"What's black and white and read all over?"

Saturday, June 24, 2006
Posted 9:35 PM by

Swann and slots

As Pennsylvania inches closer to handing out 14 slots parlor licenses the public is beginning to wake up and realize the law legalizing slot machine gambling is a lemon that was passed illegally.This one is dedicated to Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, who as I reported on Tuesday, criticized the legalization of slot-machine gambling in Pennsylvania as poor public policy even though his own property tax reform proposal requires its revenue.

Swann said he did not call for repealing the slots law because he believes the Legislature's 2004 vote of approval reflects popular support.

However, the legalization of slot machine gambling was never put to a public vote in a statewide referendum.

Advocating the repeal of the slots law would be "a waste of my time and energy," Swann said. "I'd like to win the election."

Tell that to Meredith Warner, of Fishtown NABR, who spoke out against Pennsylvania casinos on June 1:


Friday, June 23, 2006
Posted 9:06 PM by

Comcast disservice caught on video

Cocmast Corp. got the public relations nightmare it long deserved this week when a cable modem customer shot a video of a company technician sleeping on his couch after being on hold for an hour with his central office.A Comcast cable modem customer who videotaped a company technician in Washington sleeping on his couch and posted the footage on, shamed a rare apology out of the company for its poor service, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today.

The video, which went viral, prompted the firing of the employee, whom Comcast would not identify.

To me that's a shame.

The technician came to replace a faulty modem but "after spending an hour on hold with Comcast's central office, he fell asleep on my couch," videographer/Comcast customer Brian Finkelstein, aka DoorFrame, wrote on YouTube.

Shouldn't whoever was on the phone's other line really be the one disciplined. An hour is an awful long time to be on hold, as many Comcast customers can attest.

"I've been in my apartment for three weeks and my internet connection is still non-functional," Finkelstein, a Georgetown University law student, wrote on June 20. "This is my tribute to Comcast, their low quality technology and their poor customer service."

After three days on YouTube, the 58-second video had been viewed more than 206,000 times, proving he's not alone in hating the customer's customer service.

This is a picture of the typical Comcast customer's nerves after calling customer service with a problem.I've actually called for re-regulation of the cable TV/Internet industry after being equally frustrated by the company's "tipping points," which require at least 20 complaints from my area before they'll classify a problem as an outtage and send out a qualified technician to fix it.

Thankfully, we're inching ever closer in Pennsylvania to true competition between Verizon and Comcast thanks to the phone company's glacially installed FiOS service.

Below you'll find Finkelstein's video:


Thursday, June 22, 2006
Posted 10:43 PM by

Pa. house passes watered down lobbyist disclosure bill

Some lawmakers may have been hoodwinked into approving House Speaker John Perzel's bill by mistake, after the bulk of its wording replaced that of a stronger competing bill the House approved once last year.

Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel feigned ignorance of the fact that a lobbyist disclosure bill railroaded through the House Tuesday mirrors the competing one he introduced a week ago, even though its original version had much stronger requirements.Pennsylvania's House of Representatives rammed through a lobbyist disclosure bill, 190-1, Thursday that was almost word-for-word the same one Speaker John Perzel proposed two weeks ago - but even more watered down.

To make matters worse, the measure was passed using the same controversial - some say unconstitutional - method House leaders used to pass the law legalizing slot machines in 2004 and to give lawmakers a now-repealed pay raise last year.

An existing bill was gutted after it had already been approved once and put into committee, then brought back to the floor and passed a second time with its wording substantially changed.

But unlike the slots law and the pay raises, which used unrelated bills as their guise, Perzel's lobbyist "reform" bill, H.B. 2753, actually used a competing plan's House number, H.B. 700, as its own. And the Republican legislator who wrote the old version acted as if it was still his bill.

Rep. John Maher, H.B. 700's prime sponsor, called it "the toughest, the most far-reaching lobbying proposal that has ever been considered by this Legislature," the Associated Press reported.

