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Corbett’s Colossal Cockiness Castrates His Credibility

Candidate Choice Creates Calamitous Clusterf**k of Carnage

“Stevie Welch sat on a wall (of cards); Stevie Welch had a great fall (winning a mere two of 67 counties). All of King (or is it Joker?) Corbett’s horses (jackasses), and all the King’s men (endorsements by 27 County Commissioners and 35 State Legislators), couldn’t put Stevie’s candidacy together again (4 of 5 Republican voters rejected the Welch-Corbett-Obama “ticket”).

 

And so Freindly Fire’s prediction that Governor Corbett-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Steve Welch would come in a whoppingly-bad third place was proven correct, though it didn’t take a political genius to guess that result.  After all, asking — strong-arming, actually — Republicans to support the Obama-voting, Joe Sestak-supporting Welch was anathema to common sense and political savvy.  And the resulting carnage is everywhere: the endorsement of the state Republican Party is as meaningful as being valedictorian of summer school; getting backed by Corbett now carries substantial negative baggage, and GOP legislators will think long and hard about aligning themselves with the Governor on his signature issues (are there any?), fearing that his promises of support could be akin to political suicide.

 

And all of this occurred just 15 months after being ushered into office with a ten-point margin and solid majorities in the House and Senate. And ironically, so easily preventable.

 

Many insiders will claim the blow to Corbett’s prestige will be a fleeting, short-term event. As is most often the case, those “experts” will be wrong. The political reality is that next month, when the Governor wants his ill-fated and unpopular voucher plan for only low-income families (which ignores the middle class) to pass, he will fall short, as his Party walks away from him. When he attempts to garner support for his proposed education cuts in the budget, he will meet substantial resistance. And should he try his hand at privatizing liquor, many in his GOP caucuses will cut and run.  Very few will risk their neck for a Guv who in the best of times was invisible, preferring the shadows to the bully pulpit. Now, Corbett has become a liability.

 

(Sidenote: Corbett’s low-income voucher allies made that issue the only issue this election, losing all of the races in which they were involved.  In particular, they spent big money trying to defeat West Philadelphia State Representative James Roebuck and mid-state Senator Pat Vance (who only ran again because she was “not going to be pushed out by any Political Action Committee.”). Both won easily — another reason Corbett will have a difficult time with that issue.)

 

Not only is Corbett’s popularity plummeting, but his reputation has been cemented as a lightweight empty-suit who simply can’t deliver.  The fact that he poisoned his own Party and made it a national laughingstock is icing on the cake.

 

In addition to Corbett’s endorsement of Welch (and the fact the he personally recorded the voice vote of every State Committee member during the GOP endorsement process), he went to the mat for his boy through mailers, phone calls, fundraisers and speeches.  Yet his election night was a disaster. Consider:

 

-The Corbett- Welch-ObamaDrama Ticket had all the advantages going into the race. With Santorum out of the presidential contest, many conservative-leaning Republicans did not vote — and low turnout elections almost always favor the endorsed candidate (especially the hand-picked favorite of a Governor).  The Party’s organizational structure and resources are usually sufficient to propel the anointed candidate to victory, but many Party committee people rebuked the Governor by openly supporting non-Welch candidates.

– Even better for Welch, there were two other major candidates in the race (Tom Smith, Sam Rohrer), both of whom would split the anti-establishment, anti-endorsement vote (and the remaining two candidates, David Christian and Marc Scaringi, did the same, taking 18 percent collectively). It should have been an easy “divide and conquer” campaign for Welch. Instead, it was a Kamikaze mission.
-There was a large snowstorm the day before the election across much of western Pennsylvania — Smith’s critical home base. Any dampening of that vote should have proven beneficial to the endorsed candidate, but it was Smith’s supporters who out-performed the once-vaunted statewide GOP machine.
– It should have been a slam-dunk for Welch to raise millions from Corbett and the big GOP donors.  But he took in an embarrassing $150,000 in the entire first quarter —half of Smith’s total and, quite possibly, even less than Smith’s dog. That lack of gravitas is quite telling.
– There was one bright spot: Welch’s campaign consultants reaped the benefits of the $1 million Welch personally gave his campaign.  The effectiveness of how they spent that money is another story, since there was no Philadelphia broadcast TV, limited media, and, come to think of it, virtually no campaign at all — usually not the best way to win an election.

 

-By far the most surreal moment of the night was Welch crying poor, complaining about being outspent 5-1 —even though he is accurately described in every news article as being the self-funding millionaire entrepreneur.  All self-funders claim that they will only spend a fixed amount, and, of course, exceed that after consultants convince them they are “closing fast.”  That never happened with Steve.  The irony is that he was always perceived as a self-funder (and no one wants to contribute to a rich candidate), but he clearly wasn’t able to micturate (look it up) with the big dogs in the tall grass.  Playing the rich-guy card (against a really rich guy like Smith) without having the aces in your hand isn’t just a bad bluff. It’s a dead-man’s hand.

 

Kind of makes you wonder what the hell the point was in going for the endorsement — or running at all.

*****

 

So what happens from here?  Prosecutor Kathleen Kane, who whipped the whining Patrick Murphy despite his endorsements from all the wrong folks (career pols Rendell and Nutter), is in the driver’s seat to become the first Democrat Attorney General. And expect the Penn State scandal to be front-and-center in the fall election, with Kane pounding away about what former Attorney General Tom Corbett knew, and when he knew it.

 

Not only would a Kane victory reflect negatively on Corbett (since the Dems would have captured that prize on his watch, and in doing so, beaten the Governor’s hand-selected candidate in what should be a Republican-leaning election), but his image and effectiveness will be further compromised as more is learned — and publicized —about his role in how the Penn State investigation was handled. 

