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…

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,  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at




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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,  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at











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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,  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at


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

Happy Thanksgiving


Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions

– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord

– To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


November 24, 2011 at 8:37 am Comments (0)

Tastykake: What the hell is wrong???

First it was the Tastyklair Pies.

Which you ruined.

Now it’s the Cream Filled Buttercream Cupcakes.

This may be a one-off mistake. But you know, in 30+ years of eating these things, I’ve never had it happen. It’s literally a single stripe of chocolate… and the machines make thousands of these per day, in a line, single file, with a little nozzle tip drawing the line… and yet this pair of cupcakes are bare?

See the box? It supposed to look like that.

There are more out there in boxes, delivering disappointment to Philadelphians and former ones all over the country.

It’s not like this is a Hostess cupcake with the chocolate swirlies. It’s a line for Pete’s sake.

I didn’t have very high hopes when the company was aquired by a Georgia-based baker… in a perverse way it’s good to know I was right.

C’mon. Prove me wrong.

How does this even get out the door?! Gah. These are the cupcakes that go out the backdoor for families and friends… not the ones I have pay for.

October 11, 2011 at 8:13 pm Comments (0)

Texas Rangers’ Statue For Stupidity? Carefree About Crash Victims?

Is bad judgment becoming commonplace — or is there still hope? An honest father in Minnesota may provide the answer

From war and civil unrest to global recession and record-setting natural disasters, it’s increasingly fashionable to predict that Judgment Day will soon be upon us.

Wrong tense. It’s here, and always has been.  It’s called decision-making in everyday life.

But for whatever reason, good judgment and common sense now seem to be the exception. The good news is that this provides endless fodder for columnists.

Here are just a few examples from this week that are representative of where we are going as a society (and no, there won’t be any mention of Congress, presidential candidates or government at any level, since their daily bad judgment could fill volumes, and is, unfortunately, an accepted — and expected — part of American life).

But hope is not lost, for as the Texas (Rangers’) star falls, the sun is shining in Minnesota.

Texas Rangers Strikeout

Last month, Texas Rangers fan Shannon Stone attempted to catch a ball thrown into the stands. Tragically, he leaned too far over a railing, lost his balance, and plunged to his death. According to the Rangers, the railings exceeded the required height (the same level as Stone’s waist), and there appears to be no negligence that contributed to the man’s demise — except his own.

Stone, who by all accounts was an upstanding citizen, had a serious lapse of judgment.  Sure it’s exciting to catch a Major League ball, but it’s just a baseball.  So because of that mistake, innocent as it was, he leaves behind his wife and small son.

(And one other point here: most media reports repeatedly refer to the fan as “firefighter” Stone, which is totally irrelevant.  He fell as a fan, not a firefighter in the line of duty. Damn near all other professions would not “merit” being mentioned, nor should they. That misnomer only serves to obscure the real lesson).

But in an even worse display of judgment, the Rangers decided to memorialize Stone by placing a life-size bronze statue of him and his son at the home plate entrance to the ballpark.


Why would they do such an incredibly idiotic thing, one which only serves to sanction a wholly avoidable mistake and reward bad judgment?

Rangers President Nolan Ryan explained: “We feel that this statue will be a most fitting tribute… It will not only serve to honor Mr. Stone’s memory, but also to recognize Rangers fans and baseball fans everywhere.”

Ryan should stick to pitching, because that may just be the dumbest rationale possible.

So the best idea to honor fans is a statue of someone whose bad judgment caused his death? With that precedent, what’s next? A suicidal baseball fan who jumps off the upper deck in order to get an even bigger memorial?

With that kind of minor-league thinking, no wonder the franchise went bankrupt.

Too Busy To Help

As the motorcycle rider was traveling on Interstate 476, the car in front was exiting the highway.  But upon seeing the exit ramp clogged with traffic, the motorist crossed over a median to re-enter the highway — without looking.  The maneuver was both illegal and dangerous.  

Not seeing, or caring, that the motorcyclist was in the lane, the motorist cut him off, forcing a crash.  So powerful was the accident that the bike traveled at least 200 more feet — minus the driver, who lay in shock, bleeding profusely on the highway — before slamming into a concrete barrier.

The motorist never stopped.

