Posts Tagged blogging

Latrobe Goes Bananas Over Split

Forget about the pension crisis, crumbling roads and bridges, liquor privatization and all those other issues that have been occupying Pennsylvania politicos for the past few months.  It is time to engage in a fight over something really important – banana splits.

Many residents of Penn’s Woods might not know that the banana split was invented right here in the commonwealth, Latrobe to be exact.  For a little town, Latrobe has a lot of claims to fame.  Golfing legend Arnold Palmer and everyone’s favorite neighbor Mr. Rogers hail from the Latrobe area.  The Pittsburgh Steelers, of course, train at Latrobe’s St. Vincent College.

Less well known is the fact that the first banana split was concocted at the Tassell Pharmacy on Ligonier Street in Latrobe.  State officials and local dignitaries gathered recently to unveil a historical marker recognizing Dr. David Strickler as the inventor of the banana split. Legend has it as a young apprentice at the pharmacy back in 1904 he was trying to impress the girls.  At this he succeeded as his new confection caught on.

Having worked at WCNS Radio in Latrobe many years ago I was well aware of the town’s claim to banana split fame.  But, it appears others are attempting to dip their spoons into the bowl.  The town of Wilmington, Ohio (who knew Ohio had a Wilmington?) claims the first banana split was dished out there.  In an effort to bolster their obviously errant claim they hold an annual banana split festival.

Latrobe, unfortunately, is no stranger to having Ohio pilfer that which is rightly theirs.  The first ever professional football game was played in Latrobe.  Therefore, you would think that the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be located in that community at the foothills of the Laurel Highlands.  But along came the flat-landers from Canton, Ohio and stole away the hall.

Now, a bunch of buckeyes want to take Latrobe’s rightful title as home of the first banana split.  This cannot be tolerated.  It is time to fight back!  I’m not sure who gets to make the final call on this issue, but surely there must be some governing body that decides disputes among creameries.  If not, Pennsylvania must seize the initiative and solidify its claim before those festival-loving Ohioans make off with the banana split title.

Pennsylvania has some heavyweights to engage in the battle. According to published reports Arnold Palmer himself attended the dedication of the historical marker.  So did Congressman Tim Murphy and State Senator Kim Ward.  Latrobe should have the firepower to make this claim stick.  Governor Tom Corbett is looking for a way to improve his job performance rating, so he should come out strongly in support of Latrobe as the birthplace of the banana split and rally Pennsylvanians around the one cause on which we can all agree!

And so, as we enjoy the few remaining days of summer let us not rest until we do two things:  go out and enjoy a banana split in honor of Dr. David Strickler and push our elected officials to stop fighting over all those other pesky issues and do something really important by getting Latrobe designated as the official home of the first banana split!

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Time to Teach Philly ‘How to Fish’

Once again it’s budget time and Philadelphia is asking the State Legislature for a fish. It’s about time that the legislature teaches them how to fish.

This year the problem is the schools. The problem is real. The current School District budget would be catastrophic for the city and, most importantly, the children.

The problems, however real, are not new or unpredictable. An aside, I was recently helping to move the Republican City Committee offices and found an article from a series that The Philadelphia Inquirer did entitled “The Shame of our Schools.” It was dated 1981.

Remember how we got into this mess. Philadelphia’s problems with its schools are due to its being one of the poorest cities in America. That didn’t happen by accident. Choices were made that drove businesses, jobs and taxpayers out of the city. Our poverty is directly related to high tax rates, irrational tax structure, corruption, mismanagement and misplaced spending priorities. There was no natural catastrophe. There was no plague. Politicians made decisions, sometimes out of a failure to understand the consequences of their actions, but more often to pander to special interest groups as a reward for past or anticipated electoral support. It’s really just that simple.

Getting out of this is also simple. Reverse the bad choices. Lower tax rates, reform the tax structure, eliminate corruption and mismanagement and spend only on core municipal functions: public safety, public education, sanitation and maintenance of the infrastructure. Simple does not mean easy. It will be painful, but it couldn’t be as bad as the misery that poverty has brought us.

