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Why Do We Allow Iran And Libya To Dominate Our Debates?

 

Part 1 of 2 dealing with Middle East – once and for all

 

Pop Quiz 1: Which of the following is true:

 

A) It took Iran 25 years to build one subway line in its only major city, and 26 years to open a new airport.

 

B) Iran is once again garnering incredible attention in the presidential election. As a result, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ego has gone through the roof of the mosque.

 

C) Iran fell in line when the U.S. had a strong leader with a decisive policy on terrorism — on the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, the American hostages were released.

 

Answer: all of the above. 

 

How is that possible?  How can such a backwards country — despite its very educated and prodigious people — continually dominate headlines and so significantly affect American foreign policy?

 

Easy. Bi-partisan ineptitude and cowardice in dealing with the Middle East, especially Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

 

Oh sure, we’re told by the “experts” that the Iranian situation is far too complex for the average American — a global chess game played by diplomatic masters.

 

Translation:  Neither Party knows what the hell they’re doing.

 

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Pop Quiz Two, again looking for true statements:

 

A) For years, Libya was a rogue nation that openly engaged in terrorism, harbored the training camp for the Achille Lauro cruise ship high-jackers, bombed the Rome and Vienna airports as well as the Berlin nightclub that killed a U.S. serviceman, and incinerated Pan Am Flight 103.

 

B) Libya fell in line when the U.S. had a strong leader with a decisive policy on terrorism (Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush).

 

C) Despite this, the U.S. chose to oust Muammar Gaddafi and help install a new regime comprised of Libyans who had traveled to Iraq to fight Americans.

 

D) That regime showed its appreciation by, at best, sitting idly by while the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was attacked and the American ambassador murdered.

 

Again, all of the above.

 

Sure, there are questions about why extra security requests at the embassy were denied, as well as why it took the Administration so long to acknowledge that an anti-Mohammed movie was not the reason behind the attack.

 

But the larger questions were totally missed: 1) why did we invade a friendly Libya in the first place; 2) why are Iran’s nuclear ambitions proceeding unimpeded; and 3) why is America’s overall policy in the region failing? Until these issues are addressed, the fuse on the Middle East powder keg will inch closer to detonation.

 

*****

 

To solve the problem, we need to ensure that past mistakes of both Parties are not repeated.  And their biggest one has been kicking the Middle East can down the road to future Administrations.

 

The first President Bush built a respectable worldwide coalition when he waged the Gulf War in 1991, but contrary to his generals’ advice, he stopped short of finishing off Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard.  Bush also reneged on his promise to assist the Kurds in their attempt to overthrow Hussein.  Because of this, they were slaughtered, and Hussein remained in power.  Bush left the Iraq problem to future Presidents, including, ironically, his son.

 

Likewise, President Clinton had Osama bin Laden literally in his sights, and could have eliminated the September 11 mastermind, but failed to act.  Instead, Bin Laden plotted away, and the rest is history. Clinton, like the first Bush, left the problem to the next President.

 

George W. Bush originally acted as if understood the concept of decisive action. He invaded Afghanistan, took down the Taliban, and eliminated terrorist training bases. The bad guys were on the run, and the noose should have been tightened until they were crushed.  Instead, the “need” to invade Iraq shifted American priorities, allowing many terrorists to escape and fight another day.  Not coincidentally, there has been a huge resurgence of terrorist activity throughout Afghanistan, to the point where Americans cannot trust the very Afghanis they have trained.

 

And now we have an Obama Administration that betrayed Gaddafi, a reliable ally who did everything the U.S. asked of him.  While no angel, and clearly acting out of self-preservation, Gaddafi nonetheless “played ball,” helping to root out terrorists and stopping his WMD programs.  Despite Gaddafi being taken off the State-Sponsored Terrorism List and being praised by George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, Libya was invaded with the sole purpose of regime change. The resulting message was that America could no longer be trusted.

 

*****

 

Each of those Administrations has something else in common: none worked to achieve energy independence. If they had, Libya and Iran wouldn’t matter all that much. Bush I signed the offshore drilling moratorium, and neither Clinton, Bush, Jr. nor Obama made any genuine effort to lift it.

