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Garbage ads

It appears that Scott Wagner has won a special election for PA Senate as a write-in.

I’d like to preface the rest of this post by confessing that I did not follow this race at all and have spoken to nobody about it.  I couldn’t tell you whether Scott Wagner is the devil or the messiah.  Thankfully, that determination is irrelevant to my point.

The person or people who approved these attack ads (one ; two) need to seriously rethink how they want to run Republican campaigns.

Chiefly, I want to throw a serious red flag over the use of “millionaire” as a pejorative.  Our party ran Mitt frakking Romney for President a mere 16 months ago, and somebody with the memory of a horsefly thought it was a good idea to rag on a guy for being a millionaire?!? Do you think we’ll never run any more rich candidates?

These ads strike me as the type of feeble ads Democrats run against Republicans.  Running ads like these does nothing but reinforce clichéd Democratic themes about Republicans.  You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Look, you want to run ads against a guy, fine. Knock yourselves out.  Just have some self-awareness and perspective when you do so.

March 18, 2014 at 10:28 pm Comments (0)

A Lack of Nuance

Having recently railed against the “establishment”, it’s time for a crack at the base.

As I have previously asserted, the base is allergic to compromise.  While this idea is widely taken as a given among the establishment and the Left, few take the time to analyze the behavior.  The problem is actually a somewhat broader aversion to nuance.  Outrage fuels donations, and donations pay the bills, so there’s somewhat of a negative incentive for base-oriented groups to promote nuance.  But a lack of nuance can often inhibit constructive conservative policy movement.

A thought experiment: What if Democrats credibly and convincingly offered to cut Federal spending to such a degree that the budget would come into immediate balance, and also could somehow fix the Federal entitlement problem.  In exchange, Republicans would agree to a one percent increase in the personal income tax.  Do we take the deal?

True, the parameters of the thought experiment are absurd on their face, but for the sake of argument, take it for what it is.  We’d be fools not to take this deal, right?

Whoa, now!  Once you start to entertain this deal, you’re “for” raising income taxes.

Well, no, you weren’t really “for” it.  You were willing to make a concession in order to get a number of other things that you wanted and thought were more significant.

Take a more realistic issue, immigration.  The moment a Republican starts having any sort of conversation about immigration reform,  he is blasted as being “for” amnesty.  (The opponents of immigration reform use the term “amnesty” rather promiscuously, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use it here and not bother about details of what does or does not constitute “amnesty”.)

Understand that, to the Left, some form of amnesty is a sine qua non for any concessions on significant border security improvements, employment e-Verify, or – heaven forbid – voter ID.  You don’t even begin to have negotiations about how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants until you lay your amnesty bargaining chip down on the table.

But by reacting violently to this potential offer of amnesty as something we could consider giving up in order to get a better outcome, the base makes this a question of amnesty vs non-amnesty, not a question of what we could possibly get in exchange for amnesty.  When we put the focus on what we get in exchange for amnesty, we put the Democrats on the defensive.  When we focus on whether to offer amnesty at all, we make ourselves irrelevant, and the status quo reigns.

To be fair, Republican politicians have a history of being cheap dates.  I dare say though, it wouldn’t kill us to “show a little leg” on this issue.  I’m not “for” amnesty, I’m for using the offer of amnesty as a means of getting more significant concessions from the other side and for (hopefully) putting the issue behind us.  If we get a bad offer in return, we walk away and blame the Democrats for not being serious and for keeping people in the shadows unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, nuance requires trust, which is in short supply.

March 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)

A Lack of Trust

Some weeks ago I was asked my thoughts about the way forward for the conservative movement. I felt a little like I had been asked to provide a proof for Einstein’s general relativity and then handed a napkin and a crayon.

I mentioned the obvious “base-vs-establishment” split, but could not see an obvious way forward.  If anything, the divide continues to grow wider.  Both sides are at some fault, and I would be hard pressed to say which is more blameworthy.  However, the flaws of the base are fairly well known and understood, so I will be focusing more on the “establishment”.

The authority of the “establishment” is predicated on two assumptions.  Firstly, that they know what they are doing, and secondly, that the base will get at least some of what they want by deferring at times to the party leadership.  This is the essence of the unwritten compact among Republicans.

Both legs of this platform have been thrown into serious question in the last few election cycles. The McCain and Romney campaigns epitomize the failures of the party, both technical and ideological.  Our last two standard bearers did not understand the philosophy underlying the conservative movement, and then when pressed had no chance of adequately conveying or defending it.  Steve Schmidt should have his proverbial license to campaign revoked.  There are many more examples than these, which are merely the most prominent.

