pawatercooler.com

Pre-Obama Gas Prices in Lower Merion

As political stunts go, this one is pretty cool, especially given that it strikes at the heart of deep blue Lower Merion:

Drivers are backed up four to six blocks on Montgomery Avenue, trying to take advantage of an incredible deal on gas.

It’s all part of an event, organized by local conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, at the Wark’s Liberty Gas Station on the 300 block of Montgomery Avenue in Merion Station. The group is offering gas at $1.84 a gallon between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to the first 150 customers.

The Americans for Prosperity say the event is part of a political statement. They claim the last time gas was only $1.84 per gallon was back in 2009 before President Obama took office.

“When gas prices are nearing four dollars you are changing my life,” said Jennifer Stefano of the Americans for Prosperity. “You are forcing women like me to make decisions between food or gas. That’s not a good place for families to be in America.”

NBC10 spoke with another woman who claimed the whole event was a “Republican ploy.” Yet with the amazingly cheap deal, there’s no doubt that people of all political backgrounds are trying to take advantage.

My favorite sign: “Gas prices are a Womens Issue!!!”

Nicely Done, Jennifer Stefano!

October 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm Comments (0)

Philadelphia Catholic Schools Remain Open— But For How Long?

 Will the Church finally play political hardball?

 

I always try to check my emotions at the door when I begin a column. That’s why I rarely write in the first person. But, hey, I’m also human and a Philly Catholic, so I shed a few tears of joy when it was recently announced that four diocesan high schools and eighteen elementary schools were reprieved from their death sentence and would remain open. I didn’t go to Bonner (mine was the other Augustinian school, Malvern), but a brother, an uncle and a bunch of my friends did. (In fact, my uncle was a member of Bonner’s first graduating class and has three Prendergast—yes, Prendergast—football letters. How’s that for trivia?).And I have an aunt who’s a grad of the school which has, perhaps, the greatest tradition of all—West Catholic.

 

(Quick tangent: I’m a graduate of Annunciation BVM grade school in Havertown, which a niece and nephew presently attend.  Despite meeting or exceeding all of the thresholds laid out by Bishop McFadden in 2009 to remain open, Annunciation is nonetheless being closed. Ignoring the wishes of his congregation, the pastor refused to appeal. Scores of parishioners, encouraged by the 75% success rate of the schools that did appeal, as well as West Catholic remaining open even though it did not appeal, have taken their case directly to Archbishop Chaput.

 

Now that a short-term victory for many schools has been achieved, it’s time to push emotion aside and take an objective look at the situation, where more questions than answers remain.  What changed? What transpired in thirty days that allowed almost half of the schools to stay open? Was it “faulty information” that the Blue Ribbon Commission received, as some readers allege?  Or was it a few deep-pocketed donors stepping up to the plate?  And if so, is relying on a handful of wealthy individuals really a sustainable financial solution?

 

*****

 

It seems quite a stretch that bad information could be the reason for the turnaround. For that to be true, many schools must have submitted data painting a very negative picture — information subsequently determined to be incorrect (hence the reversals).  Outside of a few pastors who lack the desire or energy to further the mission of Catholic education, that scenario doesn’t stand up to the common sense test, since most schools would obviously put their best foot forward in their quest to stay open.

 

So either the Commission did not request the right information, or completely dropped the ball in analyzing the documents it did receive (as referenced in last week’s column). Either way, given that the Commission’s decisions affected the lives of so many, Philadelphia Catholics had every right to expect more, especially given the composition of the Commission. Its members included former top executives of some of America’s largest banks and insurance companies who were familiar with making tough financial decisions. Something just doesn’t add up, and, fair or not, that is fostering cynicism and fear that future closings are inevitable.

Of course, there is another possibility — that the Commission simply never bothered (or wasn’t allowed?) to contact many of the schools in question.  Since more than a few pastors confidentially enlightened me to that situation — why would they lie about something so easily verifiable? — it tends to further cloud the entire decision making process, both closures and reprieves.  And why on earth, if the Commission/Archdiocese realized that the data was incomplete and/or their methodologies flawed, would they not postpone the original announcement in January until they got their house in order?