Maher would have been correct if his quote had come before June 13, the day Perzel's bill was introduced in the House and the same day H.B. 700 was reported out of the House Appropriations Committee with its wording changed.

The centerpiece of his bill, Maher said, are the requirements for registration and expense reporting by "principals," the companies and other interests that hire or employ lobbyists.

Maher's original version of the bill - printer's No. 917 - which was first approved March 14, 2005, would have required principals to file an expense report when their "aggregate expenses for lobbying or gifts exceed $500 in a reporting period."

The new version - the one representatives approved twice today, printers No. 4350, sets that threshold five times higher - at $2,500 - the same minimum Perzel wanted in H.B. 2753.

That's not the only similarity.

Wording between the latest version of 700 and 2753 is virtually identical, a comparison of the two bills finds. There are two major differences, though.

A controversial proposal that would have made violations of Perzel's bill possibly subject to racketeering charges was dropped from H.B. 700. Also stripped was a clause that Perzel wanted to bar each lobbyist from representing different principals if their interests conflict.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation without a lobbyist disclosure law. A previous law passed in 1998 was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2002 because it regulated lawyers who also work as lobbyists, when attorneys can only face discipline from the high court's disciplinary board.

A senate rule has been in place since 2003, which requires lobbyists to voluntary report their total expenses and who they're lobbying for. Their reports showed that 800 registered lobbyists spent nearly $125 million last year to sway the opinion of the state's 253 elected lawmakers as well as high-ranking officials in Gov. Ed Rendell's administration.

Barry Kauffman, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Pennsylvania, isn't exactly thrilled with today's bill. He told the AP the House rushed it through too quickly to give him and the general public time to analyze its provisions.

"Here's a bill to protect public integrity, and the actual language they voted on popped up two hours before the vote," Kauffman said.

"It's a replay of how we dealt with the pay raise, the gaming legislation and other controversial legislation," state Rep. Greg Vitali, the bill's lone dissenter, said in a press release. "The language in the final version of this bill was negotiated by a handful of people and sprung on everyone at the last minute. As of this morning, most legislators still did not have a copy of it. The public has not seen the language, it did not go through committee, it has not been considered on three separate days - it's the same old process."

But the bait-and-switch of the wording and bill number wasn't why Vitali, long a proponent of lobbyist reform, stood alone in voting against it.

"It does not provide enough disclosure to allow constituents to gauge how much their legislators and the issues they decide are being influenced by special interest lobbyists," said Vitali, D-Delaware County. "It does not require lobbyists to list the specific subject matter or legislation they are attempting to influence, or the names of the legislators they are trying to influence."

As I first reported exclusively in April, both were points Perzel and his unnamed "research staff" insisted upon while drafting his bill behind closed doors.

Perzel's bill wasn't given a House number and posted online for the public to read until last Wednesday, a full week after he held a press conference to announce its introduction.

For his part, Perzel feigned ignorance about the change in H.B. 700's wording today.

"Earlier this month, when I introduced the Lobbying Accountability Act (H.B. 2753), I said that even if my specific proposal was not the final document in which lobbying reform was enacted, I was okay with that," Perzel said in a press release.

State Rep. Greg Vitali, the lobbyist disclosure bill's lone dissenter, said it does not disclose which lawmakers received items from lobbyists and why. He also decried the method by which it was passed, which was identical to last year's pay raise law."My ultimate goal was to have a law that would lead to more openness and transparency in state government and a law that would addresses the issue of lawyers who take part in the lobbying process, an issue that negated the state's previous Lobbying Disclosure Law.

"I am confident that House Bill 700 does just that, and for the first time, the people of Pennsylvania will know who hires lobbyists, how much they spend, and who and what they are trying to influence."


Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Posted 10:56 PM by

Want to know what your Pa. legislator spends money on?

Be prepared to make at least two requests in writing, wait a few weeks in between for approval, shell out 50 cents per page for copying and be willing to sit in a closet for hours on end.