Even worse, at least three drivers who witnessed the accident slowed down, almost to a stop, gawked at the motionless motorcyclist, and continued on their way.  Guess the barbeque or ball game was a lot more important than potentially saving a person’s life. 

And as far as “not wanting to get involved,” that’s rubbish because Pennsylvania has a Good Samaritan law that protects passers-by from liability lawsuits. Unequivocally, there was no excuse not to help, and simply calling 9-1-1 doesn’t cut it. We’re not talking about a fender-bender, but a life in jeopardy.

To the elderly couple that did stop, stabilizing the victim and placing themselves in harm’s way by entering the highway and directing traffic, a tip of the hat. 

You know the saying about those folks being the Greatest Generation? Nothing could be truer.  Thank you for your service— again.

Minnesota “Twins” — and the truth — win

But just when you think the world’s gone completely mad, with Truth, Justice and the American Way out the window, a story emerges that rekindles faith in humankind.

Seriously.  That’s not hyperbole. What just occurred in Minnesota is nothing short of remarkable, and as far as I’m concerned, America has a new hero.

Pat Smith is the father of twin 11 year old boys, Nate and Nick.  They bought three raffle tickets for the chance at $50,000 — but to win, the contestants had to shoot a hockey puck through a 1 ½ inch by 3 ½ slot from 89 feet away.  Never going to happen, right?

Except it did.

Here’s the catch. Nate’s arm had been in a cast, so he told his father to write Nick’s name on the ticket. But Nick, figuring he’d never win the raffle (let alone the contest), wasn’t at the hockey rink for the contest.

Nick’s name was called, though, and Nate, who had just gotten out of the cast, made the winning shot.  As identical twins, who would ever know that Nate was the actual shooter even though it was Nick’s name that was called?

No one. And the Smith family would be $50,000 richer, which, in this economy, goes a long, long way.

What transpired just didn’t sit well with Pat Smith, though, and he informed officials that Nick hadn’t taken the shot.  In other words, he told the truth, full-well knowing that the prize money would likely evaporate.

How many of us would do that? Undoubtedly, we’d like to think that we would. But when placed in that situation, with bird-in-hand ($50,000, to be precise), and a clean “getaway” virtually assured, reality is such that the number would be small.

Smith took the high road — and the correct one. He believed his good judgment would teach his family the meaning of right and wrong, and that honesty truly was the best policy.

“You’ve got to do what’s right,” he said, adding, “You don’t want to teach kids to lie no matter how much money is involved…we wanted to set a good example for the kids.”

The American dream, unique in the world, is founded upon honesty, trustworthiness and that which is under constant attack — morality.

Mr. Smith, not only did you succeed with your kids, but you set an example for the entire nation. And you can’t buy that — not with $50,000, nor with 50 million.

It is a priceless lesson, and one for the true record books.

And to think — all it took was good judgment.

An accredited member of the media, Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau,

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at


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September 2, 2011 at 9:47 am Comment (1)

Short Term sight

When I talk with people and the subject of politics comes up, you know what I hear?  Questions.  The questions range on a variety of topics related to politics and economics.  I don’t have the answers to all of these questions and that’s not what’s important anyway.  The questions are important and are great indicators of so many things.

I’ll share with you some of the questions – Do these guys know what their doing?  They are only concerned with their re-election aren’t they?  How are businesses supposed to take the risk of spending money when they can’t come close to predicting what the government will do next? etc. etc.

Lots of questions – some better than others.  They all point to a few main things.  The first thing is that people – average joe-six pack- has longer term vision than those in government.  It’s good for people to be thinking longer term.  When people do that, they carry less debt, they think about how much risk to take on, they plan, etc. – these are all very healthy functions.  My only hope is that this is a leading indicator of the direction we are heading and that people start electing people that have similar thoughts.

The second point is that our elected officials are thinking very short term – usually the next news cycle.  I’m not sure who to blame for this, besides ourselves ultimately. We have thrived on the 24 hour cycle – or as I like to call it – entertainment.  It’s very short sighted and our politicians have fallen into this.  We can’t solve our current situation with a 24-hour entertainment thinking.  It took years to get us where we are, it will in all likelihood take years to get us out – that takes long term thinking.