As a result, many faithful are rolling their eyes (again), wondering how the Archdiocese could look so foolish, while still not communicating any long-term solution. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that, since enrollment has decreased sharply over the last decade while costs have risen, a viable plan must be enacted quickly, or the same situation will arise in the near future.

 

With that distinct possibility looming, how can the Church avoid it?

 

1) Start talking about the positive aspects of the Church, restoring the credibility that has been shattered by years of sex scandals, shredded documents and cover-ups. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services in the entire world (and second in America behind only the U.S. government) and administers the world’s largest nonpublic school system, yet most people are unaware of those phenomenal achievements — a massive failure in public relations. The Catholic mission is perhaps the most noble on the planet, and the Church’s history, while certainly not without its darker moments, is a storied one.  From its humble beginnings as the church of a fisherman named Peter, Roman Catholicism became the most benevolent and impactful force the world has ever known.  It’s time to tell that magnificent story and educate the world — again — on what it really means to be Catholic, while purging every aspect of the scandals which have rocked the Church to its very foundations. Unequivocally, pride in Catholic identity leads to fuller schools.

 

2) The newly created Faith In The Future Foundation — charged with fundraising and being a guiding force on marketing and recruiting for the 17 archdiocesan high schools and assisting parish elementary schools—- is a good idea, but only if it offers membership to rank-and-file Catholics with ears to the ground.  Much criticism directed at the Church is that it is too insulated from the pressing issues, and too isolated from the parishioners themselves.  If the Foundation is comprised only of millionaires and politically-connected Catholics, it will fail.  That is not to invoke “class warfare,” for having intelligent business leaders is imperative, but by definition, most would not be able to relate to the concerns of the masses (no pun intended).  If “average” Catholics are not given a dedicated platform to offer their perspective, the rigidness, bureaucracy and stagnation that has come to define the Archdiocese will only worsen.  And the exodus of Catholics will accelerate.

 

3) The Church needs to fight. If you want a true long-term solution to keep schools open and thriving, and believe the best way is by returning to parents some of their tax money (vouchers and tax credits) so they can make the best choice where to educate their children, you are absolutely correct. But it doesn’t happen by itself.  

 

It only happens when political muscle is flexed. It only happens when you play hardball.  It only happens when you unabashedly make school choice the Church’s Number One issue in the primary and general election.  And it only happens when you make it crystal clear to all legislators who doubt the ferocity of a newly awakened tiger — one that has shed its paper skin — that they will reap the whirlwind for that miscalculation.

 

Seems common sense, yet the Church has been doing the complete opposite. For over a year, Freindly Fire and others have been successfully battling clueless Church factions who have been pushing “educational reform” legislation (Senate Bill 1) that would neither educate nor reform.  It’s such a worthless bill —written while Ed Rendell was still Governor and not amended to include the middle class (at all) despite an infinitely more favorable Legislature and pro-school choice Governor Tom Corbett — that, had it been passed a year ago, virtually none of the schools slated for closure would have been saved. School choice bills affecting just low-income families are born losers; only when the middle class is comprehensively included will there be light at the end of the tunnel to help Catholic schools survive and prosper.

 

Ironically, the Church — through its lobbying arm, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference —hurt itself by backing the wrong bill and not being truthful that the middle class was excluded from that legislation. Upon learning that the bill would never affect them or help keep their schools open, many Catholics reacted with palpable anger, setting off another wholly preventable firestorm. One step forward and three back is not the way to achieve political success.