Pennsylvanians who try to follow the money their lawmakers spend face have to overcome purposeful obstacles blocking the trail.I have long decried the fact that Pennsylvania's Legislature is the only governmental body in the state exempt from the Sunshine or Open Meetings law.

That means the state lawmakers, who wrote that law, can debate the public's business behind closed doors in party-based caucuses.

But did you also know that they're pretty much exempt from the state's Open Records law too, by making their public records request process purposely prohibitive in order to deter the prying public?

This from a government body that spends $500 million annually on itself.

My buddy, Bob Bauder of the Beaver County Times, learned that firsthand recently when he tried to look up the office expenses of several lawmakers from his area.

Bob found that a citizen would pay hundreds of dollars and spend months, literally in a closet, trying to get expense reports for all of the state's 203 House members.

To gain access to the records, Bauder found that citizens must write letters requesting the reports. Legislators are then notified of the request and once it's approved, citizens must make an appointment in the Capital to see the information - a process that can take weeks.

Before they're given any documents, though, citizens have to sign an "Expenditure Review Affidavit," listing their name, "swearing and avowing" the name of their employer and listing the records they are about to review.

This is my favorite part: "Then they must sit in the 4-by-6-foot closet along with a refrigerator, cases of pop, salt and pepper shakers, food tins and umbrellas while looking over the paperwork."

Bob also found:

  • The reports have no order to them and can run 40 pages long. Copying costs 50-cents per page.

  • Expenses are listed only generically as "office supplies" or "meals."

  • For further detail, citizens must request receipts, which means another round of requests that could take weeks.

The process is time-consuming and prohibitive in order to "keep the taxpayers deaf, dumb and blind," Tim Potts, co-founder of Democracy Rising Pa., told Bauder. "The purpose is so they can't be criticized for having wasted taxpayer money."

To change that, Potts' group and a coalition of others have joined together and come up with a Roadmap to Reform.

They want to compel the lawmakers to comply fully with the Open Records law to the same degree and in the same detail as all other agencies in the state. In addition, they want the law rewritten to provide a monthly, online accounting for each legislator detailing the cost of all salary, benefits and expenses paid during the previous month.

The groups would also prohibit all forms of unvouchered expenses, permit legislators per diem costs but only for expenses with detailed vouchers that are open to public inspection via the Internet, and want all votes by lawmakers - including committee votes, procedural votes and votes on amendments and final passage - posted online within 24 hours with links to the language actually voted upon and the final outcome of the vote.

So far, only one bill, which was introduced by state Senator Vince Fumo comes even close to meeting any of the coalition's requests.

Senate Bill 102 would mandate that each vote taken in the House or Senate be posted on the Internet site of that particular chamber within 24 hours of the vote. Committee votes would have to be posted within 48 hours. The bill would also require the complete journal of each legislative session day to be posted on the Internet within 30 calendar days. It would further mandate that a Legislative Data Processing Committee maintain a publicly accessible database of the official version of all statutory laws of the Commonwealth. Currently, only private companies have maintained such databases.

Fumo, D-Philadelphia, introduced the bill on April 19, nearly a month after a similar bill was proposed in New Jersey's Legislature.

State Senator Robert J. Martin introduced his bill, S1662, on March 20 to require New Jersey's Office of Legislative Services to "make complete voting records of legislators available to the public in electronic form."

It has since been followed up by two nearly identical measures, A3004 and A3252.

The Senate unanimously approved Martin's proposal and based on the trio of bills, the Assembly State Government Committee voted last Thursday to authorize an interactive online database through which users can see how lawmakers voted on a specific bill on the Senate or Assembly floor or in committees.


New Jersey has an eye on moving ahead of neighboring states in terms of openness and responsibility, with bills that would mandate all state reports be posted online and require lawmakers to take ethics training. To read more about it, click here.


Posted 10:48 PM by

New Jersey may switch to online reporting

New Jersey Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew's bill would require the state to post all of its reports online as a means of distribution in order to save money.If Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew gets his way, access to every single report produced by New Jersey will be online for residents to read.

