Dear Governor Corbett

Do this with the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Christie administration tells union toll collectors to take it or leave it
(h/t Redstate)

In the contract, both unions agreed to reduce the top range of annual salaries to $57,000 as of June 30, 2011, and to $49,500 as of July 1, 2012. The contract also reduces three holidays for Parkway collectors from 15 to 12, including eliminating a toll collector’s birthday as one of them, and on the Turnpike, from 14 to 12.

The contract also eliminates 14 items that the state comptroller’s office criticized, ranging from uniform allowances to changing work rules.

In the contract, both unions agree that toll collector jobs will be eliminated by July 13, 2013, as the authority moves toward cashless toll collection.

So it looks like they’re taking it.

And here’s my philosophical question for the day: is Chris Christie a Big Fat Union-Hating Meany because he’s taking away the toll collectors’ jobs or is this economic karma getting its groove on because there is absolutely no freaking way to justify paying anyone $57K to make change?

You make the call.

Hey, remember in ’04 when the toll collectors went on strike in PA so that they, too, could continue to make a lot of money to make change? I do. It’s seven years later, and they’re still making that money, except I now have to mortgage my house if I want to drive from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

Good times.

April 30, 2011 at 9:33 pm Comments (0)

Thank you Mr. Trump

I want to thank Donald Trump.  I’m thanking him for providing a valuable service to whomever ultimately becomes the nominee.  The GOP ought to be thanking him profusely because of these things:

1. He’s ending all of the crazy conspiracy theories.  First it was the birth certificate thing.  Now its the college entrance thing.   At this rate, all the conspiracies about Barrack Obama will be solved once and for.  And then what’s left – real issues.  We can get on with a discussion about economic policy.  The birth certificate was a terrible distraction away from issues that really matter.  The Republican candidate can then debate Obama on failed economic theory.

2. He’s showing how to lead a discussion.  Just look, he gets press.  He gets a response from the President and a response yields credibility.  Trump is many things.  One thing he is not is a a man without leadership ability.  The GOP candidate could learn alot in expressing his vision with people.

I don’t think Trump will be the nominee.  I don’t think Trump will even run.  I not so sure that he had any intention on running to begin with.

He has does a great service to the GOP though in eliminating distractions so that the real candidates can talk and debate real issues that matter.  For that, thank you Mr. Trump.

April 30, 2011 at 8:47 pm Comments (0)

Re: Pa A Factor in 2012 Outlook

Hot Air did an online poll of its readership about the GOP’s chances of beating Obama in a number of swing states. They sorted out the in-state versus out-of-state respondents, with some interesting results.

Hot Air:

Generally speaking, state residents ranked the GOP’s chances in their state higher than their non-state counterparts. There were two exceptions: Pennsylvania and Iowa, both of whom were more pessimistic about the GOP’s chances than non-Pennsylvanians and Iowans.

April 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm Comments (0)

Philadelphia Tea Party

Alicia @ Blonde Sagacity notes a tea party analogy

Each playoff game attendee in Philadelphia gets a t-shirt. It makes for a nice sea of orange in the home game TV shots (I don’t know if this is something every team does because the crowds elsewhere never seem to look as uniform as they do here in Philly). We have had ‘Orange Crush’ ‘Seek and Destroy’ ‘Broad Street Believing’ ‘Don’t stop believing’ and ‘With all of our will -We will’ (among many others).

This series is against the BOSTON Bruins. Today, at a local restaurant that’s on the Delaware River, there is a Flyers rally where they are dumping Boston Tea. The New shirt says ‘Philadelphia Tea Party.’

You remember from a post last week that Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snyder helped finance the movie Atlas Shrugged. I’m sure this clever play on history, the rivalry and a little politics isn’t a total coincidence… And some of the Philly faithful are pissed about this shirt…

Of course some are going to be pissed. But maybe the “stigma” of those radical racist tea partiers is mostly wishful thinking by the left and their media helpers (to be redundant).

April 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm Comments (0)

Pa A Factor in 2012 Outlook

The economy is behind schedule.

In a Gallup poll, 29 percent said the economy is in a depression while 26 percent said it is in a recession, with another 16 percent saying it is “slowing down.” The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is as low as it’s been since the height of the Great recession. According to the New York Times/CBS News poll, 70 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the nation is in decline. As David Brooks wrote earlier this week, “The country is anxious, pessimistic, ashamed, helpless and defensive.”

And in a Quinnipiac poll that must have sent shivers up and down the spines of Obama’s political advisers, in Pennsylvania—a state Obama carried by double digits not quite two-and-a-half years ago—the president’s approval rating is down to 42 percent.

Obama will not win reelection if he loses Pennsylvania.