The third point is a little more complicated – I would argue that our elected officials have forgotten how to think long term.  They haven’t had to, or refused to, for so long that it’s become a foreign concept.  Add to that this idea.  Only someone with a vision for themselves or for a group or organization, or nation for that matter can truly think long term.  Having a vision for where you want to go requires you to think things out long term.  It also allows you to see that some short term things that many would view negatively need to be done in order to fulfill the much more positive long term vision. Having a vision is a part of leadership.  We clearly lack leadership in this nation right now.  Disagree?  Tell me – what’s the vision for America?

We lack vision from our elected officials.  Obama doesn’t possess leadership – he has no vision.  He’s a placeholder.  That’s not really what we need right now.  We need someone with a vision.  That will give us true hope.

But here’s the thing – we shouldn’t be relying on some elected official to provide us with a vision – that’s a victim mentality.  That’s saying that we the people don’t have to be responsible for where the country is heading.

The people are starting to think long term.  That’s great.  Now is the time to start thinking in terms of vision – Who are you right now?  Where do you want your life to go?  What do you want to accomplish in life?  Who do you want to become?  Who are you becoming?

Let’s take it upon ourselves to define our lives and our visions.  This is important because we shouldn’t expect anyone else to have a vision and define who they are is we haven’t done it ourselves.  Then when we have done it, we can help someone else do this as well.

August 19, 2011 at 6:40 am Comments (0)

Freindly Fire’s Best…and Worst…Of Philly

 Who makes the best Bloody Mary in the city? Where is the best brunch?  Freindly Fire has no idea.  Thankfully, though, there are much smarter folks who know the best things in and around the nation’s fourth-largest market. For those gems, see the “Best of Philly” awards in this month’s Philadelphia Magazine.

There are, however, some other non-politically correct Best and Worst Awards that should be bestowed on very deserving winners…and losers.  Following is Freindly Fire’s List:

Best Of Philly

Best snowfall removal: Anywhere but Philadelphia. The streets were absolutely deplorable, with significant snow and ice on major city roads days after the storms, not to mention that many side streets were simply impassable. How did city residents react?  Almost 80 percent voted for Mayor Nutter in the May primary. In comparison, Chicagoans kicked out their Mayor for similar incompetence in 1979.   Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…just don’t complain when you can’t get to work. He’s your Mayor.

Best Political Comeback: IBEW 98 boss John Dougherty.  After losing a bid for the state senate and coming up short in clashes with Democratic party powerbroker Bob Brady, Doc came roaring back.  He garnered huge headlines by trying to reform the DRPA, but most significantly, orchestrated big wins in City Council races.  More than anyone, Johnny Doc has positioned himself to be kingmaker in deciding who the next Mayor of Philadelphia will be.

Best “It’s All About Me” Moment: City Council’s refusal to abolish the DROP retirement program for city employees — you know, the one that makes elected officials rich when they “retire” for a day after being re-elected.  So while the folks who actually foot the bill are struggling just to survive, city lawmakers keep cashing in at the public trough.  Often forgotten in the criticism, though, is Council’s stellar stewardship of Philadelphia. Its leadership has produced the highest rates of taxes, murder, violence, and poverty in the nation, an education system that, by all accounts, is a colossal failure, and a city that is perpetually ranked as one of the dirtiest.  But give ‘em a break.  We’re not Detroit. Yet.

Best “I Don’t Recall” Moment: No, it wasn’t a political corruption trial, but the just-revealed grand jury testimony of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua as he weaved his way around prosecutors’ pointed questioning regarding the ever- widening Church sex-scandal.  The Cardinal’s memory lapse was an oh-so-convenient backdoor for covering his own derriere and evading discussion about his role in the cover-up, leading the grand jury to label him as “untruthful” and “not forthright.” Church officials need to be reminded that sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission, and that ignoring the 8th Commandment is not a prudent way to go through life. So much for always standing behind the kids….

Best Sports Move: Bringing Cliff Lee back. The Phils have been transformed from an organization that made the playoffs only three times in 26 years (and that’s with the wild card), to being perennial contenders. But being “very good” wasn’t good enough, so they brought back pitching Lee.  With Lee rounding out one of the best rotations in baseball history, the Fightin’s are fully expected to win the World Series, and that has them hanging out in hallowed Yankees territory, at least for the present.  Like the Bronx Bombers, the Phillies are now in the elite world where a season that culminates in anything less than total victory will be viewed as a failure. Tough as it will be to swallow if the Phils aren’t World Champions again, that expectation of perfection is rarely seen in any sport, and was nonexistent in Philly. Tip of the hat to the best — and only— sports braintrust in the city that has shown the resolve to do whatever it takes to win.