Van Drew, D-Cape May, introduced a bill - A2715 - in February that would make the Internet the state's primary way of distributing information, not to improve the public's ability to read them.

To him, it's simply cheaper - about $2 million cheaper.

"We're not trying to prevent the dissemination of public information here," Van Drew said last week, after adding an amendment to provide 42 printed copies of reports for the state depository libraries and State Archives. "We want people to have full access to it. It's a simple way, without hurting people, to save money."

It's not the only bill that would require the state to make better use of the web.

For instance, A2388 would require the Office of Legislative Services to make audiovisual recordings of all legislative sessions available to public in electronic form.

There are also three bills - S1662, A3004 and A3252 - that would require the complete voting records of legislators be posted online.

To improve those voting records, S588 would require legislators and state officers or employees in the legislative branch to undergo ethics training every two years.

Other interesting bills pending in the Legislature that might change the way it does business include:

ACR151 Amends Constitution to increase number of years in a term of the Legislature and in the terms of Senate and General Assembly members.

ACR153 Proposes amendment to State Constitution to change term of members of the General Assembly to four years.

A103 Reduces limits on contributions to legislative leadership committees and to political committees and continuing political committees.

A1682 Abolishes legislative leadership committees; reduces contributions to State political party committees to $12,500 per year, to county committees to $10,000 per year and to municipal committees to $5,000 per year.

A104 Eliminates legislative leadership committees.

A197 Abolishes the formation and use of legislative leadership committees.

A270 Establishes privilege for certain communications between legislator and constituent.

A523 Requires legislators, Governor and department heads to file annually statement of financial affairs with Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards or Executive Commission on Ethical Standards.

A1736 Prohibits legislator and Governor from accepting money or things of value for any purpose from casino licensees and certain casino employees.

A2081 Increases the number of legislators on the Amistad Commission from four to eight.

A2899 Provides certain information obtained by a legislator be considered confidential and not subject to disclosure.

AR125 Creates task force to study the consideration of bills by legislative committees.

S588 Requires completion of legislative ethics training program for legislators and State officers or employees and special State officers or employees in Legislative Branch.

S1283 Establishes single personal financial disclosure form for local government officers, candidates for Governor and member of Legislature, members of Legislature and school officials.

SCR22 Establishes joint legislative commission to study feasibility of establishing full-time Legislature.


If you want to know what your Pennsylvania legislator spends money on, be prepared to make at least two requests in writing, wait a few weeks in between for approval, shell out 50 cents per page for copying and be willing to sit in a closet for hours on end. To read why, click here.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Posted 9:09 PM by

Election may decide Pa.'s right to be stupid

Clear lines can be drawn between Pennsylvania gubernatorial hopefuls Ed Rendell and Lynn Swann when it comes to motorcycle helmets, a statewide indoor smoking ban and using money from slot machines to finance education.Despite mounting evidence that more helmetless motorcycle riders are now dying, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell stands by his 2003 repeal of the law requiring them to wear protective headgear in traffic.

"I know you'll be surprised hearing this from a Democrat, but I generally believe that government shouldn't get involved in things of personal choice," Rendell told Pittsburgh TV reporters last week after the crash involving Steelers' Super Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

His Republican opponent in the November election doesn't think so.

Former Steelers star Lynn Swann would sign a bill to restore the helmet law if he is elected and the Legislature passes it, but is not advocating such a move, said Swann spokeswoman Melissa Walters.

Clear lines can also be drawn between the gubernatorial hopefuls when it comes to the idea of a statewide indoor smoking ban and using money from slot machines to finance education.

In a state that never seems to put such controversial questions on a ballot referendum for the public to decide, the governor is often the final say on such matters.

"The question is where you draw the line in a free society," Rendell said. Where do you draw the line, how much do you regulate? And that was my decision. ... Ben Roethlisberger is a very smart, intelligent guy. And he made a choice for himself."