It is reported that some of the ideas to “help” Philadelphia are things like allowing the City to place a $2-per-pack tax on cigarette sales and extending Philadelphia’s “temporary” 1% sales tax, which is supposed to expire at the end 2014.
These are not solutions to the problem.

Let’s look at the cigarette tax. They are thinking about giving Philadelphia’s City Council additional taxing authority. Think about that. Giving Philadelphia’s City Council additional taxing authority??!!! How’s that worked out in the past? Both the cigarette tax and the sales tax will drive sales out of Philadelphia and not all of it goes to Pennsylvania suburbs. Every dollar that goes to Jersey, Delaware or the Internet means that Pennsylvania loses more tax revenue than Philadelphia loses. Who exactly does this help? How about this? If the legislature thinks that the policy is such a good idea, such as the cigarette tax, why don’t they let every municipality in the state do the same thing? I didn’t think so. But if it is bad policy to allow the tax statewide, how is it good for Pennsylvania to allow Philadelphia an exception?

If the legislature wants to help Philadelphia, allowing it to shoot itself in the foot by raising taxes is not the way. Any funding for the schools should be contingent on positive change.

The School District should be required to hire, fire, promote and assign teachers based on what is in the best interests of the children, not seniority.

The School District closed 23 schools and deserves credit for that. It was traumatic. The problem is, they probably should have closed another 25-30, but did not want to expend the political capital. There are still too many under-capacity schools. The School District should be required to close schools and re-draw catchment areas so each school operates at approximately 85% of capacity.

The School District has been trying to restrict charter schools from expanding. This is despite the fact that the amount of money it turns over to the charter schools for each child enrolled is less than what it costs to educate children in the School District operated schools. The School District should only be able to restrict the creation and expansion of charter schools based only on how well they are teaching our children, not funding. If more parents choose charter schools, the School District can close even more schools and concentrate the money on educating fewer children.

Philadelphia needs and wants help. That being said, allowing it to increase taxes on itself to drive more business and taxpayers out does much more harm than good.

 J. Matthew Wolfe is a former Deputy Attorney General and the

Chairman of the University City Republican Committee in West Philadelphia.

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A Tale of Two Parties: Mainstream media bias evident in U.S. Senate appointment coverage

Given the portrait the mainstream news media has painted of the two major political parties, please identify which of the following actions were taken by the Democrat and which by the Republican:

Scenario One: A United States Senator resigns from office just two years into a six year term. The state’s governor, whose parents immigrated to the United States from India, appoints to the office the first African-American from the South to sit in the upper chamber since the Civil War.

Scenario Two: A long-serving U.S. Senator, a war hero and an individual of Japanese-American heritage, on his death bed asks his state’s governor to appoint to fill the remainder of his term a woman of similar ethnic background. The governor, a male Caucasian, spurns the request and appoints a political ally, his Lt. Governor, who also happens to be white.

If you attributed the first set of circumstances to Democrats and the second to Republicans you would fulfill the media stereotype of the two parties.

You would also be wrong.

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) recently announced his resignation from the Senate to assume the presidency of the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s leading conservative think tanks. Governor Nikki Haley, herself a rising star on the national Republican scene, appointed Congressman Tim Scott to represent the Palmetto State in the Senate. Congressman Scott, will be the first African-American from the South to serve in the U.S. Senate since the Civil War and the first Republican to do so since 1979 when Democrat Paul Tsongas defeated incumbent U.S. Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, in the nation’s 50th state, Governor Neil Abercrombie named Lt. Governor Brian Schatz to fill the seat vacated by the death of long-serving U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye. On his death bed Inouye, an honored hero of the Second World War, requested the appointment of Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa to represent Hawaii in the Senate. Abercrombie ignored the request.

Imagine if you will if the party identities of these two casts of characters had been reversed. What sort of fire storm would have ensued if a Republican governor had ignored the dying wish of a revered U.S. Senator of minority ethnicity to appoint a white party loyalist to the position?