What is happening is a series of interrelated developments. Many of the objective economic conditions of the country are getting worse. The country’s mood is darkening. And support for the president, and especially his policies, is dropping to dangerously low levels.

April 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm Comments (0)

Not Fond of the Scarnati Plan

I previously posted that I wasn’t categorically opposed to a tax or fee for natural gas extraction, but I put out some pretty steep conditions that I was looking for.  The Scarnati framework doesn’t meet those conditions.

Quoting myself:

Show me a genuine economic externality (– not the phoney-baloney stuff that’s been making most of the headlines) that is not addressable by current law, and that is unique to the gas industry, and I’ll support a gas tax/fee, and only insofar as the money never goes through Harrisburg and only addresses economic externalities from gas.

The Scarnati plan falls significantly short on those fronts.

Elizabeth Stelle at the Commonwealth Foundation explains:

It is not local. A significant portion of the fees collected (40%) will be directed to statewide programs; much of the “local impact fee” would leave local communities where drilling is occurring.

It goes beyond local impact. Many programs that will likely receive portions of these “fees” do not address any of the local environmental or infrastructure impacts caused by gas drilling. Furthermore, drilling companies are already held responsible for environmental and infrastructure damages by current law and regulations. Drilling companies are required to put up bonds for all posted roads and bridges, repair any damage they cause and are responsible for any groundwater contamination within 1,000 feet of each well.

Also, a retroactive tax/fee? Seriously? Is that even constitutional?

April 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm Comments (0)

Philly Corruption: There’s an App for That

That’s interesting.

One crusading Philadelphia politician is using iPhones to fight corruption and fraud. City Controller Alan Butkovitz announced the launch of Philly Watchdog, an anti-corruption iPhone application, on April 19. The app allows users to notify the city government of municipal activities that they believe are wasting taxpayer money; it is the city of Philadelphia’s first foray into smartphone applications. Philly Watchdog is the first application created to monitor municipal fraud in the United States, and it allows city residents to send photo and video evidence of wrongdoing to the Controller’s office.

April 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm Comments (0)

Evil Ninjas

A spate of mysterious crimes carried out by ninjas has left Pittsburghers annoyed and confused.

In the latest event, a sword-wielding ninja smashed 11 cars in South Union Township, PA. and tried to stab a man who confronted him, say police. Santino Guzzo said he heard glass breaking, found the ninja hiding in a yard, and was cut in the hand during the ensuing ninja escape.

Read about it here.

Actually, from the account they don’t sound too formidable.

April 28, 2011 at 8:47 pm Comments (0)

Profile In Courage: Mel Gibson

My “Freindly Fire” column, never mistaken for being fluffy or politically correct, routinely hammers hypocrites, frauds, and otherwise unsavory characters in politics, business, entertainment, and yes — the media. So when a reader recently inquired whom I respect, I gave it some thought. 

Since it was Easter week, I didn’t have to think too much, for a person came to mind whose courage is legendary and who has literally changed the world like no other.

While profiled extensively, it is not his brave heart that is the usual subject matter, but vitriolic attacks waged by those jealous of his professional success and threatened by his personal and religious convictions.

There is a saying that one’s worth can be judged by his enemies.  And given that Mel Gibson rankled the Hollywood elite like no other in history, beating them at their own game, he is definitely a man of high worth.

Gibson’s award-winning career has been a storied one.  He has reprised many roles defending persecuted people incapable of fighting for themselves, from Braveheart to The Patriot, where freedom was a central theme.  Freedom from tyranny and oppression, freedom from crime, freedom from fear. 

But most significantly, the message of Gibson’s premier work was freedom from eternal damnation.

The Passion of the Christ was one of the most successful movies in history, and the highest grossing non-English language film of all time. Yet if Hollywood had its way, it would have never been produced.

Despite the over two billion Christians in the world, which would seem like a pretty good target market for a movie that follows Jesus during his agonizing last hours, nobody in Tinsel Town wanted to touch Gibson’s idea. Not a whole lot in Hollywood makes sense, but that one takes the cake.

Walk away from a movie that any third-grader could have told you would make hundreds of millions right out of the gate?  If Hollywood is about one thing, it’s money.  While The Passion’s religious message is anathema to much of that town’s culture, one would have thought The Almighty Dollar would have been all the religion Hollywood would have needed.

But rather that quit, Gibson spent his own money —almost $50 million — to produce and market the film, and ended up distributing it himself along with a small company, since no major distributor wanted anything to do with film.

Can we say cowardice and religious bigotry?

But that was just the beginning. Gibson faced an onslaught of criticism from a small number of loud-mouthed whiners who wanted to see their names in the papers.  So, incredibly, they attacked Mel for not rewriting history to their liking, cavalierly throwing out charges of bigotry.  