 

From having it all just a year ago, Tom Corbett will witness his own Party run away from him on the issues and in the election — and helplessly watch as the Democrats make him the issue.

 

It took George W. Bush six years to get to that point.   If Tom Corbett’s goal was to best the former President, well…Mission Accomplished.

 

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

 

 

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April 27, 2012 at 10:08 am Comments (0)

Corbett’s US Senate Candidate Is An Albatross Around His Neck

 

The Guv’s man, Steve Welch, is an Obama Voter, infuriating many in the GOP

 

It’s the bottom of ninth, you’re down a run, two outs and a man on second.  Should he try to steal?

 

Hell no. A single probably scores you, and getting thrown out ends the game. Simply stated, the risk outweighs the reward. But if, for whatever reason, the decision to steal is made, there’s only one rule: you damn well better make it. Fail, and you’re toast with the fans, the media and your teammates.

 

For the political equivalent, look no farther than Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s bewildering decision in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

 

For a year, there were those who questioned whether the state even had a governor. Then Corbett stormed out of nowhere to endorse young businessman Steve Welch, strong-arming the Republican Party to do the same.  But despite this pressure, and the fact that the Governor personally recorded the vote of every State Committee member during the public proceeding (secret ballot? forget it), the endorsement vote was still close.  Why?

 

Maybe it had something to do with Corbett asking loyal Republicans to do the unthinkable — back a candidate who voted for Barack Obama. No, that’s not a misprint, and yes, that bears repeating: Welch voted for Mr. Hope and Change himself.  But there’s more.  He also contributed to Joe Sestak, and hosted an event for the man who was arguably the most liberal member of Congress.  

 

Here’s the kicker.  Despite Corbett’s support, Welch is running third and even fourth in some tracking polls (in a five man race), and his fundraising is nowhere near what you’d expect from the anointed favorite of the Governor.  

 

Many rank-and-file in the GOP are still scratching their heads as to why Corbett would back a flawed candidate who, should he win the primary, faces a huge uphill battle against incumbent Bob Casey. Given the circumstances, a Welch candidacy in the general election would be a gift from God to the Democrats.  Consider:

 

The President’s approval rating remains dangerously low; gas prices are soaring; Obamacare is hugely unpopular; and the economy is not recovering to the satisfaction of many.  These are big negatives that may prove decisive in races around the nation, and could become a backlash against the entire Democratic ticket through “guilt by association.” So in a year that the normally unbeatable Casey has become very mortal, many in the GOP simply aren’t buying the Corbett line that Welch is the best candidate.
And for good reason. Because of Welch’s support of Obama, any attack against Casey can be easily rebutted. 

 

“Bob Casey —you supported the President’s agenda,” would be countered by, “Yes, Steve Welch, and by voting for Obama, so did you. Glad we agree. What’s your point?”

 

It doesn’t help that Welch’s story keeps changing. He claims he left the Republican Party because George Bush and the GOP Congress weren’t doing enough to advance the conservative agenda. Fine. Many felt the same way.  That’s why God made the Independent, Reform and Constitutional Parties. But it’s mindboggling that any conservative would leave the GOP for the ultra-liberal Democratic Party. 

 

Welch then claimed he voted for Obama to stop “Hillary-care,” which also makes no sense since Obamacare is a far more aggressive government health care system. So which was it? Hillary-care or dissatisfaction with the Republicans?  And his claim that he was duped into believing Sestak was a fiscal conservative is laughable. Perhaps more than any politician in the nation, Sestak has proudly been true to his core beliefs — all of them staunchly liberal.

 

*****

To save the Pennsylvania Republican Party from national embarrassment, rank and file Republicans would be wise to hang the Steve Welch/Barack Obama/Joe Sestak debacle right where it belongs— as an albatross around Tom Corbett’s neck. He owns it, and he alone should bear the consequences of what most likely will be a colossal failure.

 

Ironically, Corbett has placed himself in a Catch-22. He made his endorsement, misguided as it is, and with his image and credibility at stake, his candidate better “make it.”

 

If Welch loses — and worse, comes in third — Corbett takes a hit. And yet, if Welch wins, he almost certainly loses to Casey in November, a defeat many will lay at the Guv’s feet for backing a candidate who was doomed from the start.

 

But here would be the biggest irony of all.  Due to the Governor’s own ineptitude, a stronger Bob Casey emerges victorious in November, then takes on and defeats Corbett in two years.  And since no Casey has ever lost a general election in Pennsylvania history, that’s a real possibility. 

 

Talk about the chickens coming home to roost.

 

 An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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April 16, 2012 at 8:51 am Comments (0)

Is Philadelphia Archdiocese Lying Or Just Incompetent?

School Closings And Appeals Leave More Questions Than Answers —And The Church Isn’t Talking

“I don’t know Chief…this shark is either very smart, or very dumb…”

So was the famous line uttered by the legendary Quint in Jaws, as he was trying to figure out the intentions of the great white. 

After the recent roller coaster ride regarding Archdiocesan school closings — and now the many reprieves — Catholics across the Philadelphia region are wondering the same thing.  Is the Church hierarchy very smart (in a conniving way), or very dumb?

Or are they, and the “Blue Ribbon” school commission deciding the fate of so many, just downright incompetent?

There isn’t a fourth option.

At issue is that a whopping 75 percent of Catholic elementary schools that appealed their closings were successful, meaning that their doors are staying open, at least for now.

Last Friday, it was announced that of the 24 appeals, 18 won.  While it seemed like a “Good Friday” to many, something tells me it may turn into a day of regret, closer in fact to a Black Friday.