The transactional leg of the compact is no less suspect.  Pennsylvania Republicans, despite controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, have been unable or unwilling to take even small steps toward privatizing our Soviet-style liquor stores, nor have they been able to mitigate the certain fiscal doom of the looming pension crisis.  Federally, Republican leadership recently capitulated on the debt ceiling hike without getting so much as the re-naming of a post office in return.  (Please note, I have argued for having fights on appropriation bills and continuing resolutions, not the debt ceiling.  Nevertheless, the swift and unconditional surrender was a little unsettling.)

The “establishment” relies on a model of the electorate that assumes voters (1) have consistent policy preferences that (2) are logically consistent and unidimensional and (3) that voters cast their votes according to which party or politician best satisfies these policy preferences.  It’s an interesting model, one that has served academics and political practitioners for decades.  But like all models — even the useful ones — it is wrong.  It also happens to be least applicable where practitioners would most like to apply it — with the “swing”/”centrist” voter. The major problem with this seductively simplistic model is the general and perpetual prescription of retreat on all substantive issues.

The base, understandably irritated with the strategy of perpetual retreat and burned by a few too many failures of the transactional leg of the compact, has become allergic to compromise on any issue. Simply, to the extent that the base ever trusted the establishment, the base doesn’t trust them any more at all.

It doesn’t help matters that the establishment has declared open war against the Tea Party.  To be fair, the feeling is often mutual, but party leaders “misunderestimate” the intensity and resolve of the base.  Attacking or delegitimizing certain elements of the base/Tea Party (-even deservedly-) does not make the party leadership any more attractive.  Democratic pollster Pat Caddell threw up a flag prior to the 2010 elections that America was in a “Pre-Revolutionary” state. Among Republican base voters, this feeling has not subsided.  Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners have seemingly scoffed at the state requirement to register their weapons.  (And why should they, when registration seems to lead to police abuse and eventual confiscation of weapons.)  Those Connecticut –Connecticut– gun owners are surely not all tea partiers.  And yet, they have shown a clear disregard for state control.  This is not how a healthy democracy functions.

The base, much to its detriment, seems not to comprehend that the electorate is against us.  Frankly, it is a little incomprehensible to me that Obama was re-elected, and yet here we are.  The general electorate was never particularly well-informed or sophisticated, but seems much less so in recent years. Correspondingly, there has been an increase in “liberal” political identification amidst the massive disruption and likely collapse of Obamacare, the biggest liberal project in several generations.

The common ground may be what the base wishes to do, but can’t seem to, and what the establishment may be somewhat better equipped to do, but won’t, and that is to fight the basic linguistic and cultural assumptions that have crept into the swing-voter’s mind.  Maybe once in a while somebody should explain the difference between “insurance” and pre-payment for service.  Or explain that “access” is not equivalent to “subsidy” (birth control), and lack of subsidy is not equivalent to a “ban” (embryonic stem cell research).  When debating Democrats, have our candidates ask, “and then what will happen?”, per Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics.  Explain that the Democrats would rather that the poor were poorer when it comes to “inequality”. And once in a blue moon, explain that the economy is not a zero sum game.

But as things stand now, there’s just no trust to be found for Republican leadership.  Until some modicum of trust can be re-established, hostilities will persist.

February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm Comments (0)

Toying with us

In a sane and rational world, and in light of the illegal delays and waivers issued by the administration, insisting that the individual mandate be delayed for a year was not a particularly radical demand.

Despondency surged as I realized Obama was toying with us, much like a predator might play with its prey before delivering the death-blow. The administration took extraordinary care to make sure the shutdown was as inconvenient as possible, shutting down things that it is not ordinarily possible to shut down, such as open-air monuments, private businesses and homes,… and the ocean.

At first I thought Obama’s strategy might backfire. Surely he had overplayed his hand! Then I watched the 6:30 news for a few evenings. And what finally convinced me that the administration would get away with it was the concern-trolling by the media about the Obamacare rollout failures.

–Oh, if only the Republicans’ antics weren’t sucking up so much oxygen, we might be able to report more about these glitches in Obamacare!–

Really? What have I experienced in the last five years would lead me to believe that the media was eager to report on a story reflecting negatively on Obama? Would that be the failure of the stimulus? Or Fast and Furious? Or Benghazi? Or the IRS?

No, they were pretty openly mocking conservatives. They knew what an empty promise they were suggesting.

Brian Williams’ snarky asides during the evening newscasts would have made Dan “fake but accurate” Rather blush.