 

In addition to energy independence resurrecting America’s manufacturing base and fostering unprecedented growth, it would also give America and the world economic breathing room if and when military action becomes necessary to take out Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Sure, oil and gasoline prices would spike after an attack. But energy independence would make the blow exponentially less, since utilizing our vast domestic resources would alleviate America’s paralyzing dependency on Middle Eastern oil. In effect, energy independence, or at least tangible action toward achieving that goal, would de-sensitize world financial markets to a strike on Iran.

 

Is Iran months, or even minutes, away, as some would have us believe, from getting the bomb? Well, if their quarter-century long infrastructure progress is any indication, then the answer would seem to be “No.”  But since Ahmadinejad obviously cares more about nukes than airport, it’s a good bet that the unthinkable is looming, requiring action sooner than later.

 

The only problem is that we continue to be bent over the Iranian oil barrel.

 

If we do nothing, Iran becomes a nuclear-weaponed state — one which will most likely provide those weapons to terrorists who wish to make New York uninhabitable for one hundred years. But since the United States is anything but energy independent, a strike will see oil spike over $200/barrel overnight, leading to gas prices of $10/gallon.

 

So what do we do?

 

For starters, deal with rogue nations in the only language they understand: steel resolve, an iron fist and the mettle to act, not just talk.

 As published in Philadelphia Magazine:

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/10/23/attack-iran/

Part Two will offer an analysis into dealing with rogue nations, including Iran.

 

 

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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October 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm Comments (0)

Timid Presidential Debate Format Needs To Be Rebutted

Even France Does It Better With Their Debates

 

 

Any time we look to France for anything, we’re in trouble.

 

But that’s exactly what we should do for our Presidential debates.  In France, candidates immediately take off the gloves, aggressively sparring with each other from start to finish. Their sharp exchanges clearly illustrate differences, giving voters a true insight into their prospective leaders.  Unlike our completely scripted affairs in which candidates simply regurgitate tired talking points, a free-ranging debate provides an in-depth look into personalities, style, knowledge of issues, and, most important, how candidates perform under intense pressure. There is little wiggle room because each participant has the ability to directly question — indeed, cross-examine — his opponent, putting him on the spot, live, in front of millions.

 

Whether or not the French like their candidates, they absolutely know where they stand.  We don’t.

 

The modern-era debates in America are restrictive, timid affairs with a ridiculously short time allotment for answers (usually sixty seconds), and even less time for “rebuttals” (thirty seconds) —barely enough time to take a breath let alone discuss solutions for the most pressing issues in the world.  Each candidate directs his answer to the moderator — not the opponent who made a charge or accusation.  And if, God forbid, two participants do engage each other, discussion is usually cut off immediately.

 

Part of the problem is that too many moderators think of themselves as celebrities, wanting to stamp their imprimatur on the event and placing themselves on the same level as the politicians.  They’re forgetting that their purpose is to report the news — not make it, and that people tune in to see their leaders, not those asking questions.  This is akin to a referee who feels it necessary to become such an integral part of the game that he affects its outcome.

 

We all remember certain moments of recent debates: George H.W. Bush’s looking at his watch as if he had someplace better to be; Al Gore invading George W. Bush’s personal space and deeply sighing during Bush’s answers; and Ross Perot just being Ross Perot.  But these things would have barely mattered had the candidates been able to directly engage each other.

 

When fireworks do erupt, the result is always positive. Take a 2008 Republican primary debate in New Hampshire. The only meaningful exchange came between Congressman Ron Paul and Governor Mike Huckabee, with each unleashing a passionate discourse on the Iraq war strategy and whether to bring the troops home. FOX News did the right thing by allowing the two candidates to question and rebut each other, even after time expired, and both men’s responses were met with loud applause.  For the first time in that debate series, both sides of this contentious issue were truly represented, and any viewer who couldn’t discern the candidates’ positions should have been subject to a literacy test at the polls.

 

Yet that productive and respectful discussion was completely lost on both networks and sponsors, with formats not changing to encourage such clashes. Also lost is what virtually every focus group says after every debate: “We were disappointed in all the candidates because they were short on specifics and skirted around the tough questions…we don’t really know where they stand.”