Apparently Big Ben was not bright enough to actually have a license to drive a motorcycle at the time of the crash and will be cited for it, the Associated Press reported Monday.

State motorcycle deaths increased by 31 percent from 2003 to 2005, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Over that time, deaths of helmet-wearing riders declined, but helmetless fatalities went from 27 in 2003 to 87 last year.

Those figures and others will be part of a report required by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee as part of the repeal, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The report is scheduled for release June 28.

Meanwhile, a similar study in Florida found traffic deaths soared in the nearly six years since Gov. Jeb Bush repealed that state's mandatory helmet law.

A Florida Today analysis of federal motorcycle crash statistics found "unhelmeted" deaths in Florida rose from 22 in 1998 and 1999, the years before the helmet law repeal, to 250 in 2004, the most recent year of available data.

Another clear killer in Pennsylvania is cigarette smoke.

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County, has repeatedly proposed a statewide indoor ban, S.B. 602, similar to the one in place in New Jersey. It would forbid smoking in a variety of businesses, including bars, restaurants, malls, grocery stores, sports arenas, convention halls and casinos. It also would extend to workplaces, requiring employees to leave the premises before lighting up.

Rendell seems to have flip-flopped in the last two weeks on the issue.

While being peppered with questions about the helmet law repeal, Rendell told reporters the effects of smoking, eating red meat and drinking alcohol cost society much more than motorcycle accidents, but those habits are legal.

"We don't prevent people from smoking," he said, "and 20,000 Pennsylvanians die each year from smoking."

But an hour after a similar smoking ban bill, H.B. 1489, proposed by state Rep. Susan Cornell, R-Montgomery, failed to gain enough votes on June 7 to pass the state House Health and Human Services Committee, Rendell said he supported the bill.

"I know a lot of the legislators here believe that (smoking bans) should be done on a local basis ... but I believe a statewide ban would be good, and I'd be willing to sign it," the incumbent said.

Swann, told the Associated Press he would support legislation to outlaw smoking in Pennsylvania workplaces, but believes restaurant and bar owners should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking in their establishments.

"You can't hire people based on whether they smoke or don't smoke," said Swann, who said he has never smoked. "It's an environment that people who choose not to smoke can't control necessarily, so smoking in the workplace I think is something that we can legislate against."

Swann also criticized the legalization of slot-machine gambling in Pennsylvania as poor public policy, even though his own property tax reform proposal requires its revenue.

He said he did not call for repealing the slots law because he believes the Legislature's 2004 vote of approval reflects popular support.

However, the legalization of slot machine gambling was never put to a public vote in a statewide referendum.

Instead, after taking millions of dollars in campaign contributions from gambling interests and gifts from gambling lobbyists, state lawmakers passed the 145-page bill by gutting an existing, unreleated two paragraph bill on the eve of a holiday recess in the early morning of July 2, 2004, and forcing a floor vote without any public debate.

Rendell, who made slot machines a focal point of his 2002 election campaign, signed the bill into law the next day, saying, "It isn't a panacea, but it certainly isn't the demon it's been made out to be."

Advocating the repeal of the slots law would be "a waste of my time and energy," Swann said. "I'd like to win the election."

This post was reprinted from my Home Turf blog on


Monday, June 19, 2006
Posted 9:32 PM by

Perzel: Pay raise 'indefensible,' but Pa. pays $1M to defend it

Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel made a mea culpa Monday on last year's repealed legislative pay raise, likely in hopes of saving his leadership position. It came on the same day the Philadelphia Inquirer reported he and other state leaders spent more than $1 million to defend the pay hikes against five lawsuits.I would have loved to have been in the Capital Newsroom when Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel hastily called a press conference today to back off his statements last week to a television station about last year's legislative pay raise.