This is not meant to rain on anyone’s parade, as there is obvious cause for celebration for many Catholic families.  After all, they had been told last month that their beloved schools — 49 of them — were slated for permanent closure.  While there was an appeals process, based solely on factual errors committed by the Commission, virtually everyone figured there would be very few successful appeals, if any.

And with good reason.

In January, the chairman of the Commission, John Quindlen, former Chief Financial Officer of DuPont, made it crystal clear why schools were closing and consolidating.

“A lot of this should have been done 10 years ago…(but)… naivete and an unwillingness to face reality” kept many pastors and archdiocesan leaders from halting long ago the “death spiral” of declining population and rising tuition at so many schools, he said, according to Philly.com.  “They would say, ‘I can make this work…But we had to come along and finally say, ‘God bless you, but this has got to stop.’ ”

Fast forward one month to the Church’s about-face, and Quindlen’s comments tell a starkly different story. “I celebrate the results and pray they all survive in the long term…Neither the commission nor the Archdiocese was in a rush to close schools. Our focus was on how to sustain them.”

What? Did he seriously say that with a straight face?

How can you make the leap from a “death spiral” to “celebrating the results” and talking about sustainability in less than one month? 

Give the Archdiocese credit for one thing: if they are trying to anger as many Catholics as possible in the most bumbling manner while ignoring all rules of good communication and PR, they are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

Let’s cut through the emotions tied to school closings and look at this situation objectively.  In doing do, one has to ask: Why the games? Why did the Church say one thing — that in retrospect now seems very suspect — and then almost completely reverse itself, all the while talking in platitudes that didn’t remotely address the questions and concerns of many?

It has left many scratching their heads, and even more seething.

So here are the questions that absolutely must be addressed in order for the Archdiocese to have any credibility moving forward, and to prevent the exodus of loyal, but very bitter, Catholics:

1) Is Catholic education too expensive to sustain in most if not all of the 49 schools that were originally slated for shuttering?  If yes — which is what the Archdiocese has been telling us, and selling us, for quite some time — then how can 3 out of 4 appeals have been successful?  What changed?  Did a billionaire step up and write a big check to keep the schools open?  If so, we don’t need a name, because charity should be anonymous, but we do have a right to know if that happened (extremely unlikely as it is).

2) If the opposite is true — that those schools are in fact affordable — then why have we been told something so radically different for so long?  It’s like being pregnant: you are or you aren’t. Either the Church can operate these schools efficiently, or they can’t.  There is no in-between. But that’s exactly where this situation is — in no-man’s land, and their equivocation has just added to the confusion.

3) Is incompetence to blame for the contradictory messages? We were told that appeals would only be considered if factual errors were made in determining which schools closed.  Well, by that logic, that’s a heck of a lot of errors.  If a student makes “factual errors” on 75 percent of a test, his grade is a 25.  Which, unless you attend a public school in Philadelphia, is an F.  Not exactly a stellar track record.

4) Were we lied to from the get-go? And if so, why? Was the threat of closings a grand conspiracy to flush out big contributors as well as lighten the wallets of the rank-and-file even more? Don’t scoff.  The Archdiocese has a history of not being straightforward.

Just look at its red face regarding its mishandling — and lack of truthfulness — involving one its schools in Philadelphia.  According to a news report, a group starting a public charter school stated that it was assured by the Archdiocese that it could rent Our Lady of Mount Carmel school for that purpose — two months before the Commission recommended closing the school! Mount Carmel appealed its closing. Any guesses as to how that turned out? It begs the questions as to why the Diocese would even allow the school to appeal when its fate had apparently already been determined.

Since we are on the topic of education, perhaps a refresher is in order.  The 8th Commandment tells us that we should not bear false witness against our neighbor.  In layman’s terms, playing loose with the truth — and outright lying — doesn’t bode well for a Church preaching morality and in desperate need of credibility and trust.

5) What about the folks at all the other schools who wanted to appeal but were dissuaded from doing so because the odds were so long for success?  Common sense tells us that if they had known such a large number of schools would win their cases, many others would have appealed.  Now, those parents and students feel even more burned than they did a month ago — a remarkable feat in itself.

6) The appeals have thrown schools that were thought to be “safe” into chaos.  Nativity BVM in Media, for example, was originally intended to stay open, absorbing students from St. John Chrysostom in Wallingford.  St. John’s won their appeal though, and now, in a stunning reversal, Nativity is shutting its doors.

Not only do parents and teachers feel completely betrayed by this out-of-nowhere blindside, but there’s an even more unjust twist: Nativity apparently does not have the ability to appeal like all the other schools did. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

And it’s exactly that type of move, accompanied by virtually no communication, which drives fuming parishoners to leave the Church. Hence the decline in church attendance and school enrollment.

7) How can the Church push for school choice when it does not allow choice for its own members at the elementary school level? So some families in Annunciation parish in Havertown, for example, whose school closed because its pastor refused to file the appeal that so many parents begged him to do, must send their children all the way across town to St. Denis, when in fact they live within walking distance to Sacred Heart?  How ironic that the very Church fighting the image of hypocrisy born from the sex scandal now engages in more hypocrisy: fighting for school choice as long as it doesn’t apply to its own flock. When will they learn?

8.  There are no guarantees in life, but what assurances can the Church give that, in the next few years, those 24 schools, as well as any others, will not close? Since it is impossible to believe that the problems of declining enrollment, rising costs and overall unsustainability have all been solved in the last 30 days, woe to those parents who take the recent reprieves to be a sign of long-term viability, for they may well be revisiting this exact situation in the near future.  And that just isn’t right.

*****

The point of this column is neither to agree with nor criticize the specific school closings and successful appeals, but to implore the Archdiocese to come clean with all the facts. 

Quint had to figure out what the shark was doing and why. For all the blood, sweat and tears Catholics have shed for their Church over the years, they should never have to question the motivations of their Catholic leaders. They only seek the truth, and deserve no less. It’s time to give it to them.