 

What can be done immediately? Make an extremely aggressive push to have the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) expansion bill pass the Senate, where “school choice advocate” Senator Jeff Piccola is selfishly letting it languish (calling it “D.O.A.”) because he can’t pass his low-income voucher bill.  Making the sin mortal is that the EITC bill, sponsored by Montgomery County State Representative Tom Quigley, passed the House by an unheard-of bipartisan vote of 190 to 7 —a year ago!  The biggest tragedy is that some of the schools that have been ordered to close might have been saved if this bill had passed last spring.  But because of misguided legislative priorities and a total lack of political pressure by the Church, Catholics — and their schools — continue to suffer.

 

*****

 

All of the suggested solutions will be for naught if the hierarchy doesn’t learn one lesson very quickly. You cannot grow the Church by being inconsistent, and yes, hypocritical, especially to your own people.  The Archdiocese has thus far refused to grant school choice to many in elementary schools, instead dictating what schools children must attend.  That policy has created an immense backlash, with thousands feeling betrayed since they correctly see the Church pushing school choice for others, but denying it to them.  And no amount of spin or enrollment explanations will change that bitter sentiment.  Charity starts at home.

 

Of the countless emails received in the last week — most from loyal Catholics — one message was most common: Keep the faith but fight the corruption. 

 

If grounded Church leaders and reinvigorated rank-and-file Catholics keep that in mind while preaching a positive message and a wielding a political sledgehammer, then prayers for keeping Catholic education alive far into the future will undoubtedly be answered.

 

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 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm Comment (1)

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)

No Secret Ballot For GOP Endorsement Is Same As Union Card Check

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), commonly known as “Card Check,” is the misnamed legislation promoted by Organized Labor to stop the hemorrhaging within union ranks.  (From a high near 40 percent after World War II, union representation in the private sector has plummeted to just 7 percent today). It would make organizing a union infinitely easier by eliminating the current secret ballot vote used to determine whether employees wish to unionize.

Common sense tells us that whenever a secret ballot is not employed, many people will not vote their conscience.  Instead, they fall victim to intimidation and arm-twisting, and end up casting a ballot in favor of the person whom they are strongly encouraged —AKA “told” — to support.  The result is a rigged, Banana Republic election, anything but “Free Choice.”

The Republican Party, on both the state and national level, has vigorously opposed Card Check, not only because it is grossly unfair to companies, but much more important, because it would cavalierly discard that most fundamental American bedrock value: free and fair elections.  It is a right that has been held sacred in this nation, and has allowed the people to chart their own course and make their own decisions, free of outside influence and intimidation.

Given this, it seems extremely hypocritical that the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania — while opposing Card Check — jettisons free and fair voting for its own members by refusing to allow secret ballot votes on important issues, such as Party endorsements.

And now, on the eve of the meeting in which the Committee will vote whether to endorse a candidate for the U.S. Senate (or not endorse at all), that issue has become a firestorm that is only growing in intensity.

The big question centers on whether the Party will endorse millionaire Steve Welch, a favorite among several GOP leaders, including Republican Governor Tom Corbett. The problem many have with Welch is that he voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary and supported former Congressman Joe Sestak, a stalwart liberal consistently to the Left of Obama. Welch claims he left the GOP out of frustration that it wasn’t conservative enough, leaving more than a few Republicans perplexed.

(In an email to PoliticsPA this week, Sestak wrote of his meeting with Welch: “He expressed support of me and what I stood for. He seemed nice and, separately, supportive of the Democratic Party and its efforts.”)

So would the Party really risk massive damage to itself by endorsing an Obama-voter, and make the sin mortal by doing so without a secret ballot?

They can’t be that dumb.

But this being Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, all bets are off.

Should they endorse Welch, it will be a double whammy, throwing the entire Party into a quagmire from which it would be difficult to escape.

State Committee would cement the perception that its endorsements are behind-the-scenes deals by inside powerbrokers hell-bent on executing individual agendas — the rank-and-file Party faithful be damned.  More damaging, it would play out — in full public view — exactly how ruthlessly efficient Card Check tactics are, making unions blush with envy.

