What they don’t want you to know about drilling in the Marcellus…

…it creates jobs.

Nearly 48,000 people have been hired in the last year by industries related to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, and 71 percent of those people were Pennsylvania residents. Nine thousand of them were hired in the first three months of 2011.

The average salary was higher than the statewide average.

And the rate of hiring is accelerating.

While there has been much talk of the economic impact of the Marcellus, most of it has been anecdotal, until the Department of Labor and Industry quietly published its most up-to-date hard numbers about two weeks ago.

Just for fun, before you click on the link, imagine what all the anti-Marcellus zealots are saying to refute this. Here’s what I came up with:

–All those jobs are just low-paying support jobs
–The money doesn’t make up for the environmental damage
–The numbers in the report were made up by the Corbett administration
All those jobs are going to out-of-staters Oops. Sorry. That one’s no good anymore.

OK. Now go to the comments section, which is apparently for Bolsheviks only, and see how many you got right. I was four for five the last time I checked. What you’ll see here is cognitive dissonance in action. The Marcellus-haters want the gas industry to fail. They want to see poor rural Pennsylvanians stay poor and rural. They want double-digit unemployment provided they’re not among the unemployed. The problem is that it isn’t happening. In response, the haters have begun moving the goalposts. The jobs may be here, but they’re not good enough. The gas companies may be paying taxes, but they’re not paying enough. We may not see environmental damage now, but trust me it’s there. Repeat ad nauseam.

Usually this is the part where I’d conclude by shaking my head and saying that they “just don’t understand”, but I think they do understand. I’ve been working in the environmental field for almost 15 years, and I’ve seen these groups in action over and over. There is a significant contingent of people who are anti-industry and anti-development. All their talk about taxes, jobs, and the environment is just a cover. The fact of the matter is that they don’t want to see productive enterprises thrive because it empowers the individual and disempowers them. If you have a good job and bright future, you don’t need a grievance group to do anything for you. The professionally aggrieved become irrelevant, and it drives them insane.

If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what exact conditions would have to exist before these groups would be satisfied. What would it take to shut them up? You could levy all the taxes and write all the regulations you want, but they’d still call for more. No amount of evidence will make them change their minds (see above). The only thing they’ll accept is an outright ban. They got a temporary one in New York State, and I predict that when that ban expires they’ll call for an extension saying that there hasn’t been “enough” study of the consequences of drilling. They want it shut down permanently, and nothing else will suffice.

At one time in history, Pennsylvania was the most productive place on earth. At that same time in history, Pennsylvania was great, and when I say great, I mean great-among-the-nations great. That is not a coincidence. We have the chance to be great again, and we owe it to ourselves to make sure that a bunch of power-hungry junior autocrats don’t stand in the way.

May 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm Comments (0)

Montana vs Santorum

It’s on.

The teen pop sensation took to Twitter to ding Rick Santorum in a roundabout way Thursday.

Cyrus isn’t a fan of Urban Outfitters after stories emerged alleging that the store has copied jewelry designs, so she pointed out that the company’s president had contributed to Santorum.

“IF WE ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE NEXT THING U KNOW PEOPLE WILL BE MARRYING GOLD FISH’ – Rick Santorum UO contributed $13,000 to this mans campaign” tweeted Cyrus, mocking Santorum for some earlier remarks regarding gay marriage.

She also wrote about Urban Outfitters and Santorum: “Not only do they steal from artists but every time you give them money you help finance a campaign against gay equality.”

10 million girls between ages 12 and 16 won’t be voting for Rick come 2012. I dont know how he can recover.

May 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm Comment (1)

Missing the Point on Liquor Privatization

The Patriot-News compared price differences between liquor purchased in PA’s soviet-style liquor stores and liquor purchased in surrounding states, and came up with mixed results.  Some liquor was more expensive, some less.

And while it is true that bulk purchasing by the state has its benefits, the whole article misses an important point — it shouldn’t be any concern of the state government what the price of booze is or what selection is available.