Perzel must have been pounded the last four days after he said Thursday in a rare interview on WITF-TV's "Smart Talk" program that he supported the pay hike - which called for raises of 16- to 54-percent - because he claimed 30 state lawmakers have bad credit and Philly tattoo artists make more than legislators.

The public disagreed, forcing a repeal of the raises in November after voters ousted state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro. Chief Justice Ralph Cappy supported the raises, which also hiked the salaries of all state judges and top executive branch officials.

Cappy and Perzel unofficially helped write the bill, which was substituted for an existing bill, then pushed through the Legislature late at night and without any public comment on July 7.

In the May 2006 primary, 17 incumbent legislators were voted out of office - including the state's two top senators - largely because of the pay raise issue.

Perzel did not have a primary opponent and appeared to have escaped the carnage unscathed. Then, he opened his mouth.

"Each time I have attempted to publicly convey my commitment to the members, I have only stirred up this issue more. I cannot allow that to continue," Perzel told reporters Monday.

I can only think pressure is really mounting behind closed doors for him to be ousted as speaker.

Withoutsomuch as a pretense, Perzel called the press conference to say, "I understand that some of my statements defending the pay raise have been used against my members and, with that, I do not agree. It is not proper given the variety of viewpoints of our members that they are publicly penalized for my opinions.

"... I am here to make it very clear that I understand the people of our Commonwealth have spoken - the pay raise was wrong," Perzel said. "It has been repealed in accordance with the will of the people. I stand here today to acknowledge that I have been defending something that the people have determined to be indefensible."

Yet, that didn't stop Perzel, other legislative leaders, Cappy and Gov. Ed Rendell from spending $1,037,200 in tax money to defend the pay raise law against five lawsuits, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday.

Six staff lawyers on the state payroll have been involved in the cases, plus at least 16 private lawyers from five law firms, including one who charges $625 an hour, the newspaper reported.

One of the cases, brought by Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and others, was thrown out of federal court by a judge last week who ruled only voters could remedy perceived problems with the pay raise law - by voting out those who passed it.

"Do I like hiring lawyers to defend these kinds of suits? No, I hate to do this," House Majority Leader Sam Smith said. "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."

And they plan to keep paying private lawyers to fight for them, even though Perzel told reporters, "I accept the will of the people."

Makes me wonder why the legal bill isn't being covered by errors and omissions insurance, like the policies municipalities and school districts and business professionals in Pennsylvania purchase?


Sunday, June 18, 2006
Posted 9:49 PM by

From balladeer to balloteer

Pa. gubernatorial candidate Russ Diamond needs to get a little Kinky, or at least hire Gene Stilp as his publicity manager.

Russ Diamond needs a gimmick if he really wants to get elected governor. Ed Rendell has patented personable. Lynn Swann is a football Hall of Famer and the first black man to run for the post. Besides being a reformer, what else does Russ stand for?Why can't Pennsylvania recruit a gubernatorial candidate as colorful as Kinky Friedman of Texas?

Sure, we've got independent Russ Diamond. But he's as dry as most front lawns in late August.

Once you get past Russ' understandably righteous indignation at a state gone mad and actually read his reform platform - most of which die-hard conservative Republicans really want to adopt in spite of their caucus leaders, even though they're in the Legislature's majority - what's left to garner attention at the ballot box?

Besides, his coiffed hair and suits make him look like every other politician.

Russ really needs a gimmick. Right now, he's just a Diamond in the rough.

If he could, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell would patent being personable. He's so good a schmoozer that folks forgive his occasional public gaffes and questionable ethics.

Republican Lynn Swann is a football Hall of Famer, a former Steeler and a successful businessman. He also happens to be the first black man to run for the post, but prefers not to be thought of that way.

Meanwhile, Russ is.... proving my point.

Lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Gene Stilp was pretty good.

Failed Lt. Gov. candidate Gene Stilp's ability to dress like a cow, inflate a giant pig and run for an office on the grounds of abolishing the post, was not only good theater, it was good free television to spread his real message.Stilp has a sharp wit and a crazy smile. He ran for lieutenant governor on the grounds to abolish that office, but came in dead last. (Even Ed "" Forchion did better percentagewise when he ran for New Jersey governor last year.)