How could Party leaders possibly explain with a straight face that the process was fair, and that no political pressure and intimidation took place — when Governor Corbett and certain State Committee leaders were openly pushing Welch?  Would it really be plausible to believe that the message “do it for the Party, and do it for your Governor — or else your political career stops here” wouldn’t be made loud and clear?

Even more telling, how could the Party explain Committee members’ change of heart in endorsing Welch after only one of five State Committee regional caucus straw polls voted for Welch as their candidate of choice? In other words, of the five regional “pre-election” votes that took place — voted on by the very same people who are now being asked to change their vote and endorse Welch — only one made Welch a winner. Significantly, Welch’s own Southeast Caucus refused to hold a straw poll, and Corbett was not even able to deliver his hometown Southwest Caucus for Welch.

 

This is by no means an indictment of Steve Welch. It has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with the Republican Party. Clearly, in this particular situation, the wisest course of action would be to ignore the Governor’s misguided endorsement and refuse to endorse any candidate.

 

In allowing grassroots Republicans across Pennsylvania to make their choice, free of Party endorsements, a civil war inside the GOP would be averted, and the best candidate — the people’s choice — would emerge to take on incumbent Bob Casey.  And if Welch wins a non-endorsement primary, his victory would not be tainted with the perception that he “bought” his way to the nomination.  Regardless of the outcome, no one can argue with the results if rank-and-file Republican voters make that decision.

Besides gaining immense credibility with many Republicans should it not endorse a candidate, State Committee could score a huge coup by then amending its bylaws to allow for that which is uniquely American: secret ballot elections.

Otherwise, it will become known as Republican State Committee, Local 666.

 

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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January 27, 2012 at 8:26 am Comments (0)

Could PA GOP Endorse Obama-Voter for Senate?

Endorsing Steve Welch —who voted for Obama — would make the Party a national laughingstock…Republican State Committee: It’s Time For An Open Senate Primary

As published in Philadelphia Magazine, Delaware County Daily Times and Newsmax
To say the Republican presidential primary has become interesting would be a gross understatement. With three different winners in the first three contests — an unprecedented situation — everyone is asking why the frontrunners keep falling and why the GOP base cannot unite behind a leader.

Well, hold on to your seat, because here’s a big question: Would you believe that both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary? And after they became disenfranchised by the Republican Party for moving too far Left, they decided to do the only logical thing: become Democrats? And in addition, does it blow your mind that besides voting for the Big O, they took out their frustrations over a too-liberal GOP by financially supporting the most far-Left Democrat in the entire Congress?

Seem far-fetched? Well, it is — and it isn’t.

No, of course Romney and Gingrich didn’t switch Parties, vote for Obama or support liberal Democrats. If either had, it would, without question, be lunacy for any element of the Republican Party to endorse them. To many in the GOP, Obama is not just a political adversary but the Devil Incarnate who must be defeated at all costs. So running someone against Obama who had previously supported him would be a surefire recipe for disaster.

In some respects, Jon Huntsman fell victim to this exact situation. Many Republicans refused to trust him after he served as President Obama’s Ambassador to China, and his candidacy tanked. Likewise, one of Romney’s biggest obstacles to winning over Republicans stems from his implementation of an Obamacare-type health care system in Massachusetts, since many feel that he would be unable to effectively run against Obama on that critical issue.

Enter the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

There are seven candidates vying for the opportunity to take on incumbent Bob Casey. The election is in April, but it’s this Saturday, January 28th, that may well determine the nominee. That’s when the Republican State Committee convenes to decide whom it will endorse — if anyone.

Incomprehensibly, but not surprisingly, certain factions within the GOP leadership are pushing to endorse Montgomery County’s Steve Welch, a candidate who:

A) Became a Democrat because the GOP wasn’t conservative enough,

B) Financially supported (former) Congressman Joe Sestak, one of the most liberal members of Congress, and

C) Voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

For those who may think this is also a fairy tale to illustrate a point, think again.