Are the price comparisons reported by the Patriot News valid? Maybe Pennsylvanians drink more vodka than Marylanders.  Or less.  Or different vodkas.  Or maybe we would buy more scotch whiskey if the prices were more affordable — or maybe we wouldn’t.  Maybe Pennsylvanians would forgo price reductions if there were better selection, or more convenient hours of operation.  Or maybe not.

That’s a lot of “maybes”, and a lot of trade-offs.  The point is that the state government doesn’t know the answer to those questions, and it can’t know.

Bold added:

The retail price already includes an 18 percent Johnstown Flood Tax, created in 1936 to help that city recover from a devastating flood, and the LCB’s mandatory 30 percent markup it places on all products. The markup is the same whether it’s an expensive hard-to-find wine or a $10 bottle of vodka. The LCB also charges a handling fee to vendors.


In an effort to modernize — or, as critics say, behave more like a private business— the LCB wants to alter its pricing structure. Doing so would require legislation.

More flexibility with the 30 percent markup would allow the board to establish different markups, which would increase the cost of some brands and lower the prices of others.

Anybody who has ever priced items should know that a flat markup on retail items is sheer lunacy.  Any private business makes more on some sales than on others.  The fact that it would require an act of the legislature to change the markup structure should be proof enough that the whole system is in need of privatization.

The Left is fond of saying that certain issues are inherently “political issues”, or require a “political solution”.  This designation is normally reserved for grander topics like homelessness among veterans, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, or starving orphans.

Is the price of booze a “political issue”?  Do we really need a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats to decide what the markup is going to be on my bottle of Knob Creek? Is there a lurking Merlot crisis in need of a “political solution”? Don’t they have better things to do?  If liquor is a political issue, what isn’t?!

May 26, 2011 at 10:45 am Comments (2)

What the Frack?

Guess what?


At a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday, President Barack Obama’s EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, admitted the environmental risk of hydraulic fracturing is practically nonexistent.

“I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing,” she said.

Clearly we need to cease all fracturing operations all over the state.

May 26, 2011 at 2:27 am Comment (1)

Why Is PA’s GOP So Obstructionist On Education Reform?

 Sen. Piccola Can’t Pass His School Choice Bill, So He’s Killing Other Reforms

Spring is here, and that means water ice.

As the man at the counter placed his order, the total came to $4.30.  The clerk — a suburban high school-aged girl — mistakenly rang it up as forty three cents.  No problem. Mistakes happen.

All she had to do was subtract 43 cents from $4.30 and ring up the difference, and we’d be that much closer to our Italian ice.  Life would be good.

Except that the line stood still.  Turns out the girl was having a major problem — not with the cash register, but the math.  After conferring with her colleagues (and presumably a manager), it was determined that such a complex mathematical equation was just too difficult to mentally solve, so she just rang it up as a flat $2.00 and called it a final sale.

Hey, no one’s saying it’s easy to do calculations in your head with a long line of impatient gelati-crazed kids (and adults), but we’re also not talking about the complex mathematical equations Will solved in Good Will Hunting.

This situation is normally is blown off by a public that buries its head in the sand simply as an aberration, not reflective of America’s educational achievement. Wrong.  Our water ice clerk’s performance is not the exception, but the norm.

The United States ranks near the bottom of all educational categories against its industrialized competitors, and Pennsylvania is even worse: almost half of ALL eleventh graders cannot pass the state’s proficiency tests in reading and math.  That’s not just an inner city problem, but a statewide one.

So with education reform being such an integral part of last year’s GOP campaigns, and the Republicans sweeping to power by winning control of the Governor’s office and both state legislative chambers, it was a foregone conclusion that such reforms would be passed, with school choice leading the way.

But that didn’t happen, as that effort has been derailed — deliberately.  Not by the teachers’ unions mind you, but by the biggest political whiner of them all, Mr. School Choice himself — Republican Senator Jeff Piccola. 


Pop quiz: name the politicians who said the following diametrically-opposed statements about the EITC (Educational Improvement Tax Credit), a successful decade-old program that gives tax credits to businesses that contribute to school choice scholarships.

A)    “I have always been a stalwart supporter of the EITC program and that’s why I recently introduced a measure to (upwardly) adjust the allowable household income for eligible families.” 