And that’s no fish story.

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

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February 22, 2012 at 8:44 am Comments (2)

School Closings Are Because Catholicism No Longer “Demands” Greatness

Part One 

Vatican II Destroyed Catholic Identity And The Essence Of Being Catholic

The message from Headquarters was sent to field agents worldwide:

“This is your mission — if you choose to accept it:  Take one of the most powerful institutions in the history of mankind and change it so radically — in all the wrong ways — that in the span of fifty years, it will be a shell of its former self, relegated to a backwater shaped only by the sad ghosts of the past.”

Was this a Mission Impossible communiqué sent at the height of the Cold War to implode the Soviet Union? Certainly could have been. And the goal would have been a worthy one, fighting an evil adversary hell-bent on human domination.

Interestingly — tragically, actually — that message could also apply perfectly to another mammoth entity — the Roman Catholic Church. 

There is one critical difference. The Soviets fell from outside forces, namely the influence of the United States.  But the Church, while admittedly having its fair share of outside “attackers,” is falling from within, and most of its decline is entirely of its own making.

The above message could well have come from St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, 1965.  The “field agents?”   Cardinals, bishops and priests.  The objective: implement Vatican II.

And implement it they did.

The result? Disaster.

In the tumultuous 1960’s, the world was on fire as secularism and moral relativism were in vogue. Rather than standing its ground and fighting those undesirable concepts, the Church went in the opposite direction.  In effect, Vatican II allowed Catholics to be “Catholic” in pretty much any way they wanted, playing right into the hands of the Woodstock culture. Unwittingly, that carte-blanche decree served as a launching point for the now-dominant “do whatever you want to do and whatever makes you feel good without remorse” mentality.

In an instant, the things that made Roman Catholicism the world’s dominant force vanished.  To many, the “rock” upon which St. Peter built the Church no longer seemed solid, but more “flexible.” So rather than building upon the mighty history of the Church, expanding its reach while adapting to the times with a measure of common sense, the hierarchy went in the other direction.

Some Church officials, to be sure, disagreed with the Church’s new vision, but they were powerless to stop it, and for good reason.  Not only were they forced to follow orders, but in a much more practical sense, they were no longer able to hold their flock accountable when the Church itself abandoned many of the tenets which made it so attractive in the first place.

Give people an inch, and they take a yard.  And unequivocally, that isn’t limited to religion, but all organized entities.

When a political party strives to become a very large “tent,” trying to be all things to all people rather than affirming its platform — what it stands for — it eventually becomes impotent. It’s one thing for a position to evolve as circumstances change, so long as the basic belief structure isn’t irreparably compromised as to make the original tenet unrecognizable.  When that occurs — and both Parties are guilty of it — the result is the most unintended of consequences: no one is pleased, and people abandon the organization in ever-growing numbers, both officially and through apathy, indifference and inaction.

Has a football team ever won a Championship when the coach tells his players to practice in whatever way that makes them feel good about themselves — if they want to practice at all? Has a team ever been successful after making mandatory team meetings optional?  And how long will a team stay a cohesive unit if players simply ignore the coach’s play-calling and do their own thing?

Morale and pride mean everything in building a successful team or institution, but they can only exist when sacrifice and dedication is demanded of the individuals who make up that entity. The only part of JFK’s inaugural address that people remember was when he demanded greatness of Americans by asking “what you can do for your country.”

The Church lost those things when it stopped demanding greatness from its rank and file, instead letting folks off the hook by making things “easier.” It thought that by doing so, it would be the recipient of goodwill from the flock and see its membership increase.

It thought wrong.

Holy Day of Obligation falls on a Saturday or Monday?  You don’t have to go to Church that day, since we’ll just make Sunday mass count for both.

Too hard to fast from midnight to receive Communion? That’s way too long! Make it an hour.

You want to wear cut-off shorts, sports jerseys and flip-flops to Church? If it makes you feel good, then no problem.

Fasting from meat on Friday get in the way of ordering sausage on your pizza? The hell with it. Just do it. We’ll eliminate that rule too.

The list goes on and on, and the more the Church gave in to such expediency, the more people stopped going to Mass, and yes, the more parents stopped sending their children to Catholic schools.  Since the Church took away the essence of Catholic identity — the very point of being a proud Roman Catholic — then what was the point of doing either?

And now, several generations later, the carnage is everywhere.

The mosques are full, as are many evangelical churches, yet the churches are empty.

And in those evangelical churches, a significant percentage of the congregation is former Catholics who left the Church not because it was too “hard,” but because it stopped demanding.

Vocations are nonexistent, elderly out-of-touch priests have no replacements, schools are being shuttered at a staggering rate (which goes way beyond this latest round of closings), and scandal and corruption are rampant with no end in sight, as criminal trials and more billion dollar settlements loom.

And worst of all, the cover-ups continue, serving for many as the final nail in the coffin.  Why go to Church to listen to a long-winded uninsprational sermon about “morality” when Church leaders actively stonewall investigations and protect society’s absolute worst — child predators?

So what does the Church do?

Despite all that baggage, the Church has fast-tracked Pope John Paul II to sainthood faster than anyone else in history — a man who either was asleep at the switch during the height of the sandal, or chose to look the other way.  He could have aggressively rooted out the perpetrators with a take-no-prisoners attitude, sending an unmistakable message that the Church does not solicit nor will ever tolerate pedophiles to fill its ranks, regardless of the dearth of priests. But he didn’t.

And now, it has rolled out language changes in the liturgy which are ridiculous and inexplicable. Was it just another example of how out-of-touch the Church has become, or a deliberate distraction, as some theorize?

Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Until the Church implements real reforms that will start the road to recovery, the numbers will continue to dwindle.

What are they?

-For starters, demand more of its followers. Don’t cower behind the “if I demand that people dress better for Church, they won’t come at all” mentality. Make them look presentable and act appropriately when entering the House of God — or tell them they aren’t welcome. The Church would be shocked to see how many MORE people will start attending Church again, and acting more reverently when they are there — just like public school children have more pride when required to wear uniforms.

-Motivate the flock by relating to them, not talking in platitudes with rhetoric that puts the congregation to sleep.

-Make it tougher to be a Catholic — to once again be the religious equivalent of the Marines. Sure, a kid taking the forbidden cookie wants it, but deep down, he is really looking for discipline. And sure, we complain when we have to sacrifice, but we feel good about it.

-Market the wonderful aspects of the Church, including it being the largest provider of social services in the entire world.

-Stop being a paper tiger politically. What’s the point of having so much muscle if you’re too scared to use it? If it had, most of the schools would not have closed (discussed in tomorrow’s Part Two).

And most important, eliminate the correct perception that the Church is close-minded and sexist. Allow priests to marry — and yes, allow women to become priests.  Not only would these common sense changes enable all priest to better relate to their flocks, but they would also attract non-pedophile priests to fill the ranks, allowing those who want to pursue a life of service to not be viewed suspiciously— by virtually everyone.

And neither would violate Church dogma, since priests married for at least four centuries, and quite possibly much longer. The practice was stopped not for religious reasons, but for disputes over property rights.  And since God was kind enough to bestow upon us annuities, life insurance and other neat financial tools in the last century, it’s time to drop the charade and bring the Church into modern times.

*****

The Second Vatican Council set in motion series of changes that, if they didn’t completely shatter much of what was beloved about the Church, certainly called into question Catholic identity. And nowhere are the tragic results more apparent than the dwindling number of Catholic schools. As schools go by the wayside, so does the Church’s future generations. 

In 1911, there were 68,000 Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That number peaked in the 1960’s at 250,000. After Vatican II took hold, the number plummeted back to 68,000 in 2011 — despite the U.S. population exploding from 92,000,000 a century ago to 308,000,000.

And now, 49 more schools just went on the chopping block. The biggest irony is that the closings are not a solution, but the symptom of a much greater illness.  To save the remaining schools — and that’s by no means a sure thing — the Church needs to solve the problem…

Part II will discuss how to save Catholic education in America.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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January 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm Comments (0)

U.S. 422: If a train is such a great idea….

…then somebody needs to explain this slide to me:

This is from the Draft of the 422Plus slide show that was presented to Governor Tom Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (“TFAC”) yesterday.  Full slide show can be viewed here.

I call your attention to total annual funds needed for Operations and Maintenance of $16.04M and the total annual fare revenue of $3.97M.  If I’m reading this correctly, and someone please tell me if I’m not, a full 85% of the funding for the annual operating and maintenance of the Choo Choo is coming from the state.  So much for a self-sustaining transportation alternative.

We can talk “alternate funding sources” all we like; at the end of the day it’s academic.  There is only ONE funding source:  you and I, the tax payers.  Eventually, no matter what it is that is taxed, it’s you and I that pay for it, either directly or indirectly.  

Some relevant quotes on taxation from the folks who support the additional tax burden to justify the ChooChoo train.  Pottstown Mercury:

Hoeffel said the plan would be funded initially by a $1-billion bond issue, which would be repaid by the tolls, and open in 2015. Hoeffel emphasized the project should be under local management and revenue should remain in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

“What we raise here should stay here,” Hoeffel said.

The 422 tolling plan could be a model for other roads in the state.

Hoeffel said the plan has not been presented to local governments or the General Assembly, which would need to enact enabling legislation for the plan and bond issue.

The governing bodies “need leadership. I guess the negative way of saying it is, ‘They need cover,’” Hoeffel said.

“What we raise here should stay here,” sounds great in theory but what it means in practice is the creation of a local taxation authority ala the Pennsylvania Turpike Commission and Delaware River Port Authority, institutions famous for their political patronage job creating abilities.

If perhaps you’ve forgotten that the 202 corridor has just benefitted from a half a billion dollars in funding for road improvements, without imposing a toll, I direct your attention to this post.

My favorite quote, though, comes from Carol Rein of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who is apparently an expert on road tolling mechanisms and claims that Texas and Florida have the best tolling and transportation funding programs around the country. Her quote is especially jarring:

“You have to pick taxes that are hard to evade, so you can predict their collectibility,”

June 7, 2011 at 10:20 pm Comment (1)

A Tale of Two Colleagues: Meehan Vs. Stollsteimer In 2012? Or Sestak?

 It could be a battle royale between the two former prosecutors, but what about Joe Sestak?

Assistant District Attorney, Delaware County.

Assistant United States Attorney, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, specializing in prosecuting illegal firearms cases and violent drug offenders.

Governor-appointed Safe Schools Advocate for the School District of Philadelphia — a position that was ultimately “eliminated” not for budgetary reasons, but because he publicly chastised the Governor and Department of Education for their willful failure to protect students.

Was often mentioned as a possible nominee for United States Attorney.

And now, this person is considering running for Congress as a strong get-tough-on crime candidate.

Such a resume would seem a great springboard for elected office, as law-and-order candidates have met with great success lately: Governors Tom Corbett and Chris Christie are former prosecutors, as are Pennsylvania Congressmen Tom Marino and Pat Meehan, as well as State Representative Todd Stephens.

But here’s where it gets interesting.  All the aforementioned politicians are Republicans, but this resume belongs to Jack Stollsteimer, a self-styled RFK Democrat who is strongly positioned to win his Party’s nomination in next year’s Seventh Congressional District race.  To claim the ultimate prize in November, he would have to beat not just a Republican, but his former U.S. Attorney boss, Rep. Pat Meehan.

