It is highly recommended that those of you who receive email notifications from us every time an essay is posted, please subscribe to the blogs through the subscription window at the top right of the page. This will result in your receipt of notification of new posts every morning from Feedblitz. If no new post has been made, you will not get any notification. The Feedblitz notification carries the first 250 words of the post, and links to the post.

After we move, we will send one announcement out by email and post on the blogs another message that we have moved. This emailing and the post announcing the move will include the link to the blogs, which you may save if you wish.

That will be the last email notification we send out. If you do not wish to register with Feedblitz, then we suggest you save the link to the blogs in your Favorites or Bookmarks, and remember to visit us often, especially as the election nears. And don’t forget to tell others – friends and family- where to find us!

We regret that Google’s Blogger has become more of a hindrance than a help in posting blogs. However, Things Change (one of our favorite movies) and so we will be moving. Not going away, just going someplace different, and we hope, better.

We appreciate your loyalty as members of our readership, and hope that you will accompany us on our move.

Thank you!


GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!”
--
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"
--GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Congress gives itself a sneaky pay raise

The national debt is more than $8.3 trillion and rising. Let me write out the entire number so you can get a sense of how money that is. Currently, the U.S. debt is estimated at $8,382,069,710,723. If you divide the debt among every man, woman and child living in the United States, each of us owes $28,035.

The national debt is just one of many problems plaguing this country.

More than 45 million Americans don't have health insurance.

Millions of Americans live below the poverty level. The national minimum wage is $5.15 and Congress has repeatedly rejected calls to raise it for an estimated 7.3 million Americans.

More than 12 million illegal aliens are living among us, with thousands more streaming across our border every day.

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is more than three years old and has drained $400 billion from our treasury, with no end in sight for either conflict.

Gas prices have eaten away at the incomes of most working Americans and Congress hasn't lifted a finger to curtail the runaway profits of multinational oil companies.

Cable companies have increased their rates more than 50 percent higher than the rate of inflation in the past decade.

Our infrastructure (roads, bridges, highways, sewer plants) is crumbling around us.

So what has Congress been doing to fix all these problems? Not much.

Your congressman has been busy collecting lots of money from lobbyists and corporate interests so he or she can return to Washington, D.C., for another two years (or six years in the case of the U.S. Senate).

But Congress did find time from its busy schedule to give itself a pay raise.

Despite record low approval ratings (which are much deserved), lawmakers accepted a $3,300 pay raise on June 13 that will increase their annual salaries to $168,500.

The 2 percent cost-of-living (COLA) raise was the seventh straight pay raise for members of the House and the Senate.

There was a time when lawmakers routinely turned down the annual COLA, but the Republicans who have controlled Congress for the past decade decided they wouldn’t mind more money in their pockets.

Since 1989, Congress voted to make annual cost-of-living pay increases automatic unless the lawmakers voted otherwise. And guess what? They've forgotten to turn down the money ever since.

The pay raise didn't get much coverage in the media. I don't recall a press release from my congressman saying what a wonderful job he’s doing and how he deserves more money.

The pay raise was hidden inside the annual Transportation and Treasury Department spending bill. Members of Congress may be greedy, but they're not stupid. They'll take your money, but they won't be up front about it.

The bill gave government civil servants get raises of 2.7 percent, the same as military personnel will receive, according to the Associated Press. Under a complicated formula, the increase translates to 2 percent for members of Congress, the AP reported.

Who's going to notice a measly $3,300 more for members of Congress when these public servants have run up an $8.3 trillion debt?

It's not just the House that gave itself a sneaky pay raise. Last year, the Senate voted 92-6 to deny the raise, but those sneaky senators quietly backed away from the raise issue in House-Senate talks. In other words, if the House members vote to give themselves a raise, who are we to stand in the way?

Two-thirds of the members of the Senate are millionaires, so another $3,300 is pocket change for them. But wouldn't $3,300 go a long way to helping you and I pay for gas to get to work so we can pay taxes to keep these congressmen living in the lap of luxury? I know I could use another $3,300 to pay my electric and food bills this summer. I'm still paying off my heating bills from last winter.

I might even use the money to take my kids to the shore for a couple of days. We haven't take a vacation in six years. By the way, Congress will take its annual two-month summer vacation soon. That's not to be confused with the spring vacation congressmen recently took or the one they'll take right before the November election.

I applaud Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat from Utah, for attempting to get a direct vote to block the pay raise, which is automatically awarded unless lawmakers vote not to accept it. His efforts went nowhere. Matheson was the only member to speak on the topic, according to the Associated Press.

"I do not think that it is appropriate to let this bill go through without an up or down vote on whether or not Congress should have an increase in its own pay," Matheson said. But by a 249-167 vote, the House rejected Matheson's procedural attempt to get a direct vote on the pay raise, the Associated Press reported.

Matheson said he will once again be donating his annual pay raise to local Utah charities.

Maybe you should ask your representative or senator why he or she took the pay raise when they come around this fall asking for your vote.