Speaking of Benghazi, the modus operandi was pretty similar. Put out some bogus story for the weekend/Sunday show cycle, allow the media to go with it, and let the story die within a week, because heaven knows neither the media nor the American public has an attention span longer than a week. With Benghazi it was that ridiculous story about the YouTube video. With Obamacare, it was the fairy tale about overwhelming demand for the product.

Though nobody was exactly covered in glory in the public’s eye, polls showed Republicans faring worse than Democrats on the subject of the “negotiations” long before any actual negotiations took place, and in spite of the fact that it was the publicly stated position of both Harry and Barry that they would not be negotiating at all. The mind boggles.

And to top it off, you’ve got the likes of John McCain, who should be ejected from the party for serial violations of the eleventh commandment. If anybody invents a time machine, they need to loan McCain the Delorean so he can go back and retire 15 years ago.

This is not an environment in which any serious policy debates can be had, let alone won.

Oh, and the next time somebody says we’ll have more leverage on the debt ceiling rather than the continuing resolution, just go ahead and slap that person in the face for me.

October 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm Comments (0)

Gosnell’s Abortuary and the Limits of Media Shaming

I see at least a passing resemblance between the media’s treatment of the 2012 Benghazi quasi-coverup scandal and their lack of interest in Kermit Gosnell’s Abortuary*.

(* – Indications are that Chris Lilik coined this term.  I submit that it should be part of the PAWatercooler Official Style Guide.)

Gosnell_empty

After a prolonged period of virtual media blackout and attempts to shame the media into covering what is obviously a significant story, we are starting to see trickles of interest from major media outlets.

Of course, as with Benghazi, they’re covering the story mostly on their own terms, which in this case is a lack of government oversight.  Nothing to do with the horrors inherent in the practice of late term abortion itself.  In the Benghazi case, media reports ignored the politically motivated misdirection from the Obama administration and focused narrowly on procedural issues.  They covered it, but they really didn’t cover it.  (“What does it matter!?”)

This is the limit that shaming the major media will produce – the possibility of half-coverage, and on the wrong terms.  Scream bloody murder all you want (-literally), news outlets will not listen.

My metric for whether a major story has been covered in any meaningful sense is whether it appears on the 6:30 national news.  I watch a network news broadcast almost always five nights a week, rarely less than four nights, (-usually CBS, and always against my will), and I have yet to see the Gosnell story mentioned.

I use the “nightly news” metric in an attempt to separate completely disconnected low-information voters (and non-voters) from those folks who are low-information by no tremendous fault of their own.  It ought to be the case that a person could read a national paper and watch the evening news every day and have some sense of what’s going on in the world.  Sadly, this has not been the case for quite some time.

Conservatives will continue to have a difficult time at the ballot box until this information gap is addressed.

 

April 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm Comments (0)

Ravens’ Cheerleader Has No Right To Super Bowl

 

Baltimore Has Every Right Not To Send A Plump Cheerleader To Big Game

“Originally I would have loved to go to the Super Bowl, but at this point it looks like it’s not going to happen…. I can’t say I didn’t expect it, but at the same time, they owe that to me.”

So pontificates Courtney Lenz, a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader whom the team did not send to the Super Bowl.

Talk about carrying the massive chip of entitlement on her plump shoulder.

But fear not! A movement is underway by misguided souls (aka idiots) using social media to mount a campaign aimed at changing the team’s mind. One of the organizers even threatened to boycott the game, stating that because of this unconscionable incident, people want to burn their jerseys and no longer support the Ravens.

Great! Do it! Burn everything with a Ravens logo and stay home from New Orleans! One empty seat at the world’s biggest sporting event will most definitely teach those mean-spirited Ravens!

And, naturally, the national media has picked up Lenz’ cause, fawning over the “beauty’s” plight and unashamedly biasing their stories to reflect negatively on Baltimore — without, of course, looking at its side of the story.

Thank God we don’t have any problems in this country other than rallying around a cheerleader who admitted being somewhat overweight and who announced her intention that she was quitting at the end of the season.

So before we see a politically-correct decision by the NFL to pressure Baltimore to reverse itself, let’s set the record straight in this case:

1) The Baltimore Ravens employ 60 cheerleaders. The NFL allows only 32 from each team to attend the Super Bowl. Given America’s educational ineptitude, let’s say it another way: 28 cheerleaders, by definition, cannot go to the big game.  This isn’t a new rule, and every cheerleader in the NFL should explicitly know that.  That’s the job — take it or leave it.

2) Understanding the aforementioned rule, no one is entitled or “owed” anything. Get over it, Ms. Lenz.