 

Maybe that’s because we’re asking candidates seeking the most important job in the world to solve vexing problems in one minute, while contending with more colors than the Department of Homeland Security’s Threat Level (with moderators usually flashing green, yellow and red to show the remaining time, followed by a bell).

 

And it you’re expecting a moderator to expose a candidate’s political two-step, keep dreaming.  Most simply aren’t that capable.

 

In truth, the candidates and their Parties are most guilty for the lack of spirited debates for one simple reason: they don’t want them.  Why? Fear. Fear that their candidate will make a mistake when talking off-the-cuff.  Afraid to deviate from a decades-old playbook that, in reality, never worked very well. And sadly, scared to take the risks necessary for a candidate to become a great leader.

 

The biggest irony is that Americans are desperately seeking a candidate of core and conviction to step forward and boldly challenge the status quo, one not afraid to flub a line or actually have the guts to say, “I don’t know” to a question. Voters will forgive a gaffe or an awkward moment so long as they believe the candidate was genuine in his answer. Speaking from the heart, while imperfect, trumps a calculated, memorized answer every single time. Guaranteed. After all, if a candidate is too scared to talk directly to his own people, how can he effectively face world leaders in time of crisis?

 

The next President will preside over one of the most tumultuous and dangerous periods in all of human history. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to demand that these candidates really debate each other?

 

To that question, there should be no rebuttal.

 

Philadelphia Magazine Philly Post link:

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/10/03/presidential-candidates-debate-french-model/

 

 

 

 

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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October 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm Comments (0)

Muslim Uprisings Matter Only Because Of America’s Oil Dependence

 

You don’t have to be a “prophet” to know the future will be worse

 

It’s bad enough British comedian Russell Brand is painfully unfunny and a horrendous actor. But he crossed the line when he caused emotional distress to American pop music goddess Katy Perry during their ill-fated marriage.

 

Therefore, in the spirit of nationalism, we should declare jihad against all things British, scale their embassy walls, rip down the Union Jack and replace it with a giant Katy Perry sign.

 

That’ll teach those limeys!

 

Don’t laugh. That mentality is exactly what our self-imposed Masters — the radical Islamists — do every time they are offended, declaring fatwas and engaging in jihad at the drop of a hat. And since rationality and civility are not in their vocabulary, their never-ending bitch-sessions are always accompanied by violence of the deadliest kind.

 

It’s no secret that Americans, more than anyone, are their favorite targets. For recent proof, just ask the American Ambassador to Libya. (Unfortunately, you can’t. They executed him.)

 

These Muslim fundamentalists are such wackjobs that American embassy personnel throughout the Middle East are now being forced to evacuate their diplomatic missions. And U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan are pulling back from the front lines not because they are losing to the Taliban, but because they are being routinely attacked — often with deadly consequences — by the very people they had worked with and trained. And do we need to mention how we are viewed in Iraq after “liberating” that nation?

 

So armed with that knowledge, what does America do to mitigate this ever-growing threat? Absolutely everything except the only thing that will free us from our bondage — become energy independent.

 

*****

 

 

Has it dawned on anyone —from either Party — that this latest episode of Middle Eastern Terror Theatre has been brought to us by the very people whom we have sworn allegiance to by prostrating ourselves at the altar of Islamic Crude Oil?

 

Let’s say it another way. Petroleum and natural gas are undoubtedly the most valuable substances on Earth, and the lack of either would send our teetering economy into complete collapse. Yet despite having the world’s largest reserves of both, America continues to ignore that Godsend, instead making the conscious choice to rely on — and pay top dollar to — the very same people who are rioting the world over because some low-budget spoof film doesn’t depict Mohammed in the best light.  A film, by the way, that 99 percent of them most certainly have never seen.

 

Ironically, these fundamentalists are funded by the United States, through both foreign aid and trillions of American petro dollars — the greatest transfer of wealth in all of human history.

 

About the only thing more infuriating is the total lack of awareness among our elected officials, both Presidential candidates, and the media’s clueless talking heads. Instead of solutions, 30-second sound bites rule the day, with Republicans blaming Obama, Democrats trying to save face, and media commentators missing the point entirely. What else is new?