Steve Welch did in fact vote for Barack Obama and supported Joe Sestak. So why on Earth would State Committee want to endorse Welch, and in doing so become the laughingstock of the nation?

Good question. And since State Committee members are elected officials, perhaps they should be asked that before Saturday’s vote.

This is just another example of brain-dead GOP leadership choosing laziness over hard work. Since Welch is a millionaire who could self-fund, GOP leaders wouldn’t have to engage in fundraising activities (AKA “doing their job”) nearly as much as they would for other plebian candidates — no matter how much more qualified they may be.

Many Party faithful want to believe that the majority of State Committee sees a Welch endorsement for what it would be: a political and public relations disaster, one that would seriously erode what credibility Pennsylvania’s Republican Party has left. Such an endorsement would also cement the growing perception — not incorrect, by the way — that the only thing of importance to the GOP hierarchy in choosing a candidate is the size of his wallet. Qualifications? A lot of money —period. Republican values? Irrelevant.

Brilliant.

******

Given his recent support of Leftist Democrats, would Steve Welch make a good Republican senator? Tough to tell, but Pennsylvania’s Republican voters should be the ones making that determination, not Party leaders in a smoke-filled backroom who only see dollar signs from a candidate.

Republicans deserve straight answers from Steve, and to this day, they really haven’t received them. Did he vote for Obama to spite his “true” Party, did he truly support him, or did he do it to stop “Hillarycare,” as was reported? We don’t know. With those significant questions unanswered, and by extension, character and judgment issues swirling around Welch, an endorsement would only serve to muddy the waters and foster an anger among Republicans that hasn’t been seen in Pennsylvania in decades.

Amazing as it now seems, Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater girl, supporting Barry in his presidential election. It took years for her to evolve into the more liberal Hillary that we know today. So perhaps most disconcerting is the speed in which Steve Welch evolved with his Party loyalties — and then back again.

If one was disgruntled with the Republicans not being conservative enough, fine. Many felt the same way. But that’s why God made the Independent Party.

If one is truly seeking more conservative values, where is the wisdom and good judgment in switching to a Party that for years has unabashedly moved further to the Left? And regarding Obama and Sestak, give them credit where it’s due: both were crystal clear about where they stood on issues. Nationalized health care? Absolutely. Redistribution of wealth through higher taxes? Yep. More government spending is the answer, as a paternalistic government knows best? Without question.

So for someone to abandon the Republicans to join the Democrats, and march behind people such as Obama and Sestak, may well be an indication as to that person’s true political leanings. All the more reason for such a candidate to be vetted by ALL Republicans, not just State Committee.

There are some on the Right who seem opposed to the endorsement process every time it rolls around. Yet in many instances, it has its rightful place, a key instrument in a political party advancing its vision through whom it deems the best candidate. When candidates are vetted correctly, with the best interest of the Party in mind and not the selfish agendas of individual leaders, endorsements can be critically important in winning elections.

But when unprecedented situations arise that scream for an open primary, endorsements should never be forced, as they will virtually always backfire.

Given this situation, it absolutely boggles the mind that Tom Corbett — the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania — would not only get involved in a primary, but would choose to endorse someone with Welch’s background, as he did last week.

For the good of its Party, Republican State Committee should do the right thing this weekend by voting for an open primary. If it chooses to self-destruct by endorsing Steve Welch, that laughing you’ll hear will be Bob Casey as he wraps up another six-year term ten months before the election.

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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January 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm Comments (0)

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)

Freindly Fire’s Biggest Losers Of 2011

 

Although Freindly Fire has never been known for sarcasm and negativity, it feels compelled as a civic duty to point out this year’s biggest losers. 

So with very little pleasure (okay, maybe a little), here are some of 2011’s notable wankers: 

Philadelphia Phillies

A colossal failure. Period. End of story.