3) The Baltimore Ravens, like every NFL team, has set forth criteria that must be met in order to be considered for Super Bowl duty.  In its opinion, Lenz came up short in some capacity. Is Lenz the only one with more than three years of service that isn’t going to New Orleans (according to her)? Yes.  Does that stink for her?  Yes. Does she deserve to go on that basis alone? No.

Thankfully, the Ravens don’t employ a tenure system whereby one is guaranteed benefits regardless of his or her performance — kind of like how our public education system and public unions are operated. And look at how well both of them are doing.

4) If Lenz’ weight was the deciding factor in the Ravens’ decision, so be it. Cheerleaders, like dancers and other entertainment professionals, must meet stringent physical standards. Not only is fitness critical to optimally performing the cheerleaders’ demanding routines, but no one wants to look at an overweight woman shaking her assets.  Call that ignorant, sexist, and chauvinistic.  Fine. But make sure you call it something else: reality. We may be a fat country, but we don’t want to look at corpulent cheerleaders. And that’s a fact.

It’s like portly pop singer Adele recently slamming Madonna and Lady Gaga for using skimpy, sexy outfits to sell their music. Maybe they do, but they also have fantastic voices and dynamic entertainment abilities. Adele also has great pipes, but she is an anomaly, as most singers are highly fit and often (but not always) wear provocative outfits. Adele can lament all she wants of the sensual nature of top female vocalists, but that is what the vast majority of fans — both male and female — not just gravitate to, but demand. Maybe if Adele cut down on her caloric intake and worked out just a bit more, she wouldn’t be so envious.

5) The Ravens’ decision on Lenz is discriminatory —and that is a good thing, exactly how it should be.  Discrimination has become a dirty word, yet it is an everyday part of life. We discriminate — another word for making a choice — all the time, from what clothes we wear to what kind of latte we order.  No one held a gun to her head ordering her to be a cheerleader, and the Ravens have every right to make personnel decisions as they see fit — no explanation warranted or necessary.

They may have chosen not to send her to the Super Bowl because she weighed more than they preferred. Or because she was ending her career as a cheerleader and they wanted an up-and-comer who would be continuing her service with the Ravens. Or because they didn’t like her attitude. Or because they thought she smelled.  Who cares? Lenz apparently wasn’t denied the Super Bowl because of color, creed or religion — and certainly not gender — so no one has the “right” to feel that that “entitlement” was wrongfully revoked. Not Lenz. Not her Facebook friends. And not the news media.

*****

If there is one underlying factor at the root of America’s demise, it is widespread sense of entitlement. It is a cancer that has become pervasive throughout all levels of society — not limited to just the “welfare dregs” that some so wrongly label as the biggest offenders. It is millionaire CEO’s looking for a government handout. It is billionaire sports team owners demanding their stadiums be built with taxpayer money. It is college graduates believing they are entitled to a six-figure salary right out of school. It is retirees thinking no reform in benefits is ever warranted. It is public sector unions rejecting generous 401k’s, instead demanding unaffordable defined-benefit plans. It is politicians and parties— Democrat and Republican, liberals and Tea Partiers — thinking they are entitled to the offices they hold, offended by anyone with the gall to challenge them.

And yes, it is cheerleaders who think they are “owed” a trip to the Super Bowl.

Go Baltimore!

Newsmax Link:

http://www.newsmax.com/Freind/Ravens-Cheerleader-Super-Bowl/2013/02/01/id/488462

 

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 FFZMedia@Gmail.com

 

 

 

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February 1, 2013 at 11:33 am Comments (0)

Welcome to the Party, Jo Ann Nardelli

Sorry for the delay in picking this up.

Gay marriage stance turns Nardelli over to Republican side

One of Blair County’s prominent Democrats, Jo Ann Nardelli, said Wednesday she has switched her voter registration to Republican because she can no longer support Democratic initiatives like same sex marriage.

“As the Democratic Party has taken the stand for same-sex marriage, then I must make a stand on my faith that marriage is between a man and a woman. God’s principles for life never change. His guidelines, given in Scripture, produce fruitful lives when you follow them,” Nardelli said while making the announcement of her party switch in the Blair County Courthouse.

She said she was a member of the Democratic party for 40 years.

Congratulations to Jo Ann Nardelli for finally waking up to the fact that there is no place left for people like her in the Democrat Party! The Democrat Party that Ms. Nardelli, my grandparents, and my parents belonged to is long gone. The traditional constituencies like blue-collar workers and Catholics are nothing more than political props to be used by Democrats at election time. People who still consider themselves conservative Democrats owe it to themselves to stop enabling a party that does nothing but oppose the things they stand for–unless those people now support things like gay marriage, abortion on demand, unchecked illegal immigration, and skyrocketing taxes.