 

More Americans will die trying to extinguish these fanatic-fanned flames —a temporary fix since they will ignite again — and the real issue will not be addressed, let alone solved. Here’s what can be done to avoid this conflagration in the future:

 

1) Can we all please just admit what is absolute fact? We are only involved in these firestorms because of our dependence on Middle Eastern oil barons to keep the crude spigots open. And since that flow of petroleum must be unimpeded, we are forced to maintain large diplomatic and military presences in that region, making us viewed as occupiers and swelling Islamic resentment toward America.

 

Here’s a novel idea.

 

If we drilled our own oil — are you ready for this — we wouldn’t be bent over the Middle East oil barrel, and therefore, wouldn’t be over there. Sure, we would still maintain embassies and feign concern about their humanitarian issues, but the truth (which no one wants to publicly admit) is that we wouldn’t give a damn about those countries or their people if we didn’t need their oil. Evidence? Where was America when millions were massacred in the 1994 Rwandan genocide? Not in Rwanda, because Rwanda has no oil. Ditto for most conflicts around the globe. End of story.

 

2) America has engaged in armed conflict in no less than 10 Muslim countries in the last fifteen years.  Until America’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil is eliminated, more Americans will die in foreign lands “protecting” oil interests, albeit under the false monikers of “freedom” and “democracy.” Those deaths are solely because America refuses to drill, and that is inexcusable.

 

3) You can bet your derriere that if the U.S. and its gutless Euro-allies had not deposed Muammar Gaddafi, the Ambassador would still be alive. Gaddafi was no angel, but out of self-preservation, he did everything America asked of him, so much so that he was praised by the Bush Administration. But the U.S. fought the European’s oil war and took out Muammar, bombing his country and arming the Eastern Libyans — who, we seem to forget, were the largest foreign fighting force in Iraq fighting…Americans.  Now they run Libya, and not even a year later, look what happens. And regarding those 20,000 surface-to-air missiles that Gaddafi had always secured, well, they are still missing. Any guesses as to who now possesses them?

 

4) Stop trying to “democratize” the Islamic world. It will not happen. Not now, and probably not ever. That’s ok. Not all people need to be “Americanized” and “democratized.” We have a tough enough time making democracy work here. Pushing that mentality so fervently, and thinking it can happen quickly, is not just insanity, but dangerous. How much more American blood and treasure have to be expended before this is realized?

 

*****

When the film The Last Temptation Of Christ was released, many Christians, and especially Catholics, were offended. While those critics would have been better off keeping quiet and not drawing additional publicity to the film, the protests were nonetheless peaceful and respectful.  Contrast that with the Muslim hordes who go bananas over a film that virtually no one will see, and which doesn’t even disrespect Allah, just the prophet. Is the film in bad taste? Sure. But is it worth indiscriminately killing any American in sight?

 

To the civilized, that question needs no answer. But the follow-up absolutely does. Why does America continue to endanger its citizens by dealing with lunatics when such action is wholly avoidable?

 

The answer is anything but partisan politics. It was Bush I who signed the moratorium on offshore drilling, and it took George W. Bush seven years to call for domestic drilling (way too late). So this is by no means just a Democratic problem. Both are equally complicit in jeopardizing America’s economic and national security.

 

Think about that the next time you fill up at $4/gallon, knowing your money is directly benefitting the very folks who, literally, have you in their crosshairs.

 

With energy independence nowhere in sight, you don’t have to be a prophet to see that America’s future is anything but a gas.

 

 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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September 21, 2012 at 9:17 am Comments (0)

Spain And Italy Bailouts? Earth To Europe: Have We Met?

Pop Quiz:

 

Are the Euro-technocrats (and their America backers) who orchestrated the bailouts of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain (and soon Italy):

 

A) Hell-bent on world domination by propping up the Euro to create a one-world currency (to complement a one-world government, of course);

 

B) Closely connected to the banks and governments receiving the billions being doled out so cavalierly — and who are undoubtedly being “taken care of” for their services;

 

C) Good-hearted souls who truly believe that there is no such thing as perfect men, just perfect intentions — leaders who hold that the “more-debt-solves-everything” economic philosophy, while not perfect, is the only salvation for a continent near collapse;

 

D) Cowards who know damn well what they’re doing won’t work, but are kicking the can down the road (again) so that the implosion won’t happen on their watch; or

 

E) Just plain morons. And that’s not meant as a mean-spirited personal attack, but merely a point-of-fact description.