But first things first. Will the path to the nomination be clear, or will a well-known Democrat with a history of success — and unpredictability — decide to throw his hat into the ring? And if so, when? 

*****

The district, which includes most of Delaware County, parts of Chester County and a section of Montgomery, is traditionally perceived as Republican, because voter registration favors the GOP, and the Delaware County courthouse has long been controlled by the well-oiled Republican Machine.

But while Republicans hold a majority of offices throughout the county, their grip on power has been slipping.  No Republican presidential candidate has won Delco since 1988, and numerous Democratic state legislators now represent districts long-held by the GOP. But perhaps most telling, in 2010 — the largest Republican wave since 1946 — both Governor Tom Cornett and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey lost the county.

Yet Pat Meehan won by ten points.

Meehan’s impressive showing was bolstered by the Republican tidal wave and the fact that it was an open seat, since former Congressman Joe Sestak ran for U.S. Senate.  That substantial victory has provided him a solid foundation to launch his re-election bid. 

But to stay in office, he will have to wage an aggressive campaign, taking nothing for granted. Unlike last year, he now owns a voting record. And when it comes to Congress, Seventh District voters have an independent streak that defies conventional political wisdom. 

In the 70’s and 80’s, the Seventh was represented by Bob Edgar, arguably to the Left of Mao and universally recognized as the most liberal member of Congress.  After giving up the seat to (unsuccessfully) run for U.S. Senate, Edgar was replaced by the generally-conservative Republican Curt Weldon. But in the Democratic wave of 2006, he lost to Sestak, a former Navy Admiral who, like Edgar, was unabashedly liberal.

Understanding the volatile electorate, the District’s wild fluctuations of the past, and sensing that the seat is not as safe as last year’s election results would indicate, the national Republican Campaign Congressional Committee has “enrolled” Meehan in its Patriot Program.  An effort designed to assist mostly freshmen, the program targets the top ten GOP legislators whose perceived vulnerabilities will likely lead to tough reelection fights. 

*****

Stollsteimer has been actively courted not just by local leaders but the national Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee. To take on Meehan, though, he must first secure the Democratic Party’s nomination.  To that end, his plan is to aggressively work the committee to earn its endorsement, hopefully avoiding an expensive, and potentially bruising, primary fight. He has already made inroads, having secured the backing of several highly influential Democrats within the Party hierarchy.

“Jack would be a great candidate if he decides to run, with a strong profile and reputation for independence and integrity, that has attracted the attention of the national Democratic Party,” a Party leader in the district told “Freindly Fire.”

That official requested anonymity, though, as the path has not yet been smoothly paved for Stollsteimer — or any other potential candidate.  And that’s because there is an 800 pound gorilla hovering in the wings who could change the dynamics of the race at a moment’s notice — for both the primary and general elections.

And in typical fashion, that individual is playing it coy, not announcing his intentions whether to seek the Congressional seat — which he happened to hold just seven months ago.

Joe Sestak is the ultimate wild card, an independent Democrat who has often clashed with Party powerbrokers and a person to whom the terms “conventional wisdom” and “predictability” simply do not apply.

He gave up what virtually every political analyst stated was a near-100 percent safe seat, to run as David against Goliath — 30-year incumbent powerhouse Arlen Specter, whose war chest dwarfed that of Sestak. The political insiders not only didn’t give Sestak much of a chance — he was trailing by more than 20 points just a few months out from the primary — but did everything in their power to stop him. 

They attempted to talk him out of running, not just to keep the Congressional seat safe but to avoid a primary challenge to Specter.  When that didn’t work, there was the “Job Gate” offer, in which Sestak said the White House dangled a high-ranking position in exchange for his dropping out of the senate race. But that didn’t work, either.

Then the D’s took the gloves off, with prominent leaders, including then-Governor Rendell and the state Democratic Party chairman, openly attacking Sestak on numerous fronts.  They said he could not win a general election, and predicted a Sestak primary victory would be “cataclysmic” in the fall election.

And yet, despite the GOP wave, Sestak lost to Toomey by a mere two points.

Would Sestak present a viable candidacy to Meehan?  Absolutely.  The 2012 elections will be more favorable to Democrats, not just because a presidential year always brings out more voters, and political waves are never sustainable when they crest at such a high level, but because the “Republicans-are-destroying-our-Medicare” issue will undoubtedly gain traction.  Democrats are already pointing to their win in the recent New York special election as evidence, given that the seat was widely expected to remain in GOP hands.

But for the Democrats to be successful in the Seventh next year, they need to unify soon or risk losing good candidates.  Very few will be willing to put blood, sweat and tears into a campaign — and they would have to open a committee very soon — while the specter of a Sestak candidacy still looms.  And if Sestak declines to run, but announces that decision late in the game, precious time will have been wasted.

Sestak would most likely be able to establish a grassroots operation and generate significant fundraising relatively quickly, due to the national network gained from his senate run, but the same is not the case for other candidates. They would have to lay the groundwork, and that takes time and resources.  And many potential donors and campaign workers will stay on the sidelines, reluctant to commit to someone like Stollsteimer — no matter how attractive a candidate he may be — until Sestak makes up his mind. 

In an age where campaigns routinely begin over a year out from the election, any significant delay could prove a boon for the Meehan camp. Translation: the longer Joe Sestak remains noncommittal, the less likely the Democrats’ chances for success next November.

Will Sestak get back into the political fray?  If so, would it be for Congress, a position some think is not prominent enough for someone used to commanding a carrier-battle group — especially when he would likely return to Washington in the minority? And why would Sestak still be touring Pennsylvania, meeting new Democrats statewide, if he intends to run in the relatively small Seventh District? 