Stilp once dressed in a cow suit to protest Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel's comment, "The people in Lancaster County who milk cows are making $50,000 to $55,000 [a year]. You are paying a guy who milks cows $55,000 and they're saying it's too much to pay a member of the General Assembly half of what a member of Congress makes?"

Stilp also understands that the only bad publicity stunt is one the media ignores.

But even Stilp's giant inflatable pink pig protests couldn't pile 'em on at the primary polls the way Kinky probably will.

Never head of Kinky? Don't worry, neither did I, until I saw a 60 minutes piece on him tonight.

He's a witty jewish country and western songman of the Jimmy Buffett variety, but with no governor on his mouth and plenty to say. Sometimes too much. One song from Friedman's 11 albums is titled, "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore."

Kinky Friedman is as much a politician as Jesse 'The Body' Ventura was before Minnesota elected him governor, possibly less. At least Jesse could act. This guy actually means what he says - especially when he's wisecracking.Even if you're not jewish and don't speak Yiddish, you'll recognize Kinky's one defining characteristic: Chutzpah.

Here's but a small collection of the independent candidate's witticisms from Morley Safer's interview with him:

On his role as an outsider: "Politics is the only field in which the more experience you have, the worse you get. And I think musicians can better run this state than politicians. And, hell, beauticians can better run the state than politicians."

On his being Jewish deep in the south: "I tell people, trust me, I'm a Jew, I'll hire good people."

On his perpetual bachelorhood at age 61: "I'd like to have a first lady, yeah. We'll see. I mean, there's no hurrying. I've waited this long. Why make a tragic mistake at this time."

On his opponents: "The Democrats and Republicans are the same guy admiring themself in the mirror."

On putting the Ten Commandments back in schools: "I want them back, they belong there. Maybe I'll have to change their name to the Ten Suggestions, you know. But they were taken out, not by separation of church and state, but by political correctness gone awry. One atheist stands up and says, 'I don't like the Ten Commandments,' and suddenly out they go. And, of course, we all know what happens to an atheist when he dies. His tombstone usually reads, 'All dressed up and no place to go.' "

On school prayer: "I'm for prayer in school. I say what's wrong with a kid believing in something? I don't care if it's a tree or a rock or something, he should believe in something."

On gay marriage: "I also support gay marriage. I say they have every right to be just as miserable as the rest of us. And I'll tell you another thing, you won't find any candidate that supports prayer in school and gay marriage. For that reason alone, people should vote for an independent-thinking person."

On his chances: "Every crazy redneck in Texas is already supporting me. It is not Kinky Friedman versus (Republican incumbent Governor) Rick Perry. It's Kinky Friedman versus apathy. ... I'm gonna win, win, win all around. And we'll put a smile on everybody's face in America and it would send a shiver up the spine of career politicians everywhere."

His final thoughts: "May the God of your choice bless you. Criticize me all you want, but don't circumcise me anymore!"

Kinky, if the people of Texas don't elect you, pack up a carpetbag and move to Pennsylvania.

The people here just might.


To help gain readers for this site, I routinely post a teaser in the Harrisburg Post-Gazette's forum. Russ Diamond responded there, saying, "If blue jeans were acceptable attire for this gig, I'd certainly choose that over a tie anytime!

"... Kinky's great & I hope he wins, too. We all need to laugh at ourselves once in a while. I think that's part of the problem in Harrisburg - they take themselves so seriously that they end up making jack***es out of themselves."

As for a gimmick, Russ said his would be to become "the only gubernatorial candidate in PA history to successfully gather 67,070 signatures just to get on the ballot - with your help, of course! It ain't enough to sign, we need you to circulate! Trust me - you really don't want me to strap the guitar back on and start crooning parody songs about the mess we're in! :)"

To read the complete thread, click here.


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