 

Answer:

 

All of the above.

 

The brain trust across the pond is trying to prop up the Euro or, more accurately, save it from extinction. But let’s be honest: since they can’t identify what their problems are, let alone how to solve them, anything beyond keeping their heads above water is wishful thinking.

 

Will people financially benefit from the bailouts? Absolutely. Any time incomprehensibly large amounts of money change hands, insiders make out like bandits (because often times they are). Some of that corruption is illegal (but difficult to prosecute since those at the top are often in on the deal), but there is also widespread institutional corruption, where many of these financial transactions are immoral, unethical, and “criminal,” just not illegal.

 

So while the corporate hacks and pols “get theirs,” the people get shafted. Why would anyone expect change, since there is no incentive to rock the boat? Those who stand up are often kicked out of the “club,” and the European march towards oblivion continues.

 

Are there some European leaders who believe that one bailout after another is the best policy to right the ship? Absolutely.  They live in a bubble of naiveté borne from never holding private sector jobs. To them, free enterprise is a hindrance, not a solution, so they cannot relate to the obstacles businesses must navigate to survive. And thus can’t understand why so many companies are shutting down.

 

They never had to meet a payroll, never dreaded issuing a pink slip, never worried about how to pay skyrocketing health insurance. They never had to compete while handicapped with needlessly high energy costs, and never cursed up a storm because of crushing taxes and ridiculous, job-killing regulations.  More important, they never experienced competition and all that striving to be the best brings out in people.

 

Bureaucrats thrive in a spread-the-wealth environment where mediocrity is the norm, and aspiring to greatness is ridiculed.  Sadly, they have never been imbued with the vision that complacency is the enemy, and that the constant drive to develop better products and services, and how to most innovatively bring them to market, is the only tide capable of lifting all boats.

 

Instead, they believe government solutions are the only answer.

 

The problem with bailouts is that there is no such thing as “government” money. In a democracy, it is always the people’s money, sent to the government with the reasonable expectation that it will be spent with restraint and wisdom. In Europe’s case, as in America, that train has jumped the tracks.

 

Instead, spending has increased so exponentially that entire nations are effectively bankrupt. “Government” money has been made so easily available to all people for all things that the sense of entitlement has wiped out any incentive to work harder and be more productive. Europe has become a continent of sloths, content to siesta and a take a lavish pension at 45.  That’s a whole lot easier than putting in the work necessary to make one’s life, and his children’s future, better.

 

Now it’s time to pay the piper. We no longer live in a world where problems will just work themselves out. Instead, they will be with us until people face the truth. But unless that hard look in the mirror occurs, Europe’s deterioration will only accelerate.

 

Nothing the Europeans are proposing will solve the problem, since they are simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. Spain is paralyzed by debt whose unemployment rate is 25 percent. Yet the “solution” is to take on even more debt! That’s like buying a $40,000 Ford with zero in the bank and claiming a “savings” of $60,000 because you didn’t get the $100,000 Mercedes. Earth to Europe: Have we met?

 

Like Greece, the bailout will change nothing in Spain.  The Spanish will riot rather than tolerate cuts in pensions and services. Leaders may discuss austerity measures, but will cave. And why not? They just suckered Europe (mostly Germany) and the United States into giving them $125 billion to do as they please. Instead of implementing reforms, it will be Business As Usual with Other People’s Money. Layoffs will continue, defaults will increase, and more companies will close because nothing will change.

 

But the good news for Spain is that soon it will be a distant memory as Italy, whose financial crisis is even larger, teeters on collapse.  All the money in the European Central Bank won’t be enough to save it, so the printing presses will keep cranking out worthless Euros.  And the madness continues.

 

Will the last one to leave Europe please turn out the lights?

 

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. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

 

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June 13, 2012 at 9:31 am Comments (0)

Should Obama Get Credit For bin Laden Killing? Absolutely!

As published in Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post:

 http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/05/07/obama-full-credit-killing-osama-bin-laden/

 

Coaches aren’t on the field, but they get credit for success.  Why the double standard from the Right?