It is never easy when it comes to predicting anything regarding Joe Sestak, and experience has shown that most “experts” are wrong anyway.

So the biggest question is the simplest one: at this point, does even Joe Sestak himself have any idea what he is going to do?  Whatever the answer, it’s in the best interest of his Party to make up his mind quickly.

 Let the games begin.

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

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 CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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June 3, 2011 at 7:09 am Comments (0)

US 422: For Whom the Road Tolls

The proposal to toll US Route 422 has floated to the top of the news again. Sunday’s Pottstown Mercury:

The executive commission examining transportation funding in Pennsylvania will hear a proposal June 6 that could hit the wallets of Route 422 commuters.

The 30-member commission, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett, will see a presentation demonstrating how tolls on Route 422 in Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties could serve as a model for similar projects statewide. The commission is looking for a way to generate more than $2.5 billion in annual transportation funding in the post-stimulus environment of declining federal spending on infrastructure.

State Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch, who also serves as chairman of the commission, said the Route 422 model would allow county or municipal authorities to form a “local taxation authority” and keep the revenue from tolls and local taxes dedicated for local highways.

That revenue would be “above and beyond” transportation spending at the state level, Schoch said.

Let’s set aside the fact that state government exists primarily to fund the creation and maintenance of infrastructure and let’s not ask where all of THAT money has gone (nor will we question the reliance on fiscal federalism that got us to the place where we need to fund a $2.5 billion shortfall at this time). However, the suggestion to form a “local taxation authority” in this article should send chills down the spine of any thinking Pennsylvanian who has the tiniest bit of working knowledge of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority and the Delaware River Port Authority, long havens of political patronage jobs and fund mismanagement. Rule number one is never ever give the government a new revenue stream. Rule number two is never create a new local taxation authority to manage that revenue stream.

But these are all issues that have been discussed before on this blog. Why I revisit the 422 tolling issue once more is because of a mailer I received today from Senator Andy Dinniman called “Moving Forward – A New Route 202.” The mailer is not available online at the time of this post, however this press release from March 22, 2011 has the relevant passage that I was looking to excerpt:

“[T]he Route 29 slip ramp, the Turnpike Widening and the Route 202 Widening represent an investment of $523 million to our local economy, which is expected to spur at least an additional $1.5 billion in construction and the creation of up to 20,000 full-time jobs,” Dinniman said. “It will provide a significant boost to our region in challenging economic times.”

According to Senator Dinniman’s press release, the Route 29 slip ramp and Turnpike widening is a $48 million project that is funded entirely by Turnpike tolls.

The US Route 202 widening project is described as such on the project’s website:

Significant growth in the region has increased traffic on US Route 202 to levels well beyond those that the two-lane highway originally was designed to handle. In fact, 73,000 vehicles a day now travel on this section of Route 202, and the improvements we have planned will help the highway carry its present and future traffic more efficiently.

 Under the overall Section 300 project, PennDOT will utilize significant federal and state transportation funding, most of which is collected at the fuel pump and through licensing fees, to
  • Reconstruct Route 202’s four existing travel lanes
  • Add a third travel lane in each direction, utilizing the existing grass median
  • Rebuild seven overpasses to provide additional horizontal and vertical clearance
  • Construct a two-lane collector-distributor (C-D) roadway along northbound Route 202 at the Route 29/Great Valley Interchange to eliminate conflicts between ramp traffic and through traffic
  • Improve the Route 401/Frazer Interchange and install new traffic signals
  • Install Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) components, including highway cams and electronic message signs
  • Improve the expressway’s storm water management system, and
  • Erect sound walls at eligible locations

So my question is this:

Route 202 corridor has benefitted from millions of dollars of investment in infrastructure improvment and widening in recent years, this latest “Section 300″ of the project is only the most recent. And all the while this 202 improvement has been going on, US 422 has been almost completely neglected except for a cursory resurfacing here and there and a half-assed widening of the Betzwood Bridge that caused more problems than it solved.

And now, in order to improve 422 to give it’s commuters the same state-of-the-art highway that Route 202 communters enjoy, Harrisburg is trying to tell Route 422 commuters that the only way to fund their necessary infrastructure improvements is through tolls. If tolls are so critical to the funding of our infrastructure as we’ve been led to believe, why not toll Route 202 as well? Why should 202 commuters not have to pay for their own improvements?

Oh, wait. We’re forgetting that most critical of all central planning expenditures:

In the case of Route 422, the tolls also could pay for a commuter rail line to take some of the pressure off the highway between Reading and the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstates 76 and 476

Oh yes. The TRAIN. Because trains are NOTORIOUSLY self-sustaining without subsidies (see: SEPTA), and effective at alleviating traffic (see: Route 202 and the Schuykill Expressway).

No one will ever be able to convince me that the impetus behind 422 tolling is to fund infrastructure to alleviate traffic. It sounds far more plausible that 422 tolls will be primarily used to fund another government run, public union-staffed, tax dollar subsidized public transportation sytem that will have absolutely no positive impact on the traffic that 422 commuters sit in every. Single. Day.  Only 422 commuters will get the double insult and injury of having to pay for this indignity.

422 tolling is a bad idea that must never be implemented.

June 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm Comments (0)

Running Away From Their Records, Democrats Get Personal

Desperate and baseless attacks are backfiring on Dems across the state

Vice President Joe Biden visited Delaware County this week, stumping for Democratic congressional candidate Bryan Lentz.  In his remarks, Biden blamed the Bush Administration for the nations’ economic woes, further chastising the GOP for not “getting it.”