Best Thing About Philadelphia: Its people. It’s a blue-collar town, through and through, and that makes it as real as it gets. People wear their emotions on their sleeves, and it’s rare to not know where someone stands. Politics? Rough and tumble —- sometimes literally.  Sports fans? The most dedicated, if not always educated, in the country. Run out every play, and you’ll be a Philly Hall of Famer, but cop a ‘tude,  pout, dog it (no Vick pun intended) or just plain suck, and you’ll be run out of town on a rail.  Everyday people? Not nearly as rude as we like to think we are.

That salt-of-the-Earth, you-know-what-you’re-getting character is innately Philly, and, while maddening at times, is beyond refreshing in an increasingly shallow world. Yo Philly, don’t ever change.

Worst Of Philly

Worst Way To Earn A Living: Dealing with the dead.  Not funeral directors, coroners, and grave diggers (although all have been quite busy with skyrocketing murders). They all earn an honest living.  We’re talking about Michael Meehan, the city GOP boss and lawyer extraordinaire who gives the famous movie line “I see dead people” some real-life meaning.

Seems that a dearly-departed soul — a year after dying — retained Meehan as legal counsel to challenge the petitions of people running for Committee posts — in his own Party. Meehan didn’t fare much better with the living, as many of his other “clients” signed affadavits stating that they never met or heard of Meehan, and that the signatures in Meehan’s possession were not theirs.

The Philly GOP led by Meehan may be dead, but the criminal investigation into the matter by the District Attorney isn’t. And who said lawyers couldn’t get any lower?

Worst Sports Move: Yes, it was last year’s move, but it’s been so devastating that it bears repeating. Getting rid of Donovan McNabb.  Life is now so boring without Number 5 around.  Just look at all there is to miss: throwing up in the huddle during the Super Bowl, laughing jovially when his team was losing, not knowing the rules of overtime, making racially-charged comments where they had no place, and always connecting with his favorite receiver — the turf —when the game was on the line. Sports in Philly just aren’t the same anymore, especially with Michael Vick being so dog-gone….normal.  Without McNabb’s drama queen theatrics over which to obsess, Philadelphia is on the verge of becoming, dare we say it, a civilized sports city.  Bring him back!

Worst Empty Promise: Philly’s pension will be OK. Anytime a politician admits that something is bad, it’s always worse. So when the Mayor says the city’s pension fund is 45 percent funded (less than 50 percent is considered somewhat catastrophic), you know there just won’t be a happy ending. With no more state or federal money to bail out the virtually insolvent pension, and no possible way Nutter can keep his promise to write an $800 million check to the pension (to make up for several years of deferred payments), look for retirees to start getting pennies on the dollar in just a few short years. Think it can’t happen in America?  Given the fact that the nation came within hours of default — despite its magical power to print money out of thin air— can anyone seriously believe that?

Worst Thing About Philly: Its people. Or more accurately, the people’s complacency. What can you say about residents who, despite the knowledge that things are going the wrong way, time and again reelect the very same people who created the mess? Philadelphia has the potential to be a world-class city, with not one but two major rivers (neither developed). It is ideally situated within a day’s drive of more than half the country.  As a major gateway for overseas travelers, it should unquestionably be a destination rather than a layover stop.  And with major ports, railroads, airports and interstates, it be should a no-brainer for companies to locate their operations in Philadelphia. 

Philly’s stagnant position stems from a lack of leadership. It’s time for Philadelphians to wake up and demand that their city take its rightful place as one of very best. But that mantle simply can’t be claimed until the people show the will to make a change.

Given Mayor Nutter’s virtually guaranteed re-election, though, that may have to wait another four years.  How ‘bout them Phils?

Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau,

 Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

 Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at

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August 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm Comments (0)

Profile In Courage: Mel Gibson

My “Freindly Fire” column, never mistaken for being fluffy or politically correct, routinely hammers hypocrites, frauds, and otherwise unsavory characters in politics, business, entertainment, and yes — the media. So when a reader recently inquired whom I respect, I gave it some thought. 

Since it was Easter week, I didn’t have to think too much, for a person came to mind whose courage is legendary and who has literally changed the world like no other.