 

If you’re wondering why America is no longer able to make even the most basic, common-sense decisions, there are two simple answers: extreme partisanship and willful hypocrisy.

 

Forget the desire to seek truth.  Many on the Right and Left are simply incapable of seeing the real picture, even if it’s smacking them in the face.  And those rare souls who do rise above partisanship to tell the truth are viciously discredited by their own, branded “traitors” and “sellouts.”

 

The incessant calls for “bipartisanship” are nothing more than pure campaign posturing. Once the election is over, the personal attacks begin anew, demonizing adversaries for miniscule partisan advantage.

 

Nowhere is this more apparent that the Right’s nonstop barrage against President Obama for his “politicizing” the killing of Osama bin Laden — an attack, by the way, that will backfire as it repels swing voters from the GOP and pushes the Prez closer to re-election.

 

There are countless articles, commentaries and videos (including a particularly apalling one from Veterans For  A Stronger Future) that bash Obama on everything related to the bin Laden raid.  Outside of throwing red meat to the far Right (who obviously aren’t voting for Obama anyway), this misguided strategy is destroying whatever credibility the Right may have had. Some common themes we are hearing include:

 

-Obama deserves absolutely no credit for the raid that killed bin Laden;

 

-It is George W. Bush who really should be praised for nailing bin Laden (as Obama did nothing at all to contribute to the hunt — he was just a lucky guy who happened to be on watch when the terrorist was located);

 

- It is the Navy SEAL’s who deserve one hundred percent of the credit, as they are the “real heroes” who did the job (see Point One);

 

-The President never thanked the SEALs or the intelligence community, instead taking all the accolades for himself because he used the word “I” in a few sentences;

 

-A Republican would never politicize anything about high-profile killings, war, or terrorism — especially in front of a foreign leader.

 

Yeah, good thing George Bush never politicized Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terror, the capture of Saddam Hussein, WMD’s, or anything related to national security.  And not to throw a bone to the conspiracy theorists, but since national security/war on terror was, literally, the only issue in which Bush and the Republicans held an advantage over the Democrats (after 2004), didn’t it seem like there was a “non-specific color-coded heightened terror alert” every other week, especially right before elections? 

 

Of course Bush politicized security matters. How many videos do you need to show the truth?  Just Google it.  And, for the record, Bush even politicized the terror issue in front of a foreign leader (the Iraqi Prime Minister).  But to those on the Right, those things are simply not acknowledged, conveniently overlooked, or hypocritically justified.  Which is why they can’t make inroads winning the hearts and minds of The Great American Middle.

 

Speaking of hypocrisy, please explain how Bush should be credited with the bin Laden killing (he put the intel apparatus in place, we are told), but Obama should not. A) Most intelligence analysts uniformly agree that the search for bin Laden actually decreased under Bush, as assets were pulled from that mission and re-directed to Iraq, Afghanistan and the general war on terror. B) Obama made the search for bin Laden a priority.  C) He ordered the raid. D) He is Commander-in-Chief. Bush had eight years to get the job done, and didn’t.  Obama did. What am I missing?

 

And because The President wasn’t physically carrying a machine gun into the compound means that he had nothing to do with the raid? So a coach should get no credit when he guides his team to a Super Bowl because he isn’t on the field? Parents don’t deserve recognition for their children’s academic performance because they aren’t in the classroom taking the test? CEO’s shouldn’t be lauded when profits are up because they weren’t on the widget line?

 

And would the same “Obama wasn’t physically there” litmus test be used if Bush had been in office when bin Laden was killed? Not a chance.

 

Make no mistake about one thing. If U.S. personnel were killed or captured, or the helicopters crashed into a Pakistani house, you can bet the ranch the President would have been crucified by the Right for incompetence.  You can’t have it both ways.  He either owns the mission or he doesn’t.

 

Were the SEALs courageous and competent? As always, yes. Are they unknown heroes?  You bet.  But let’s keep the emotion in check here.  We don’t live in a military dictatorship. We are led by a civilian president elected by the people; the military — even the elite SEALs — work for him. Period. The SEALs didn’t go in until expressly authorized by the President, and, while that decision now seems like a no-brainer, it was infinitely more complicated and risky than the general public will ever know. The nation (and civilized world) owes a debt a gratitude to the SEALs, and they deserve high honors for their precision work.  But without question, the bulk of the credit must go to their leader. 