As far as not getting it, it remained unclear as to which Bush Administration Biden was referring.  But why stop at Bush I?  Why not blame Nixon and Cal Coolidge, too?

The Veep, in an attempt to rally his troops, emphatically stated that those reports (READ: every single poll) predicting the death of the Democratic Party are “greatly exaggerated,” and that his Party would “continue” digging America out of its hole.

“Continue”?  Wait…when did they start?

*****

There were two unmistakable messages that emerged from Biden’s speech:

1)      He can reference Mark Twain, and

2)      His Party is completely bereft of ideas, without the slightest clue as to how to right the ship.

Neither one is very helpful come Election Day.

Point Two is not a new revelation, however, as most Democratic incumbents have known this for quite some time.  Since they know it’s childish and ineffective to blame prior administrations for today’s recession, especially in light of mammoth spending and crushing new taxes instituted under total Democratic control, these seasoned pols inherently understand that they can’t run on their records.

Hence, dirty campaigns have hit an all-time high.

Just when you think the wool can be pulled over Americans’ eyes, and that they are easily manipulated, they surprise you.  Next Tuesday will be one of those times.

The Democrats aren’t going to lose control of congress, the state house and the Pennsylvania governorship just on the issues alone (although that will play a huge role), but because of something much more basic: lack of credibility and good judgment.  Kind of how the Republicans operated in 2006 and 2008.

More than ever, folks are looking for honest change and aggressive leadership on the issue that matters most — getting the economic engine started again.  Instead of discussing solutions, however, many Democrats have resorted to the low-blow tactics so despised by voters.

Consider these Democratic campaign doozies playing out all around us:

  • Bryan Lentz is giving Pat Meehan a run for his money in the 7th district, but rather than compete on the merits of their man’s vision, Lentz’ supporters actively recruited a conservative tea-party activist to run as a third party candidate. Stacking a primary field where most candidates agree on the issues is one thing, but doing so in a general election is tantamount to admitting your campaign platform is bankrupt of ideas.  Sure, all’s fair in war and politics, but this disingenuous move will likely send Lentz to defeat.

 

  • In northeast Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district, incumbent Chris Carney’s “conservative BlueDog” Democrat veneer has been stripped off by former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino, with several polls showing Marino slightly ahead.  Carney loves to tell the voters of the Republican district that he’s not a liberal, yet refuses to run on his record of voting for the federal stimulus and Obamacare — and his 93% alignment with Ms. San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi. 

Instead, he has chosen to run ads attacking Marino’s relationship with a local businessman who was convicted of a crime over three decades ago, and one in which no jail time was given. Marino was unequivocally up front about this friendship —years ago — yet Carney portrays Marino’s friendship as a “breaking news” damaging revelation, wildly taking the situation out of context.  Carney’s smear campaign has rightly backfired, and despite a huge money disadvantage, Marino continues to hold his own.

 

  • In Pennsylvania’s 151st state legislative district in Montgomery County, GOP challenger Todd Stephens, a former Assistant District Attorney, is running neck-and-neck with incumbent Rick Taylor. (Stephens lost to Taylor by only 400 votes in 2008). In a disgraceful —and utterly baseless —attack, the Taylor campaign slammed Stephens for his role in a 2009 high-profile murder case where one of the defendants wasn’t convicted. 

A local newspaper editorial wrote that Taylor’s charge was “pure fabrication,” and in an unprecedented move, District Attorney Risa Ferman called the Taylor line-of-attack “a complete, flat-out lie.” Even the son of the murder victim was content with Stephen’s performance.

Taylor’s slanderous attack politicizing a man’s murder was so off-base that Taylor is reeling uncontrollably — as he should be.  Even for politics, this is beyond the pale, and Taylor needs to be sent to the unemployment line.

 

  • Perhaps most bizarre is the attack against former State Representative Jay Moyer, who is attempting to reclaim his seat in this Montgomery County district.  Rather than discuss the state’s imploding financial situation which he helped create, however, incumbent Democrat Matt Bradford has continually slammed Moyer as “Jaguar Jay.”  Why?  Because Moyer….

Read the rest and post a comment at Philly Mag’s Philly Post:

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2010/10/28/running-away-from-their-records-democrats-get-personal/

 

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

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 nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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October 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm Comments (0)

Kennett Square = Very Cool

Philly.com

The Mushroom Capital of the World has been named one of America’s coolest small towns for 2010.

The September issue of Budget Travel includes Chester County’s Kennett Square on its annual Top 10 list.

The brief write-up talks up the town’s homey, tradition-friendly image, with mentions of Sinclair’s Sunrise Cafe & Tea Room; Burton’s Barber Shop, family-owned for 118 years; the “quirky” Mushroom Cap gift shop; and fine dining at Talula’s Table.

No mention of the Mushroom festival and mushroom ice cream?

September 9, 2010 at 11:14 am Comments (0)

Re. Explosion in the 6th

I have talked to enough people to share that Chris Freind’s post may have some truth to it. There is a legitimate grassroots movement afoot to nominate Curt Schroder to the sixth congressional seat at the Chester County GOP Convention tomorrow morning.

Hard to say how large this movement is. But just think of it this way:

Curt was close to securing enough commitments to win the endorsement over a month ago. If just half of those people decide to go ahead and vote for Curt event though he’s still not formally running for this seat, that could split the whole affair into a three-way tie. Depending, of course, on which existing candidate– Welch or Gerlach– experiences more desertion.

Of course, it is also possible that Curt gets nominated from the floor and doesn’t get many votes at all.

But seeing how the chair of the Chester County Republican party decided to send an e-mail just yesterday re-emphasizing his support for Gerlach…well…the necessity of that e-mail certainly wouldn’t comfort me if I was Jim.

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February 19, 2010 at 11:15 am Comments (0)

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