While profiled extensively, it is not his brave heart that is the usual subject matter, but vitriolic attacks waged by those jealous of his professional success and threatened by his personal and religious convictions.

There is a saying that one’s worth can be judged by his enemies.  And given that Mel Gibson rankled the Hollywood elite like no other in history, beating them at their own game, he is definitely a man of high worth.

Gibson’s award-winning career has been a storied one.  He has reprised many roles defending persecuted people incapable of fighting for themselves, from Braveheart to The Patriot, where freedom was a central theme.  Freedom from tyranny and oppression, freedom from crime, freedom from fear. 

But most significantly, the message of Gibson’s premier work was freedom from eternal damnation.

The Passion of the Christ was one of the most successful movies in history, and the highest grossing non-English language film of all time. Yet if Hollywood had its way, it would have never been produced.

Despite the over two billion Christians in the world, which would seem like a pretty good target market for a movie that follows Jesus during his agonizing last hours, nobody in Tinsel Town wanted to touch Gibson’s idea. Not a whole lot in Hollywood makes sense, but that one takes the cake.

Walk away from a movie that any third-grader could have told you would make hundreds of millions right out of the gate?  If Hollywood is about one thing, it’s money.  While The Passion’s religious message is anathema to much of that town’s culture, one would have thought The Almighty Dollar would have been all the religion Hollywood would have needed.

But rather that quit, Gibson spent his own money —almost $50 million — to produce and market the film, and ended up distributing it himself along with a small company, since no major distributor wanted anything to do with film.

Can we say cowardice and religious bigotry?

But that was just the beginning. Gibson faced an onslaught of criticism from a small number of loud-mouthed whiners who wanted to see their names in the papers.  So, incredibly, they attacked Mel for not rewriting history to their liking, cavalierly throwing out charges of bigotry.  

Fact is, The Passion is an historically accurate masterpiece with absolutely no elements of bigotry, but once those types of charges are leveled, it’s difficult to forge ahead.

Gibson could have chosen the easy way out: he could have canceled the whole project, choosing to not place his money at risk.  He could have produced a politically correct movie by ignoring historical fact, thereby averting the disparaging attacks on him and his family (as his father, a dedicated family man who led an exemplary life, was also ruthlessly attacked without basis). He could have downplayed his conservative Catholicism and avoided the numerous questions about his personal beliefs.

He could have settled.  But he didn’t.

He didn’t make the film for money, since he already had plenty of it.  Nor did he do it for fame, since he was routinely listed as one of the world’s biggest superstars.

But rather than sell his soul like most in Hollywood, Gibson persevered.  And because of that, the greatest story of all time was re-told in the most realistic way anyone had ever seen. The sacrifice, the passion, the very idea of faith itself — all brought home to billions the world over. 

And certainly not just Christians benefitted from The Passion, since people of all religious faiths flocked to take heart in the film’s universal messages of redemption, forgiveness and hope. (So powerful was the film that it was censored in some countries and not distributed in others.  Makes one wonder what made those leaders fear so much).

The same attention-seekers who attacked Mel Gibson (and some continue to do so) will no doubt level charges that this column is defending a man who, years after the film, allegedly made anti-semetic and bigoted remarks. And they would be right. I am defending Mel Gibson the man, not his remarks.

Gibson spent a career defending principles that are incessantly under attack, and his most brilliant work rekindled the faith of billions in a way no church, no preacher, not even the Bible itself could duplicate.  Our world becomes more visual by the day, so The Passion, with portrayals that make the true passion story come to life more realistically than any other medium, takes its place in history as the movie that changed the world more than any other.

Has Gibson made mistakes?  Sure, and has admitted so and taken responsibility for them.  “I’ve never treated anyone badly or in a discriminatory way based on their gender, race, religion or sexuality — period,” he recently told Deadline Hollywood.  Referring to comments made to an ex-girlfriend that were deliberately blown out of proportion by those wishing to bring down Gibson, he said they didn’t  “represent what I truly believe or how I’ve treated people my entire life.”

Should he be believed?  Given his history of character and conviction — rare in the world and virtually nonexistent in Hollywood — and the fact that many other celebrities are “forgiven” by the public for things a whole lot worse after making disingenuous apologies, absolutely.

The ultimate message of The Passion is redemption, and because of Mel Gibson’s courage, that message continues to resonate around the world. 