Fact is, The Passion is an historically accurate masterpiece with absolutely no elements of bigotry, but once those types of charges are leveled, it’s difficult to forge ahead.

Gibson could have chosen the easy way out: he could have canceled the whole project, choosing to not place his money at risk.  He could have produced a politically correct movie by ignoring historical fact, thereby averting the disparaging attacks on him and his family (as his father, a dedicated family man who led an exemplary life, was also ruthlessly attacked without basis). He could have downplayed his conservative Catholicism and avoided the numerous questions about his personal beliefs.

He could have settled.  But he didn’t.

He didn’t make the film for money, since he already had plenty of it.  Nor did he do it for fame, since he was routinely listed as one of the world’s biggest superstars.

But rather than sell his soul like most in Hollywood, Gibson persevered.  And because of that, the greatest story of all time was re-told in the most realistic way anyone had ever seen. The sacrifice, the passion, the very idea of faith itself — all brought home to billions the world over. 

And certainly not just Christians benefitted from The Passion, since people of all religious faiths flocked to take heart in the film’s universal messages of redemption, forgiveness and hope. (So powerful was the film that it was censored in some countries and not distributed in others.  Makes one wonder what made those leaders fear so much).

The same attention-seekers who attacked Mel Gibson (and some continue to do so) will no doubt level charges that this column is defending a man who, years after the film, allegedly made anti-semetic and bigoted remarks. And they would be right. I am defending Mel Gibson the man, not his remarks.

Gibson spent a career defending principles that are incessantly under attack, and his most brilliant work rekindled the faith of billions in a way no church, no preacher, not even the Bible itself could duplicate.  Our world becomes more visual by the day, so The Passion, with portrayals that make the true passion story come to life more realistically than any other medium, takes its place in history as the movie that changed the world more than any other.

Has Gibson made mistakes?  Sure, and has admitted so and taken responsibility for them.  “I’ve never treated anyone badly or in a discriminatory way based on their gender, race, religion or sexuality — period,” he recently told Deadline Hollywood.  Referring to comments made to an ex-girlfriend that were deliberately blown out of proportion by those wishing to bring down Gibson, he said they didn’t  “represent what I truly believe or how I’ve treated people my entire life.”

Should he be believed?  Given his history of character and conviction — rare in the world and virtually nonexistent in Hollywood — and the fact that many other celebrities are “forgiven” by the public for things a whole lot worse after making disingenuous apologies, absolutely.

The ultimate message of The Passion is redemption, and because of Mel Gibson’s courage, that message continues to resonate around the world. 

Gibson himself deserves nothing less.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau,

 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 newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

 Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at

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April 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm Comments (0)

Montco Independent Surge

After eight years of demonizing the President, and demonizing Republicans, followed by a hyperpartisan cronyist “bi-partisan” county government, new voters in Montco are registering independent.

In larger amounts that in the rest of the state.

So that must mean malfeasance.

Since 2009, 43 percent of all the county’s 30,000 new voter registrations have come from unaffiliated voters or those who sign up to vote with minor parties – a good deal more than in any other county in the state.

By comparison, similarly independent-minded voters accounted for less than 29 percent of new registrants in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties over the same period, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The numbers could reflect a growing independent streak in Montgomery County, but the data have one Democrat crying foul.

“We understand that some people are just going to register that way,” said Marcel Groen, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee. “But the numbers that are coming through are statistically impossible. We shouldn’t be that different than the rest of the state.”

The change is not exactly revolutionary in sheer numbers – unaffiliated Montgomery County voters grew from about 82,000 in 2008 to just more than 89,000 as of January.

They now make up 15 percent of the county’s half-million voters, and registered Republicans and Democrats still far outnumber independents.

But the rate of independents’ growth there since 2008 is remarkable. Those registering with neither major party have jumped nearly 9 percent.

No other county in the region approaches that pace, the state data show.

The Montco Dem chair blames a broken motor-voter system.

The Republican chair Bob Kerns takes it more in stride.

His party has had a 3 percent drop in registered voters since 2008, a decrease that has given Democrats an edge in the county. Still, he maintained, blaming demographic shifts on a computer glitch amounts to sour grapes.

“I can’t really say why the younger voters are going that way, but they don’t identify with either the Republican or the Democratic Parties,” he said. “It’s even more incumbent upon us to come up with really good candidates to run.

“If we can do that, we can get voters to vote for us no matter how they’re registered.”

It’s a shame the Democrats invested so much of their energies in delegitimatizing the results of the 2000 Presidential election…. and of course it happened in 2002 and 2004 when they lost. Voter fraud suddenly disappeared in 2008 and 2010.

Now of course it’s back.

Our country is worse off for it.

April 26, 2011 at 12:23 am Comments (0)

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