So let me officially welcome Jo Ann Nardelli to the Republican Party. You’ll find that you have a lot more in common with your fellow R’s than you thought.

May 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm Comments (2)

Did Chris Christie Lower Jersey Flags for Whitney Houston to Suck Up to Black People?

 

Chris Christie And Whitney Houston: Not Perfect Together

As published in Philadelphia Magazine…

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/02/17/chris-christie-jersey-flags-whitney-houston-suck-black-people/

With the sparse media coverage of Whitney Houston’s death and funeral, it’s not surprising that her years of military service have gone largely unnoticed, as were her activities as an undercover cop in New Jersey (was she really killed after a sting went bad?).  After all, she must have done these dangerous things to warrant all Jersey state flags being flown at half-mast in her honor, as ordered by Governor Chris Christie.

 

Because the opposite simply defies common sense.

 

If Houston was not a police officer gunned down in the line of duty, nor a military hero killed in a war zone, that means that the hugely significant act of lowering the flags in deference to her was because she was…. a singer?

 

Really, Governor?  A singer?  That’s what it’s come down to in Jersey?  Sure, Whitney Houston was a Jersey native, proud of her Garden State roots.  And undeniably, she was one of the most dynamic pop stars of all time, changing the musical landscape forever and inspiring some of the brightest performers of today.

 

But she was just a singer.  That’s not to minimize her accomplishments, as they are many, but let’s cut through the emotion and talk brass tacks.  She was a popular singer, past her prime, with a not-exactly stellar personal history. 

 

Play word association with most people about Whitney Houston, and they will tell you two things: great singer and crack addict.

 

That’s reason enough not to elevate Houston to god-like status.  While Christie can’t control the media’s nauseating coverage of all things Whitney, he certainly could have sent a message by NOT lowering the flags for her.  By doing so, Houston is now perceived, more than she ever has been, as a special role model, one for whom the Government has issued its seal of approval. 

 

And despite Christie’s protests to the contrary, that’s exactly what has happened as a result of his bad decision. Trite as it sounds that honoring Houston in such a fashion condones her behavior — both good and bad — it also happens to be true.

 

And where does it end?  What is the litmus test for getting flags lowered on your behalf? Once the hallowed territory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their countrymen, Christie has now changed the rules forever.  And is that really what we want from our governmental leaders — their interpretation of who merits the honor, and who doesn’t?

 

If Jon Bon Jovi — a Jersey Boy — happens to meet his Maker next week, will the Guv give him the same special treatment?  And what is the threshold? Record sales? Movie appearances? Rehab stints?

More ominous is to ponder Bon Jovi’s flag fate had he died before Whitney.  Would Christie have honored him the same way?  And if not, would that have been because Bon Jovi wouldn’t have provided the same perceived political benefit?

 

“Wow, what a callous, crass and out-of-line statement!” So will be the response of many Houston fans who will take such a possibility as a personal affront to Whitney and her family, but the point remains a valid one, and that bring us to two possibilities:

 

1) Is Christie’s move a political calculation, pandering to constituencies that are not in his camp? And if so, is the Governor’s attempt at making inroads with the black community and young hipsters done to seem more “moderate and compassionate,” both perceived necessities when running for President or Vice President?

 

If that is the case, it is a massive miscalculation on three counts.  First, he won’t win over those constituencies because he lowers flags.  He can only do so by sticking to his core convictions, explaining to them why his vision will benefit them more than failed Democratic policies.  Second, he has now alienated an influential part of his natural base — active and retired police and military personnel. In their eyes, his action has cheapened the sacrifices their fallen brethren have made, putting those fallen heroes on par with a drug-addicted millionaire Hollywood entertainer.  Last, such perceived political posturing doesn’t sit well with the vast majority of  regular, non-political citizens.  They may not see his motives as politically calculated, but many see his decision as a total lack of good judgment.

 

2) Of course, there may be absolutely no political calculation whatsoever, with Christie making his decision on a human level only.  This author, for one, would certainly like to think so, as no media commentator has defended Christie’s bulldog approach to tough issues more than Freindly Fire (and, to be fair, hammered him when he was wrong, such as “HelicopterGate”).

 

But that is exactly why politicians should not be lowering flags and honoring anyone they happen to like.  The nature of politicians is such that everything they do is perceived to be calculated, that their every move is an ulterior motive to curry favor with a particular constituency.

 

Why wasn’t the solemn act of lowering flags to honor real heroes left intact? Why is nothing sacred anymore? Why is common sense so incredibly uncommon these days, even by those from whom we expect more?

 

Perception is reality, and the growing perception — from both the media’s nonstop Whitney coverage and Chris Christie stamping his imprimatur on her entire life — is that she should be emulated and admired as one of the nation’s great role models.