Conversely, little mention has been made in the media about the historic nature of the Tim Scott appointment, largely because Mr. Scott is a conservative Republican. The ascendance of black conservatives does not fit the media narrative, so it was conveniently ignored.

The recent history of the Democratic Party when it comes to appointing minorities to open U.S. Senate seats is as abysmal as the current instance. Of the last seven vacancies, going back five years, only one has been a minority. That would be the 2008 appointment of Roland Burris of Illinois to replace Barack Obama who resigned to become President. That turned out to be a dubious honor. Burris immediately became mired in an ethics scandal that resulted in the seat being lost to Republican Mark Kirk in 2010. Further, the appointing governor, Rod Blagojevich, ended up jailed because of the maneuvering that took place over the appointment.

Since then, Democrats have had the opportunity to fill six unexpired U.S.
Senate terms. Five went to white men: Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Carte Goodwin of West Virginia, Paul Kirk of Massachusetts, Michael Bennett of Colorado and Edward Kaufman of Delaware. One woman was appointed, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York who replaced Hillary Rodham Clinton when she resigned to become Secretary of State. Another white male, Congressman Ed Markey is the likely replacement for U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts when he is confirmed as the new Secretary of State.

The simultaneous playing out of these two appointments dramatically underscores the hypocrisy and the double standard that exists when it comes to media coverage of the two political parties, especially when those of the conservative bent are involved.

Since the defeat of Mitt Romney on November 6th the narrative spun by the Left has been that the GOP cannot win because it fails to reach out to women and to minorities. Yet, in South Carolina you have a female governor making a historic appointment of an African-American and little note is made of the development. Meanwhile, white Democrats spurn the dying wish of a Senator of ethnic heritage and the decision, rather than being criticized, is ignored.

Clearly a double standard, but advantage to Governor Haley and to the GOP for picking Tim Scott, not because it was politically correct, but because it was the right thing to do. Perhaps someday Republicans will actually get credit for their diversity.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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Unsportsmanlike Conduct: How you win the game matters

There is a saying in sports that it isn’t winning or losing that matters, it is how you play the game. In professional sports appropriate conduct is required. The NFL will flag players for personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct. Behave poorly in pro baseball and you are tossed from the game. Ask Lance Armstrong what happens if you get caught cheating. Fair play is as important, if not more important, than the outcome of the game.

Sporting contests, of course, have an organization that sets the rules along with referees or umpires to make sure they are followed. In politics, however, the prevailing cliché is more like winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Unlike professional sports, nobody polices the event so elections become more of a back alley brawl than a serious discussion of the issues.

In some ways voters themselves act as referees. Attack a candidate for controversial votes, such as a middle-of-the-night pay raise, and the electorate may reward you with a win. Dredge up pictures of the candidate doing drugs in college, and the personal attack might be called out-of-bounds by voters.

Even in victory how the race was won can have a big impact on a candidate’s ability to serve once elected. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding an election win can hinder the new office holder, and sometimes the tactics used to win the race will poison the well.

In 2000 George W. Bush won one of the closest and most disputed elections in American history. In his case it wasn’t the campaign itself or how it was conducted that created ill will; it was the closeness of the outcome. Not only did Bush lose the popular vote, winning election in the Electoral College, but it took a highly controversial ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States to bring the election to a resolution. Bush took office amid extreme partisan bitterness. Democrats never fully viewed him as a legitimate president, creating a deep divide that abated only temporarily in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

The 2012 Presidential Election is a prime example of how unsportsmanlike tactics tarnished a win. Mitt Romney prevailed over a number of primary opponents by incinerating the front-runner of the day with negative ads. First Herman Cain, then Rick Perry, blow up Newt Gingrich and then finish off Rick Santorum. It worked as far as gaining the nomination, but in the process voters learned little if anything about Mitt Romney. He never laid the groundwork for his own election, he merely ran up the negative on his opponents. Going into the General Election campaign he was ripe for the picking by Barack Obama.