Let's not forget that public pressure forced the Pennsylvania Legislature to give back its ill-gotten pay raise of July 2005. Americans everywhere should demand that Congress give back the money — and start earning its pay for a change.

Tony Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa.

175: “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”


In another one of those revelations to hit the papers on a Monday morning, we learn that Pennsylvania Taxpayers are footing the bill to defend in court the Midnight Pay Raise of last July.

Ordinarily we could shrug this off as the cost of forcing our elected officials to do honest, legitimate work in a legal and Constitutional manner, but there are a few things that disturb us about these cases, filed by such activists as Gene Stilp, Tim Potts of
DemocracyRisingPA, and Barry Kauffman of PACommonCause, Citizen-Patriot Heroes all, and how they are being defended (and why?).

What’s wrong with this picture #1:
First, let us understand that these elected officials, who include Governor Rendell, Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, and the Republican leadership of both houses of the General Assembly, are defending their actions because they believe the public’s extreme and severe reaction to the Midnight Pay Raise was because of the size of the raise. Indeed, it was – in part. But this ‘Gang of Six’ (Rendell, Cappy, ousted Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, ousted Senate Majority Leader David J. “Chip” Brightbill, Speaker of the House John Perzel, and Majority Floor Leader Sam Smith) are fighting because they believe they did nothing wrong in the process of passing the Midnight Pay Raise. In an article by Mario F. Cattabiani at the Philadelphia Inquirer online
(
click here to read the article), Floor Leader Smith says, "Do I like hiring lawyers to defend these kinds of suits? No, I hate to do this. I understand why people think it is a waste of money, but if we think we are right about the process, we have to defend it."

The Gang of Six are caught in the crosshairs of an issue where most who read the specific articles of the Pennsylvania Constitution agree that the conspirators (the Gang of Six), crossed the line into unconstitutional territory. Article II, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution quite clearly states:

Compensation
Section 8.

The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise. No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term.

Clearly, with the thinly disguised device called the ‘unvouchered expense’ [invented by Cappy], dozens of legislators were able to take an increase from the Midnight Pay Raise, passed during the term for which they were elected.

Let us continue. The Constitution also says in Article III that bills, once proposed, may not be altered as to their purpose:

Passage of Laws
Section 1.
No law shall be passed except by bill, and no bill shall be so altered or amended, on its passage through either House, as to change its original purpose.

Just as the Gambling Bill, Act 71 of 2004 had been altered [It was first proposed to require the State Police to conduct background checks on persons working in the Barn areas of race tracks. Instead, it was turned into a mammoth piece of legislation that created several new regulated industries on Pennsylvania and the bureaucracy to control them.] the Pay Raise started out as something entirely different.

Further, the Constitution calls for bills to be considered for three days in each house:

Consideration of Bills
Section 4.

Every bill shall be considered on three different days in each House. All amendments made thereto shall be printed for the use of the members before the final vote is taken on the bill and before the final vote is taken, upon written request addressed to the presiding officer of either House by at least twenty-five percent of the members elected to that House, any bill shall be read at length in that House. No bill shall become a law, unless on its final passage the vote is taken by yeas and nays, the names of the persons voting for and against it are entered on the journal, and a majority of the members elected to each House is recorded thereon as voting in its favor.

This article details exactly how bills are to be passed. Again, like the Gambling Bill, the Pay Raise was crafted in secret, and proposed in the wee hours of the morning during the budget crunch of a week-late budget, and passed immediately, then signed into law by Rendell the next day.

My question to Mr. Smith, and the rest of the Gang of Six is, “Just how do you justify the violation of these three articles of the Pennsylvania Constitution?” I am serious. I invite Mr. Smith to write a response to that question and I will publish it unedited right here!

What’s wrong with this picture #2:
The Inquirer article also quotes the Chief Counsel to the Senate Republican Caucus Stephen McNett as saying, "We are not litigators." then ‘adding that the outside lawyers are experts in constitutional law.’ Why in the world would the Republican Caucus hire an attorney who is NOT an expert on Constitutional Law?

What’s wrong with this picture #3:
Cattabiani’s article also details these disturbing statistics:

  • A Pittsburgh based law firm has been paid $450,000 to represent Republicans in the General Assembly. The firm contributed $14,500 to Jubelirer’s failed re-election campaign.
  • A Philadelphia firm, representing John Perzel has been paid $295,000. The firm contributed $37,000 to Perzel’s re-election campaign.

Does no one else see a conflict of interest here? This clearly illustrates what kind of (scuzzbuckets came to mind, but we'll be good here) crooks we are dealing with here.

What’s wrong with this picture #4:
Recently, one of the law suits discussed in the article was dismissed by the Federal Court saying, in effect, the repeal and the election results were the remedy sought by the plaintiffs (among the plaintiffs were those Citizen-Patriot Heroes listed in our second paragraph, Messers Stilp, Potts, and Kauffman). In other words, she refused to hear the case. There is nothing in either the U.S. or the Pennsylvania Constitution that either provides or precludes a path for citizens seeking relief from matters directly involving the Commonwealth Courts, however, Judge Yvette Kane erred in not taking into consideration the Pennsylvania Constitution, which says,

Political Powers
Section 2.
All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.