B)    “I can only speak for the Education Committee and it’s not coming out of there…it’s dead on arrival,” (referring to Montgomery County State Rep. Tom Quigley’s EITC expansion bill that just passed the House by a 190 to 7 vote).

Answers: Jeff Piccola and…Jeff Piccola.

You see, Piccola, Chairman of the Education Committee, has been leading the charge on Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), which is weak school choice legislation written last year while Rendell and the Democrats were in control and not reworked to reflect a school choice governor (Tom Corbett) and the new GOP-controlled House.

Despite untold millions spent by deep-pocketed SB 1 supporters — many of whom demonized the majority of conservatives (their allies, no less) who simply wanted a better, more inclusive bill rather than settling for one that only affected very low-income students — SB 1 died this spring.

And the reasons for its death could fill a book on what NOT to do in politics.

It never dawned on these Harrisburg know-it-alls to actually count votes before they shot off their mouths about SB 1’s virtually guaranteed passage.  So when a number of GOP senators announced they were not on board with the bill as it was written, jeopardizing its chances of success, it would have made good political sense to ask them what their concerns were, in a genuine attempt to understand their issues, and if possible, win their support.

But that didn’t happen. 

Instead, the SB 1 forces, now desperate to keep the issue alive since their wealthy friends might soon be turning off the money spigot, launched a series of brazenly stupid PR campaigns ostensibly designed to win over the wayward Republican senators.  Their strategy?  Produce misleading (and anonymous) phone calls, newspaper ads, radio commercials and deceitful direct mail pieces plastered with messages like “Shame on You, Senator.”

Not exactly the way to endear the targeted pol to your side.  The result? Scratch even more Republicans.

So with the prospects of SB 1 going the way of the dodo, it was left to the House to do the heavy education reform lifting, which it did with its near-unanimous vote to expand the EITC.

Given that the EITC was clearly the only bill with life, why would Piccola kill a concept he supports (EITC expansion is also in his SB 1) by declaring the House bill “DOA?” Especially when it would be absolutely guaranteed to pass the full senate and be signed into law by the Governor?

Selfishness.  If Piccola can’t have it his way, with his name on the bill he wants, he’ll settle for nothing. Curiously, that is exactly the charge leveled by SB 1 zealots against those trying to craft a more inclusive bill.

So much for education reform being all about “the kids.”

Piccola’s ineptitude has directly led to three things:

1)      The Republican Party is now viewed — correctly — as obstructionist.  Abandoning its campaign promise of reforming education, and turning its back on parents and their children who would benefit from the House bill does not benefit the GOP heading into an election year where Democrats will be much more competitive.

2)      The children —our future — are the biggest victims, pawns in the chess game Piccola is playing to garner headlines and accolades.  Piccola, who as committee chairman has the sole power to release the EITC bill from his committee for a full senate vote, may have won this political round — if you can call that a “win” — but in doing so, he’s turned his back on Pennsylvania’s students. When nearly half our high school juniors cannot read and add, and a solution is carelessly disregarded, we are all losers. 

3)      The perception that all politicians are greedy, self-interested hacks has been further reinforced in the minds of Pennsylvanians.  That’s a shame, because there really are many elected officials who put in an honest day’s work, fighting for the right reasons, not to satisfy their personal agendas — like Rep. Quigley and Chester County Rep. Curt Schroder, another educational reform leader fighting for ALL Pennsylvania students.

What happens now?  Maybe SB 1, if amended to truly include the middle class, has a shot in the fall.  Or possibly, if enough pressure can be brought upon Piccola and the hypocrites who staunchly support the EITC but are noticeably silent on Piccola’s DOA strategy, the EITC will be voted upon by the senate this spring.  But that window is closing fast.

Neither may occur, in which case meaningful education reform will not take place for a minimum of two years, as nothing controversial will be initiated during the 2012 election cycle.

Above all, one thing is certain. If education reform — be it school choice, EITC, teacher strikes or a host of other issues — hinges on Jeff Piccola’s political prowess, the prospects for success are about as great as the water ice clerk winning a Fields Medal in Math.