But this being Philadelphia, further explanation is, of course, warranted. Yes, they won the (ridiculously weak) National League East Division for the fifth time in a row. Yes, they set a franchise record for regular season wins. Yes, there was one World Series Championship three years ago. And yes, they will probably win the Division again in 2012. So what?  All meaningless. 

And for anyone who actually believes any of those achievements mean squat, well, you’re delirious from being an Eagles fan.  

The team — the only one in the nation’s top four markets which does not share its city with another franchise — was billed as having the best rotation in baseball history and a powerhouse lineup of battle-tested veterans.  But when you enter Yankee territory, as they claimed they did, anything short of a Championship must be viewed a total failure, as there are no points for second place.

The blame should be laid at the feet of the players, several of whom refused to hustle and play fundamental baseball, and more importantly, the coaches who didn’t address those problems.

So while the Phils are still a dangerous team, their window of opportunity is closing fast. Time to lose the ‘tude and play ball the way Little Leaguers and consistent World Series Champs do. Otherwise, Charlie Manual will become the city’s next Andy Reid. (Alright, that’s a stretch. Andy’s in a class by himself.) 

NBA

Speaking of sports, shame on the NBA for ending the lockout.  If they really cared about Fan Appreciation, they would have continued the impasse for the next decade. It was leaps and bounds more exciting than anything the 12 people watching a typical NBA game will see.

Jerry Sandusky, His Wife Dottie, Penn State, Tom Corbett, Joe Paterno, and Mike McQueary

At the very least, all failed the test of moral leadership, permitting small, defenseless children to live a nightmare from which they may never awaken — because no one would help. How could Happy Valley seem more like Yemen, where child sex trafficking and molestation is an accepted fact of life?  Even if Penn State turns into the State Pen for those who may have done wrong, it will be little solace to the victims.

And all the folks on this list, whether directly or indirectly, have blood on their hands. For shame.

Mitt Romney

Is Romney the most intelligent candidate running for President? Probably. Is he a successful businessman? Undoubtedly.  But what does it tell you when, after campaigning for five years and spending hundreds of millions, Romney still can’t even muster 30 percent of the GOP base? In other words, seven of ten Republicans simply don’t like him.

And it’s not rooted in his issue positions (though his Romneycare law in Massachusetts doesn’t help), but that he has no core convictions on…anything.  The man is the very embodiment of an articulate politician without a soul, one who will say whatever it takes to get elected.   So prevalent is his flip-flopping that he couldn’t even decide whether to campaign in Iowa. Contrast that to Congressman Ron Paul, whose support is surging for the opposite reason — because he has been steadfastly consistent throughout his entire political career.

It’s a lesson totally lost on Mitt.  He’s so out of touch that he doesn’t understand the peoples’ yearning for a leader who stands for something and sticks to his guns.  Instead, Romney’s “be all things to all people” approach has him foundering, and will make him an inviting target for Obama should he win the GOP nomination.

Romney is the best Christmas present the GOP could give the Democrats. 

Hollywood Movie Studios

Fewer Americans went to the movies this year than at any point in the last 16 years. Sure, the economy is in the toilet, tickets are expensive, and you need to take out a second mortgage to buy Raisenets, but they are all symptoms of a much greater illness: Hollywood’s product continues to decline.

Most flicks are flat-out horrible, but Hollywood execs don’t care. Their formula of hiring a star and throwing in some special effects is enough to dupe Americans into opening their wallets.  And despite the dismal box office numbers, don’t look for that to change anytime soon.  As long as they can make enough money to get near breakeven in North America, they’re still be laughing all the way to the bank because the foreign box office is providing the big haul. In fact, it was a record year for overseas profits. Which means that folks in Indonesia who are still starstruck will ensure more of Hollywood’s mediocrity for the foreseeable future.

Or here’s an idea: maybe Hollywood could stop looking for the easy way out of making remakes of remakes and using the same musical score ad nauseam —just listen to Pirates of the Carribean (2003), Gladiator (2000), and The Rock (1996) — and reinvent itself.  Sure, it takes effort to be creative, but that’s what made Hollywood the most powerful force in the world.