And the Obama Campaign was ready for the challenge. From the moment it became apparent that Mitt Romney would be the nominee the Obama machine opened up its guns painting the former Massachusetts governor as a vulture capitalist. They turned what should have been his biggest asset as a candidate – successful private sector job creating experience – into his biggest negative. When most voters got their first unfiltered look at Romney in the initial presidential debate, and saw he didn’t have horns and a tail, the Obama strategy almost collapsed. Almost.

Instead, Obama doubled down. He stayed on the attack through the closing hours of the campaign. Unlike his 2008 election which sounded the aspirational theme of hope and change, his 2012 re-election effort was shrill and negative. As a result, the president heads into a second term having divided an already polarized electorate even further.

Now, Barack Obama must govern. Having won re-election through effective class warfare and demonization of the American system of free enterprise, he must deal with those of the other party who believe in growth and opportunity and who now deeply distrust the man who will sit in the White House for the next four years. Worse, the job creators are offended and scared of the taxes and regulations that surely will come. Thus the very people who can pull America out of the lingering economic downturn will play defense rather than join the team.

Former President Jimmy Carter called it a malaise. And that will be the legacy of the second Obama Administration. Yes, Barack Obama won the election. But he won ugly. And, as George W. Bush learned a decade ago, there is a price to be paid for how you win the game.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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Voter ID Madness

A couple of months ago, suffering from a sore throat, I walked into a local chain pharmacy to buy some cough syrup.   The young lady at the check-out counter asked to see my driver’s license or some other form of photo ID. Since I was quite certain she wasn’t making sure I was “of age,” I asked the reason why? She said it was store policy that you had to show a photo ID in order to purchase certain over the counter medications, including cough syrup.

This is clearly discriminatory and is a violation of the civil right of each and every American without a photo ID to purchase cough syrup. Obviously this pharmacy is attempting to suppress participation in the use of cough syrup by putting up unconscionable barriers to use of the product. This amounts to nothing less than class warfare, as pharmacies are catering to the rich and trampling on the poor and disadvantaged, none of whom possess a photo ID.

State government tells us that less than one percent of Pennsylvanians are without a photo ID, and those individuals can easily go to their local PennDOT office and get an identification card with their picture on it free of charge so that they too can purchase cough syrup. But why should they be forced to do that? Why should that 1% be required to act like the other 99% of society and get a photo ID so they can remedy their colds?

This is an outrage! Clearly the big pharmacies and the brutal regime of Governor Tom Corbett are conspiring to disenfranchise thousands of their fellow Pennsylvanians. They are erecting artificial barriers to the purchase of cough syrup which will depress turn-out at the check-out counter during cough and cold season. Worse, this could result in long lines as clerks check for ID and explain to the poor and dispossessed that they cannot exercise their right to buy cough syrup.

It is high time somebody contact the ACLU and demands they sue in state courts to prevent the implementation of photo ID policies at pharmacies. Why haven’t Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others staged protests at drug stores throughout Penn’s Woods? Why is Chris Matthews not getting a tingle up his leg over this issue? Why hasn’t the Justice Department intervened, a White House czar been appointed or Homeland Security been notified?

Sound a bit ridiculous? Well, that’s because it is. Just like the current uproar over Pennsylvania’s new photo voter ID law. Given that voting is a more serious function than the purchase of cough syrup – or the dozens of other mundane tasks that require a photo voter ID – why would we not require proper ID before allowing a person to vote?

The Left in general, and Democrats in particular are wailing, moaning, renting garments and predicting the end of the Republic as we know it because Pennsylvania has enacted a law requiring voters to present a photo ID when showing up to vote on election day. They call it a “barrier” to voting. But then, being required to register to vote could also be considered a barrier. Sometimes a few barriers are necessary to ensure the integrity of the process.