 

To those entities, a suggestion.  If you want to honor her legacy, go buy her albums.  Otherwise, it’s time to exhale, come down from your drug-induced state, and realize that Whitney Houston is no…. Michael Jackson.

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 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm Comment (1)

Catholic School Closings Rooted In Church Being Paper Tiger

 

If the Church had fought for true school choice, many schools would be thriving

 Part Two

What does it tell you when private Notre Dame Academy in Villanova has 101 students in its freshman class — at $20,000 per year — and Archbishop Prendergast in Drexel Hill, an Archdiocesan high school, has…82?  Yes — eighty two.

That the economy is booming because folks can shell out 20K a pop? That the gap between rich and poor is widening, with more people in the “have” category?  Not quite.

It tells us, in no uncertain terms, two things:

1) Over the last several decades, too many leaders in the Catholic Church have strayed from their Godly mission, trying to be all things to all people, destroying the Catholic identity, and, worst of all, covering-up the child sex scandal and protecting pedophile priests (See January 11 column).  The result has been, and continues to be, apathy for most, anger for many, and an exodus from the Church for thousands of others.  The Church has reaped what it has sown, and nowhere is that more evident that the 30 percent decrease in Catholic school enrollment in Archdiocesan schools.

2) The Catholic Church, for all its money, muscle and might, has been a political paper tiger in fighting for its beliefs, most notably school choice. For the last 15 years, it either didn’t do its job to ensure passage of legislation that would provide a voucher to parents (their own tax money) to send their children to the school of their choice, or it backed meaningless and ineffective bills.  Either way, if the Church had done its job effectively without cowering at the sight of its own shadow, only a handful of the 49 schools that closed recently and the scores — that everyone seems to be forgetting — that have been shuttered over the last decade, would be out of business.  In fact, most would be thriving.

The Prendie situation tells it all.  While officially having “open enrollment” where physical or Church boundaries are not criteria for admission, Prendie still traditionally draws from Catholic “feeder schools,” as does its brother school, Monsignor Bonner (119 in its freshman class).  Do the math. If we conservatively estimate that there are 22 elementary schools serving those high schools, that’s fewer than 4 girls per school going to Prendie, and just 6 attending Bonner.  No wonder they closed!

(Though a strong case can be made to consolidate the two schools, many believe the Archdiocese will not do so because a nearby hospital may be eyeing the land. With potentially millions more in abuse settlements, the Church may need the proceeds of that sale to pay those large amounts — just as the Boston Archdiocese sold 99 acres of prime real estate to Boston College to pay settlements.  Closing schools to pay sex scandal settlements just infuriates Catholics that much more, leading to a vicious circle of yanking students from Catholic schools altogether).

And why are the elementary schools not sending more students?  Two reasons.  Many parents are choosing public schools because they don’t feel the value of Catholic high school is justified by a $6,000 price tag.  And of course, there aren’t many students left in Catholic elementary schools in the first place.  Take Annunciation BVM in Irish Catholic Havertown. It is slated to close, allegedly because there aren’t enough students in attendance (though they hit the attendance number the Diocese mandated and are one of a handful of schools with a parish surplus). But a drive through the town will instinctively tell you what any demographic statistician already knows: the Catholic population is more than healthy enough to see Annunciation at 80 percent capacity — or even more.

The proof? In 1911, there were 68,000 students in Archdiocesan schools, out of 525,000 Catholics (in a diocese, by the way, that was considerably larger in size than the one today).  A century later, we are back at the same level of 68,000 (down from a peak of 250,000 in the 1960’s), yet the smaller-sized Archdiocese now has almost 1.5 million Catholics. Those numbers clearly show that, for most areas (inner city Philadelphia being an exception), the Catholic population is absolutely large enough to support most of the schools that closed.

Taking out of the equation those parents who are angry or disenfranchised with the Church (and its schools), there still remains a substantial number of families that would love nothing better than to enroll their children, but simply cannot afford to do so.

Unfortunately, those people get walloped with a triple wammy. They slog through life paying some of the highest tax rates in the entire world, funding wholly ineffective governments at all levels while getting relatively little value in return. They live in one of the few countries in the Western world that does not assist parents with nonpublic school education.  And they are scared to death about receiving a pink slip in an economy that is tanking further by the day, with many banking what they earn rather than paying for the desired education for their children.

Enter school choice in Pennsylvania. Or lack thereof.