Most people couldn’t name one U.S. Senator, nor do they care.  But when Hollywood produces a creative, classic movie, it touches the soul, inspires, motivates, and enlightens (Remember the Titans meets all that criteria and then some).  It makes people think in a way they normally wouldn’t, and more often than not, produces a smile.  When was the last time Congress did that?

The slogan of the G4 network is playing “Movies That Don’t Suck.” Since that list is growing thin, let’s hope Hollywood regains its footing and returns to its glory days by putting blood, sweat and tears ahead of the easy buck.

 Jim Matthews, Joe Hoeffel, and Montco Residents

Even in its most creative mode, Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this soap opera. Four years ago, the GOP won control of the County Commissioners, but Jim Matthews forsaked loyalty for power and sided with Democrat Joe Hoeffel, giving the Chairmanship to himself and power, effectively, to the Democrats. Top vote getter Bruce Castor was left out in the cold.

So (in)effective was the dynamic duo of Matthews-Hoeffel that both got the boot from their respective Parties and were forced into retirement.  And for the first time ever, the Democrats took control of Montgomery County.  So once again, Castor will be the only voice of reason as the Dems will most certainly raise taxes and get cozy with the unions.

But in a most fascinating twist, Matthews was recently arrested on perjury and false swearing charges for allegedly lying to a Grand Jury about his relationships with county vendors.  The Grand Jury found that “Matthews lied with such ease and frequency, that he acted as though, as Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, he is above the law.”

When you’re arrogance knows no bounds, what goes around comes around. And for Jim Matthews, the red and green colors of the season may well turn to jumpsuit orange.  So in the spirit of giving, Freindly Fire will send Jim a belated Christmas present, just to be safe: Soap-On-A-Rope. 

Pennsylvanians

Maintaining the status quo simply isn’t good enough when the state has an effective unemployment rate above ten percent. So to solve that problem, what did Republican Governor Tom Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature achieve? Pretty much zilch.

Sure, the budget wasn’t increased, but that wasn’t due to political courage but the fact that the federal stimulus funds had evaporated. And yet, despite many good programs going on the chopping block, the “fiscally conservative” Republicans still spent money on a lavish union deal, the Yankees’ AAA stadium, a bailout of the Philadelphia Shipyard to build ships with no buyers, and —while not ultimately spent — a grant to Jerry Sandusky’s Second Mile Foundation.

What of the signature issues that will be ignored in the upcoming election year? School Choice? Dead as Marley’s Ghost. Liquor privatization? Forget it. Reducing the second highest corporate tax in the nation — a certified job killer? Not going to happen.

And how about the virtually limitless cheap natural gas under Pennsylvania? It still hasn’t dawned on the Governor to mandate that state buildings and vehicles utilize that gift — which would be an economically and environmentally sound policy.

So because the demand for natural gas remains so low, the industry will cap their wells and move out of state, and we won’t have them to use as a convenient punching bag anymore. Brilliant.

So Pennsylvanians will suffer as more opportunities to bring the state into the 21st century are squandered.  The politicians change, but the dismal results stay the same.

Happy New Year!

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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December 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm Comments (0)

Montco: Matthews Arrested!

The 24/7 campaigner will now have to become a 24/7 defendant.

Philly.com

The [perjury] charge and one count of false swearing stem from allegations that Matthews lied to the grand jury about his business relationship with Certified Abstract, a title company with which the Matthews family-owned mortgage firm Keegan Morgan worked.

In 2004, county employees were instructed to only use Certified Abstract for farmland preservation open space sales, the grand jury found.

“Matthews lied with such ease and frequency that he acted as though, as chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners, he is above the law,” the grand jury report said.

The panel also found he violated a gag order a judge imposed on investigation

The grand jury report quotes Matthews as saying he though the investigation was politically motivated and coming from Bruce Castor, a fellow commissioner and former district attorney.