The caterwauling includes loud claims that photo voter ID is a solution in search of a problem. There is, they claim, no election fraud in Pennsylvania. But then along came Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt who turned up evidence of irregularities in last spring’s primary election. That alone is worrisome in that the primary election was a low key, low turn-out event. If there were irregularities in a relatively insignificant election, imagine what the impact could be this November when the Presidency itself could hinge on Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.

Governor Corbett and a majority in both houses of the General Assembly are simply trying to ensure the integrity of Pennsylvania’s electoral process. A fair election doesn’t advantage or disadvantage one party over the other, but it does give citizens confidence in the results.

PennDOT, the Department of State and other agencies are working hard to make sure each and every Pennsylvanian who wants a photo ID can get one in time to cast their ballot in November. To suggest taking that step is in any way other than the responsible and proper thing to do is, well, ridiculous.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.   His e-mail address is

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Memo from Voters: Stuff Your Endorsement

Tuesday’s primary election highlighted two serious structural deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s electoral process. Once again the “Keystone State” was anything but in the presidential nominating process. And, clearly the day of the party endorsement – especially a nod forced from the top down – has passed.

For several weeks it appeared as if the Pennsylvania and New York primaries would be pivotal contests in the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination. But, several weeks ago when former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum suspended his campaign our state’s primary was rendered virtually meaningless. Sure, delegates had to be elected to the national convention, but the nomination had been decided.

Every four years there is talk about moving Pennsylvania’s primary to an earlier date, perhaps to so-called “Super Tuesday” in early March, but nothing ever comes of the idea. So, as in presidential contests past, small states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and even other industrial states like Michigan and Ohio got to impact the choice of the nominee while we here in Penn’s Woods watched from the sidelines.

Four years ago state Democrats did get a big say in the Obama/Clinton race, but that brief spurt of relevance was an exception to the rule. This year, lacking the glitz of a presidential contest, voter turn-out was abysmal. So many down ballot races – for congress and for seats in the state legislature – were decided by in some cases less than a quarter of the registered electorate.

Despite tepid participation in the primary election, voters did manage to deliver a message or two. The race with the most political ramifications was the five-way contest for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. That race turned into a virtual referendum on the once vaunted Republican Party endorsement process. That process was shredded by voters as they relegated the endorsed candidate, Steve Welch, to third place.

The Welch defeat marks the first loss of a Republican Party endorsed statewide candidate in a non-judicial race in over three decades. Part of the reason for voter rejection of the party pick was the heavy-handed manner in which the Welch endorsement was forced on Republican State Committee members by Governor Tom Corbett and party leaders. The fact is Welch would never have been endorsed without that support, and his candidacy never did develop any real grassroots appeal.

Party apologists will contend that the personal financial wealth the winning candidate, former Tea party activist Tom Smith, brought to the race was a deciding factor. But, Welch is wealthy himself and put over a million dollars of his own money behind his candidacy. And, former State Representative Sam Rohrer finished second having spent few dollars, but earning a wave of grassroots support. Welch failed to dominate with either money or manpower – two advantages normally associated with the party endorsement.

This year’s GOP endorsement debacle has politically wounded an incumbent governor and called into question the effectiveness of the party apparatus in a vital presidential election year. The Republican State Committee should re-evaluate the future of party endorsements. The process this year both divided and weakened the party, calling into question its utility going forward.

Part of the reason for this is that the endorsement process has degenerated from truly democratic selection into a tool by which party and elected leaders exert their control over who gets nominated. The GOP has already split into “establishment” and grassroots conservative camps with the latter gaining influence with each passing election cycle. Forced endorsements only inflame the grassroots further aggravating that divide.

None of this is good for the party, and neither will it yield good government. This year’s presidential election is shaping up as one of the most important in generations as voters decide whether to continue down the soft socialistic path of the Obama Administration, or return America to its historic traditions of individual liberty.

That battle will ultimately unite all factions within the GOP. But going forward, the Pennsylvania Republican Party must ditch the endorsement process and restore individual liberties within the walls of its own house.


(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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