The conspiratorial actions of the Gang of Six require that the citizens of this Commonwealth exercise their ‘inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.”

It is less than five months until election day. Can you keep the fire stoked? What actions are you taking now to give yourself choices in November? What actions are you taking to assist other citizens in seeking justice for you and all citizens of Pennsylvania in the courts? These suits cost money. Have you given to the cause of reform and justice? Click on their links and find out how you can help “fix the picture”.

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“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"
--GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

174: "The Failure of State Government"

It is now one month after the Primary Election. The following list of demands for action on the part of the General Assembly have not been acted upon:
  • Senators Brightbill and Jubelirer are still in their leadership posts.
  • Speaker Perzel is still Speaker.
  • Senator Fumo is still in leadership.
  • None of the returned money from the unvouchered expenses of last summer’s pay raises has been sent to the Pennsylvania Treasury’s General Fund, and we simply do not know if pay records and retirement records have been adjusted accordingly.
  • No bills have been introduced requiring all who still have not repaid the unvouchered expenses to do so immediately or have their pay stopped until the money has been deducted in full, with interest from their pay.
  • Institute a fine of $1,000 per month [payable to the Commonwealth General Fund] for any member who has not fully returned any and all unvouchered expense money starting for the month of July. Deduct the fine directly from the legislator's paycheck effective the last day of each month the debt remains unsatisfied. This fine is not tax deductible against any tax.
  • No moratorium has been issued to the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board prohibiting them from issuing any licenses of any kind for one year.
  • No legitimate tax reform has been enacted.
  • No legitimate lobbying reform has been proposed.
We would add these few to the list:
  • Immediately cancel all contracts paid for with taxpayer money that provide Public Relations, legal advice or advisory services to any and all members of the General Assembly, its committees, caucuses, or groups.
  • Prohibit the enactment of any and all legislation that would automatically provide for an annual pay raise for the General Assembly. Repeal any legislation currently in force. This forces the legislature to vote for every pay raise separately, and to do so only for the next session. OR
  • Pass a Constitutional amendment permanently linking increases in the pay of members of the General Assembly, the Administration, and the Courts to the same raises given to state employees in the two unions with the largest representation of state employees, under their contracts. The aforementioned group to have the same retirement benefits as the state employees, such money to come from a common fund. This would simplify retirement fund management for the entire state. The aforementioned group to have the same healthcare benefits as the state employees. [This amendment would create one of the largest pension funds in the country, enhancing its attractiveness to investors, giving it greater security against failure, and providing greater benefits to all state employees from the Governor down. The same goes for the Healthcare Benefits. This amendment would create an enormous healthcare base-pool providing greater bargaining power with healthcare providers. Indeed, it may become feasible to no longer contract out to healthcare corporations, but to commence state management of the benefits.]
  • Reduce extra pay for leadership to a maximum of $2000 per year, which is a stipend, and not part of regular pay, therefore, not countable toward retirement benefits.
  • Enforce draconian cuts in Caucus staff. Enforce drastic cuts in legislative staff.
  • Eliminate per diems.
  • Eliminate all lobbying by other than non-profit organizations registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State, Pennsylvania Citizens, or individual owners or corporate executives wishing to do business in Pennsylvania (this excludes those businesses wishing to do business with the Commonwealth, which would have to submit to a bidding process through the State Department of General Services.) No expenditures of money or items of any value may change hands.
  • Pass a Constitutional Amendment barring the furlough of state employees when budgets have not been passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. Continue to pay state employees under their current contract. Stop all legislative pay and allowances from June 30 forward in any year in which the budget is not passed by midnight, June 30, until such time as the budget has been signed into law. Legislators, and the employees of the Governor's administration shall receive no pay for days without a budget, nor any expenses to be reimbursed during periods without a budget, nor will any compensation be paid to any member of the General Assembly, their staffs, and the Governor and the members of the Governors Administration for such period as the state is without a budget, at any time in the future. There shall be no recess from either chamber until the budget is passed. Action may be suspended for one hour each instance in order to allow members to eat breakfast, luch, dinner, and eight hours from midnight until 8AM the next morning for rest. There will be no excused absences except for severe illness, or death in the immediate family of the member. The Governor is required to remain in the Capital while no budget has been passed. [Days and partial days, which count as full days, measured from midnight to midnight, without a budget are days without pay for the Genral Assembly and the Governor and administration members. It is reprehensible that the Governor or the General Assembly would threaten furlough of state employees when they are not to blame for budgetary crises!].
These are common sense reform measures designed to return control of Pennsylvania State government back to the citizens of the Commonwealth, where it belongs.

Contact your legislator and demand action on these points.

Feel free to forward this post to your legislator using the envelope at the bottom of the entry. Send it to your friends and family, too. Links to legislative email addresses for the General Assembly are found here:
Unless and until you get directly involved and start to take action, the General Assembly will continue to ignore you while they strip you of your rights, your money, and your honor.

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!”
--
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"
--GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.