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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May 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm Comment (1)

Commonwealth Conversion

The Commonwealth Foundation recently announced that a former AFL-CIO lobbyist has joined the CF as a Senior Fellow:

CF Blog excerpt:

Pearre Dean, a 14-year government relations veteran for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), left the labor movement due to his inability to reconcile the ill effects forced unionism has on private enterprise and taxpayers.

“After more than a decade of seeing the other side, it’s clear to me the private sector creates jobs, not the government sector-it’s time the tail stops wagging the dog,” said Dean.  “Part of my new mission is to expand workers’ freedom and get government out of the business of competing with private enterprise and taking advantage of taxpayers.”

Congrats to Mr. Dean and to the Commonwealth Foundation!

Score one for voluntary unionism and true workers’ rights.

May 24, 2011 at 12:21 pm Comments (0)

Tim Pawlenty, Presented in 3-D

Blegging a bit.

See my blog for my 2 cents on the Pawlenty Campaign.

May 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm Comments (0)

Weekend political roundup

May 22, 2011 at 9:12 am Comments (0)

Damn Yankees! Corbett Spends $20 Million On Yanks’ AAA Stadium

There’s good news and bad news for the New York Yankees.

The bad news is that their payroll — always the biggest in baseball — hasn’t produced.  Hey, they haven’t won a World Series in over a year.  Remember, these are the Yankees — the most well-known, most loved (by some), most hated (by many), and wealthiest sports franchise in America. They are the only team on the planet whose season is a complete failure if they don’t win a world championship.

Maybe the recession is finally taking such a toll that even the Yanks are too cash-strapped to bring in new talent. But that’s where the good news comes in.  Turns out they will have extra money to spend after all, now that they won’t be shelling out big bucks to renovate the stadium of their AAA minor league team in Scranton/Wilkes Barre. 

It is not without irony, though, that the Bronx Bombers’ financial home run comes at the expense of Phillies fans.


You see, the Yanks’ windfall is courtesy of Pennsylvania taxpayers, who are on the hook for $20 million to upgrade the stadium. And who authorized such an expenditure at a time when the state is facing a $4.2 billion deficit?

Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

The same person who, during his campaign last year. championed fiscal restraint and the need for government to return to its core functions.

And the same person, who, a day after announcing the deal, talked about why the state is in such a fiscal mess:

“(Ed Rendell) said yes, yes, yes,” Corbett said of his predecessor, “and that’s why we are where we are…. in the times we are in we have to be able to say no.”

Come again?

He just spent money on something taxpayers shouldn’t be funding in good times, let alone in a recession when the state’s finances are in really bad shape.

So Corbett’s curveball will keep his approval rating at 30 percent — a great percentage for a hitter but not so good for a politician — and a far cry from the 55 percent he received just six months ago.

Here’s a look at why the stadium giveaway is such bad policy — and bad politics:

1)      People are “stadium fatigued,” having put up money to construct arenas across the state, including facilities for the Eagles, Phillies, Steelers, Pirates and soccer franchise Philadelphia Union.  All told, $1 billion in taxpayer money was used to finance stadium construction since 1999.  And here’s the kicker: the real amount will be almost three times that, because the money usually comes from bonds, which, like mortgages, are paid back over time (20 or 30 years) with interest. Millionaire owners increasing their fortunes on the backs of taxpayers just isn’t right.

Corbett gets the worst of both worlds.  Not only is he viewed as hypocritical for spending money on a stadium, but he loses the game by doing it for the benefit of the richest of the rich, and the victor over the Phillies in the 2009 World Series (not to mention 1950). Don’t underestimate that sentiment come election time.

2)      Blaming Rendell for the state’s fiscal mess is certainly on target, as spending under his eight year watch skyrocketed.  But Corbett’s message increasingly rings hollow since his rhetoric doesn’t meet his actions.

Rendell attempted to bail out the Philadelphia Shipyard (a private entity) so that it could build ships with no buyers, but left office before completing the deal.  Corbett bailed it out anyway. So much for fiscal restraint and getting government out of the private sector.