In 1995, a statewide, comprehensive school choice bill failed by a single vote. And while the Church played an active role in that fight, it refused to do the things necessary that would have pushed the legislation across the finish line. Priests should have been preaching from the pulpit, educating parishioners on the merits of school choice and rallying the troops to contact their legislators (which can clearly be done without jeopardizing their nonprofit status). But overall, they didn’t.

They could have placed pro-school choice cards addressed to representatives and senators in each pew, to be filled out during Mass and collected before exiting church. But they didn’t.

And they could have tied all of it together by playing hardball with wishy-washy politicians, informing them in no uncertain terms that school choice would be the one and only issue that many Catholics would be voting on — and Catholics vote — in the next election.  But they didn’t.

Instead, too many left the battle to the “insiders,” and guess what? Choice failed, and schools closed.  A lot of them, most of which would be open today had school choice passed.

Fast forward to 2011. What did the Church do?  Support the weakest, most meaningless education reform bill that would have neither helped educate nor reform anything (Senate Bill 1).  It was so restrictive that it would not have affected one middle class family, but the final version (which bombed) seemed to cater only to those Capricorns in the inner city who promised to wear plaid pants on Tuesdays.

The Catholic Conference’s rationale for supporting such a bad bill? Incrementalism was the only way to go, and, after all, that was the only bill out there. Talk about a losing mentality. Maybe if the Catholic leaders in their ivory towers had the foresight to see what was coming down the pike with school closings, they would have made a broad-based bill a reality and went full-bore to accomplish passage. And since the 1995 bill was run with a somewhat hostile legislature and still almost passed, it should have been a no-brainer to aggressively push for a bill this time that would also help the middle class, since the Governor and legislature were infinitely more amenable to such a bill.

But they didn’t.

And they didn’t even push for an expansion of the educational improvement tax credit (EITC) after school choice failed, which, while not a panacea, would certainly help.

Senate Bill 1, even had it passed, would not have saved one Catholic school. But that was simply an alien concept to the Church’s political braintrust, and the results speak for themselves.

As a result, all people suffer the financial consequences. Of the over 24,000 students displaced, a significant number will now attend public school.  And since it costs over $15,000 per student, per year to educate a public school student, property taxes are about to go through the roof, which could not come at a worse time.  Not only will more textbooks and buses have to be purchased, but more teachers, more modular classrooms, and, quite soon, more capital projects to accommodate the influx of Catholic school students.

Some claim that school choice is a bailout of the Catholic schools.  Wrong. Since the money is directed to the parent, not the school, it clearly isn’t.  But it will be interesting to see the reaction from critics of school choice (and Catholicism in general) when they can no longer afford to pay their property taxes. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around.

Where do we go from here?

There is a passage from a book written in the 1987 book, God’s Children, that best sums up why Catholic education must be saved:

“The Catholic Church must forget its inferiority complex. No other religion is reluctant to ask for what it wants. If we don’t ask, if we don’t stand up and fight for what we believe in, we can’t expect to win. Life is a street fight. We can roll up our sleeves and jump in, not certain whether we’ll win or lose, or walk away, allowing a huge part of our heritage to disappear….

If we fail, what do we tell the ghosts? The nuns and priests who for two centuries devoted their lives to the cause? The men and women, like our parents, who broke their backs to support their families yet somehow found a way to support our schools? Do we tell them that it’s over, that their legacy has disappeared forever? That we couldn’t hold on to what they gave us?”

And most haunting:

“I don’t want to tell my children and grandchildren that I was around when time ran out on Catholic education.”

Is it that time?  Put it this way.  Anyone who believes that the closings are done is simply deluding himself, for shutting down schools is a band-aid solution to a gaping wound that will continue to hemorrage.

That is, unless the Archdiocese of Philadelphia somehow finds a leader with the courage of his convictions, someone willing to “roll up his sleeves” and fight for what is right.

Archbishop Chaput, your 15 minutes are upon you, and the floor is yours. Godspeed!

 

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 13, 2012 at 11:04 am Comment (1)

The Political Correctness Of “Merry Christmas” Has Dangerous Consequences

“This is the way the world ends …Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Does that famous quote aptly describe America’s future? Time will tell, but indications are that this nation, the most powerful, benevolent and fair in the world, is crumbling before our very eyes. Like Rome, it isn’t falling from outside invasion, but within. 

 And one of the biggest culprits is political correctness.

It’s all around us, but especially this time of year, as the assault on “Merry Christmas” accelerates.

It used to be a standard greeting, and people would reciprocate with a smile. Your religious denomination didn’t matter, or whether you even had one.  It was simply a friendly expression in a nation where the vast majority celebrated Christmas. And for those who didn’t, most returned the sentiment anyway because it was just a nice thing to do during the jovial season.