“They are out to get me,” said Matthews, a former candidate for lieutenant governor and brother of MSBNC host Chris Matthews.

Surprisingly, this is not related “Breakfastgate”… which the grand jury has also been investigating…. and CBIZ, the healthcare consultant no-bid contact firm.

This is really going to make raising taxes on Montco taxpayers a real pain in the ass before his term is over.

More as the story breaks.

Update: Here is the Grand Jury Report.

Update: Breakfastgate wont come up. It’s discussed in the report.

Page 16

However, while the Grand Jury suspects foul play, there is no actual proof to rebut the claims of Matthews and Hoeffel that no deliberations took place at these meetings. Thus in the absence of further evidence, the Grandy Jury cannot recommend presentment for a violation of the Sunshine Act.

Taurusgate is also discussed, on Page 17:

With no Pennsylvania law and now no federal law that could be applied, the investigation prematurely ceased

The make several recommendations to the county and state. Among them, charges against Jim Matthews for perjury and false swearing, changes to the county RFP process, Open Space Program, and patronage positions. They also recommend changes to the Sunshine Act and Campaign Expenditure laws.

For over a year and a half, we the Investigating Grandy Jury, heard evidence and examined testimony regarding several topics involving county officials. We find that the same general theme of lack of transparency was present in each of the topics we investigated. We also find that while many of the actions taken by County officials were inappropriate, these actions are protected by laws that are narrowly interpreted and tend to protect this behaviour. While we understand that the current County administration will change, we hope that our recommendations will be taken into consideration, that they will discourage any further inappropriate practices and will ensure a more forthcoming County government in the future.

There probably won’t be much more than the perjury trial coming up for Matthews. At least not out of the Grand Jury.

December 6, 2011 at 11:29 am Comments (0)

Shapiro-Richards: Dems Win in Montco

Republicans lose a big one.

“Leslie and I are extremely grateful for the support of Montgomery County,” Shapiro said. “We know we have a lot of work to do and we’re going to do it in a bipartisan manner.”

Meanwhile, Castor – the outspoken incumbent who conceded the Democratic majority just after 11 p.m. – stood in danger of possibly losing his seat on the board altogether.

Both Shapiro and Richards individually exceeded his vote tally as of late Tuesday. Only about 1,000 votes separated Castor and his running mate, Lower Merion Commissioner Jenny Brown.

“I’m hoping I’ll finish fourth,” Castor said dryly. “But I’m afraid it’s going to be third.”

Castor has plenty of experience being the minority commissioner. He will be joined on the dais by Stewart Greenleaf Jr as Controller. Sheriff Eileen Behr was reelected and DA Risa Vetri Ferman ran unopposed. Update..and Nancy Becker at Recorder of Deeds.

Other than that, no good news for Montco Republicans.

Of course, now that this election was a “bellweather” for national races expect it to get a lot of press. … and rightly so.

I look forward to seeing the township by township breakdown. Mine went 66%-33% Republican. (Registration is 50%R, 33%D, 16%indy) The Dems must have put on a hell of a get out the vote effort.

November 9, 2011 at 12:25 am Comments (4)

Shapiro Met With Tea Party Too!

Boy, this video is going to be killer.

Though Democratic Montgomery County commissioner candidate Josh Shapiro has accused Republican opponent Jenny Brown of being “the only candidate to meet with the Tea Party,” it has come to the light Shapiro himself met with a local Tea Party group last year.

A current state House member, Shaprio — and running mate Leslie Richards — are competing against Brown and Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. for three board seats. When pressed by Castor during the taping of Larry Kane’s “Voice of Reason” show Thursday, Shapiro finally admitted he had met with the Philadelphia Tea Party Patriots — Eastern Montco. “(Shapiro) even lied directly to the voters on the show,” Castor said. “I didn’t have any objection that he had met with the Tea Party, but that he said Jenny Brown is bad because she did.”

October 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm Comment (1)

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