And it was Rendell who initially wanted to fund the Yankees’ stadium, but again, it was Corbett who came in from the bullpen to get the taxpayer-funded “win.”

Corbett continues to pursue a policy perceived as “spending cuts for you, but not me.” He raised the salaries of his executive staff (who now average $13,000 per year more than their counterparts under Rendell), and increased the budget of the Lt. Governor’s office by 46 percent.

Cuts are inherently unpopular, but people will support a leader who leads by example and mandates that “everybody feels the pain — no exceptions.” That hasn’t happened in Pennsylvania.  Hence the basement-dwelling approval rating.

3)      The stadium funds, which local officials say could actually end up being $25 million, come from a bond used to fund building projects.  In a state as large as Pennsylvania, there are an infinite number of possibilities that would provide a better return to the state and its taxpayers.

Pre-eminent among them would be building natural gas fueling stations for the state fleet of vehicles that will — hopefully — soon be powered by that fuel. (The management of these stations could then be leased to private companies to maximize private-sector efficiencies). Additionally, state buildings should be converted to run on natural gas (with gas being mandated in all new construction), since Pennsylvania is sitting atop the Marcellus Shale — second-largest gas field in the world.  It is clean (virtually no emissions); extremely cost effective (currently one-seventh the cost of gasoline); limitless; creates jobs; and sets the national model for how to achieve energy independence (bolstering national security).

And here’s an added bonus: it can solve a looming problem no one wants to discuss: keeping the gas industry in Pennsylvania.  Despite all the advantages of natural gas, demand is so low that gas companies are finding it extremely difficult to be profitable.  It’s to the point that companies may start capping their wells and rolling out of state to pursue other interests (as it is a very mobile industry).  Such a situation would be catastrophic to all Pennsylvanians.

Bottom line: Tom Corbett is giving Democrats all the ammunition they need to wage effective campaigns against Republican legislators next year. The Governor’s increasing lack of credibility could potentially endanger the GOP majorities in both chambers, particularly in a presidential election year which always generates a significant Democratic turnout.

Core, common sense and consistency are the hallmarks of effective leadership, and all have been in short supply from the Governor’s office.

Just this week, the Governor underwent successful back surgery. We wish him well in that regard, but now it’s time to get his head in the game.


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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May 20, 2011 at 3:54 am Comments (0)

Two conservative victories out east

How delightful.

Incumbent Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning lost handily in the Republican Primary on Tuesday, derailed by opponents’ successful efforts to saddle him with the blame for the county’s 16 percent property tax increase.

Three members of a slate of fiscally conservative candidates headed by Scott Ott, the GOP’s 2009 county executive candidate who nearly defeated heavily-favored Democrat Don Cunningham, were in the top three spots, according to unofficial results.


Ott, a conservative blogger and Tea Party favorite, put together a ticket of self-styled fiscal conservatives that included Mazzioti, Najarian and Scheller, who targeted Browning and his vote against rejecting a 16-percent-tax increase included in Cunningham’s 2011 budget.

Browning never actually voted for the tax increase itself, but he voted with five commissioners including Republican Percy Dougherty, against a Republican plan to trim it to 13 percent.

He cast the deciding vote against a second Republican bid to reject Cunningham’s budget outright. In theory, that would have forced Cunningham to enact deep cuts in county spending to balance the budget without a tax hike.

If you aren’t familiar with Scott Ott’s stuff, check him out at Scrappleface. It looks like the site could use some attention, but when you’re busy smoking a tax-hiking RINO, something’s gotta give.

On to round two
and Phillyburbs columnist Kate Fratti channeling Dionne Warwick and her psychic friends.

In Pennsbury, any seats not won outright by the anti-union faction in Tuesday’s primary will be won in November. They will take over the school board majority. That’s my prediction.

Pennsbury School District is the home of Simon Campbell, founder of Stop Teacher Strikes and a staunch opponent of the ever-growing behemoth that is the PSEA. All the seats on the school board are contested this fall with the pro-union candidates going up against the pro-education candidates.

Let’s hope Kate’s prediction comes true.

May 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm Comments (0)

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