But all that changed as Americans’ sense of entitlement exploded. And yes, that included being entitled not to feel “offended” because something may not be to your exact liking.

“Merry Christmas? Well, I celebrate Hannukah or Kwanza or am an atheist, so how dare you presume to wish me your holiday? How offensive and rude!”

But it doesn’t stop there.  Hypocritical retail stores woo Christmas shoppers — you know, the 95 percent who do celebrate Christmas and spend a half-trillion dollars doing so  — but won’t put the word “Christmas” in their ads or on their displays.

It’s the Nativity scenes that are increasingly barred from public places. It’s residents who call the ACLU because a development hangs simple white lights on its trees. It’s office Christmas parties becoming a relic, replaced by generic “holiday” events. And yes, it’s Mayors like Michael Nutter who last year deliberately removed the word “Christmas” from the holiday retail complex near City Hall (but subsequently was forced to replace it).

All of it a brazen attempt to make America a more secular society through political correctness, and those who dare question it are labeled “bigots.” 

Several important points need to be addressed:

1) The push to make all things politically correct has been successful, as it is now entrenched in all aspects of society. Everyone gets a trophy in most youth sports leagues, we don’t keep accurate score when one team is winning over another, and all things must be racially, culturally and ethnically homogenous.

The problem is that’s not how the real world works. And it’s the basic principle that the Occupy movement doesn’t understand. You have to work hard and fight for things you want, but when they are bestowed upon us — without merit — from those who worship at the altar of political correctness, things go downhill fast.  Need proof? Just look at those who engage in PC the most —Europe and the United States. Enough said.

2) This is a not call for “Thought Police” to mandate that everyone say “Merry Christmas.”  Quite the opposite. It’s a call for the silent majority to wake up and shove it right back at the small but extremely loud minority who shout “I’m offended” at every single thing. Saying Merry Christmas behind closed doors doesn’t take guts.  Saying it because you truly believe it and not worrying that such an innocuous greeting will offend does — insane as that is.

3) Most important, Americans need to remember that actions have consequences. And until we connect the dots and see the error of being so PC, those consequences can, and will, have devastating results.

When good folks start looking over their shoulders before saying Merry Christmas for fear of “offending,” it all begins to unravel. 
 
Think the PC stops at that?  Well, think about the fact that the next time you step foot on an airplane, it may be your last day on Earth because your government — we the people — absolutely refuse to non-invasively profile the very folks who openly state their intentions to blow up said aircraft.  And it gets better, as the Transportation Security Administration just announced that children under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes for screening, and will not be subject to routine pat-downs like everyone else

Here’s the $64,000 question. What do we think al-Qaeda will do now? Here’s a wild guess. Start flying a lot more with children? What’s next? Not screening foreign children at all?
  
So when your wife gets incinerated two minutes after takeoff, and the wreckage of a jumbo jet falls on your child’s school because a terrorist put the bomb in his 11 year old’s shoe, courtesy of the red carpet we provided, perhaps we shouldn’t wonder why it happened. 

Or when your son gets his skull sliced in half by a bullet that emanates from a Mosque in Afghanistan which is “off limits” for retaliation for fear of offending the very people who don’t like us anyway, maybe we should think about where it all started coming apart.
Did it start from the reluctance to say Merry Christmas or the refusal to put a Christmas tree on a courthouse plaza? Did it originate from the refusal to acknowledge Christmas on a public school calendar while other religions’ holidays are clearly labeled as such?  It’s impossible to pinpoint, but it really doesn’t matter.  That mentality is here, and has in large part led to the Great Decline.
 
So when the inevitable tragedy happens again — one that could have been prevented — and dumbfounded Americans stand around asking “How and why did this happen?”, well, you’ll know why.  The 40’s and 50’s were certainly not perfect, but people spoke their minds, were respectful, and America was a powerhouse. That attitude put a man on the moon a mere 60 years after the Wright brothers took flight but is now a fleeting memory.  Which is what happens when you bow to the wrong principles.
 
When Rome was at its zenith, it adhered to the simple principle that the well-being of its citizens was paramount. All of them.  In fact, so fervent was that belief that the Romans would literally go to the ends of the Earth to hunt down any thug that violated the rights of just a single Roman. They didn’t let political correctness rule the day, and the Republic thrived.  But when it abandoned that principle, it all came crashing down.
 
They said Rome would never fall, but it did.  Many say the same about America.   Yet the whimper is at our door.

So if we are to ever return to our former glory, perhaps that path could begin by good folks jettisoning political correctness and saying two small but incredibly joyous words without reservation:

Merry Christmas!
 

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 23, 2011 at 11:29 am Comments (2)

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