Gibson himself deserves nothing less.

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

 Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

 Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at

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April 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm Comments (0)

Random Thoughts about the Tax Debate

I’ve been listening to the ongoing debate about taxes and the federal budget.  I’m not listening to the politicians – all their statements are rehashes of political rhetoric that’s been debated for…well, God only knows how long.

Instead, I’ve been reading the comments on articles, seeing what people are posting on social media regarding speeches and articles, and listening to people talk about the budget debate.  The comments that I’m reading and listening to are not from the professional political class – but from “average” people, whatever that really means.  What I mean is that it’s from people who have an interest in politics, but haven’t ever done more than maybe volunteer on a campaign, or just complain.  All very interesting.  Right now I am coming away with a few observations.

Observation #1 – Wow, people can be cruel.  The ease with which people name call, or worse, those they disagree with is alarming.  The generalizations are amusing to read as well – from both the left and right.  They are practically the same comments, but directed at different people.  The total disregard for the fact that on the other end of a comment is another human being is amazing.  Do people just forget that there is an actual person they are directing their comments to, or do they do it willingly?  I’m guessing that because of the anonymity of the Internet, people just don’t think about the person they are commenting on.

Observation #2 – Simplistic arguments seem to be rampant.  I don’t necessarily believe this is a new thing though, it’s just so blatant right now.  Arguments like “if we raise taxes, more money will come in” are not well thought out.  The world doesn’t work in that way.  If you raise taxes, you encourage people to find ways to avoid paying taxes.  If you raise taxes, people have less money to invest, or give to charity – investments are used by businesses for research and development, hiring, expanding business, taking risks on new products and services, etc.  You end up with a stagnant economy, which produces less wealth and actually ends up reducing the tax revenue.  Charities do alot of the hard work of caring for those less fortunate in ways that a government program could never have success with – namely empowering people to grow and develop in such a way that they are eventually able to assist a neighbor.  They do this for far less, and usually with more success than a government program could.  The reality is that the world is complex – one action doesn’t have just one reaction, but usually several – some known and many unknown.  Why do we keep forgetting this?

Observation #3 – It’s amazing for me to hear how many people want someone else to pay for them.  “Tax the rich, they can afford it” is one argument I’ve been hearing.  Why?  Says who?  Why shouldn’t you pay for the services that you benefit from?  Why are you so entitled to receive without even the thought going through your mind that you should help pay for it?  Define rich.  Define afford.  Who makes these decisions?   Why are their definitions any better than mine?  Lots of questions, yet it seems there are so many people who feel so confident in their black and white answers.

Observation #4 – Very few people are willing to look at the real problem and talk about it.  What is this problem?  We are addicted to spending money – usually other people’s money.  We became so accustomed to abundance, that we went from being stewards of our resources and caring deeply for these resources to believing that abundance was the new normal and would always be the norm – that’s arrogance.   I don’t know what you want to call it – greed, sloth, pride, lust (over money), etc.  When our debt is as high as it is, and both political sides contributed to it, you could practically label it a sin.  In fact, that may not be far off.  There are the so-called seven deadly sins – deadly because when you go down the road with these sins, they only lead to death.  If we keep doing what we are doing, are we, as a nation falling into a deadly sin?

Observation #5 – There is a lot of fear.  People are afraid.  People are finger pointing.  People are lost.  They have been shaken out of a stupor they’ve been living in.  We lack people in positions of power who have any real vision.  I think people inherently know when they are leaderless.  Here’s the interesting thing I find – without a leader, there is a vacuum.  What an awesome time to be alive – Who is willing to step up and lead?   Who is willing to put their vision on the line?  Who is willing to be a responsible adult?  Not too many people.  The fact remains that it is far easier to sit back, complain, and finger point than it is to step forward, convey a vision, and make a decision.  The sad thing that I see in so many areas of life is that so many people in this nation were never taught how to make a decision.  They were taught to obey and comply.  Making a decision is taking a risk.  Making a decision invites opposition.  Making a decision puts your integrity on the line.  Making a decision usually requires some contemplation and thought.  It means being responsible for the outcome.  It means being willing to say “I was wrong” when you are wrong. It means adjusting plans when adjustments are needed.  Are we, and have we, done a disservice to well over a generation in not teaching them how to think and make a decision?  God help us if that is the case.

April 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm Comments (0)

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