 

And the President did, in fact, congratulate and heap praise not just on the SEALs, but on everyone who helped make the mission a success. Let’s not forget that the SEALs didn’t find bin Laden; without good intelligence agents, there wouldn’t have been a raid.

 

And for a President who doesn’t deserve credit, here’s a pretty big irony.  Barack Obama and his family will, for the rest of their lives, have a literal target on their backs from bin Laden supporters.  Paybacks are a bitch, and as we have learned firsthand, Muslim fanatics redefine “patience.” Obama will always wonder if his house will be car-bombed, or a person at a speaking engagement (post presidency) has a bomb strapped to his chest.  Or if his children and grandchildren are safe. For all the dangers the SEALs faced, they will never have those worries. When their missions end, they’re done.  Not so for the President.

 

For a guy whom the Right tags as anti-American and in bed with the Muslim community, ordering the assassination of radical Muslims’ ultimate hero doesn’t exactly fit that mold. 

 

*****

 

Obviously, the Right does not have a monopoly on hypocrisy.  It’s just more pronounced because Obama currently occupies the Big Prize.  It was no different when Bush was in charge, as the Left refused to give him credit when the Fort Dix Six were captured, avoiding a mass killing spree.

 

I was a consistent critic of W. (and by no means am I on the Left), yet I gave him total credit for that security victory, since it happened on his watch. Only fair, even though Bush did not physically participate in the operation.

Archive link: http://www.freindlyfirezone.com/home/item/222-the-“fort-dix-six”-is-all-about-illegal-immigration

 

Mitt Romney should, but won’t, have the guts to chide those who are attacking Obama for something that any President would do — take credit for removing the most dangerous thug in the world from the living. Regardless of Obama’s stances on any other issues, the decapitation of al-Queda by whacking bin Laden stands as a mammoth achievement.

 

As Commander-in-Chief in the world’s most public job, Barack Obama will be receive the greatest amount of credit, and deservedly so.  And for anyone who doesn’t like that, one basic question: Would you rather have bin Laden still walking among us?

 

 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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May 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm Comments (3)

Convert Oil Refineries To Process PA’s Marcellus Shale Natural Gas

 

Delta Airlines Buying Conoco Refinery Doesn’t Solve The Problem

 

Psst: Don’t tell anybody, but the worst-kept secret in  Pennsylvania is that the natural gas industry — the only economic salvation our dying state had— is leaving in droves, replaced by job loss, budget holes and despair.

 

Like most tragedies, this one was preventable. Only common sense and foresight were required. But those traits were pumped dry long ago, so instead of experiencing a booming economy rooted in the rebirth of American manufacturing, Pennsylvania is now witness to yet another long exodus of our best and brightest.  And the Commonwealth’s march toward permanent mediocrity is accelerating.

 

Natural Gas Industry Exiting PA

 

As with most things, our elected officials couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and now that the gas industry is packing up their mobile rigs and making for greener pastures, (or, more accurately, black pastures, as in Black Gold), the recently passed gas “impact” tax will be as impactful as Mitt Romney’s Position-du-jour.

 

Why is the gas industry leaving? Simple. They are losing money hand over fist, as natural gas is sitting at a ten-year low due to lack of demand.  So let’s get this straight.  We ignore cheap, abundant and clean natural gas while continually getting hosed at the pump from record-setting oil prices. And as a direct result of soaring gasoline prices, inflation is rising unchecked and true economic growth is vaporizing before our eyes.

 

Only in America — literally.

 

No other country on the planet would permit this kind of self-destruction, willfully sending hard-earned money to overseas adversaries while doing everything in its power to bite the (domestic) hand that feeds it. And that paralyzing incompetence comes from being fat, dumb and lazy while aggressive competitors do whatever is necessary to gain an advantage.

 

Because of this choice, the U.S. remains dependent on others for its energy needs.  In addition to the obvious national security concerns (we wouldn’t be expending blood and treasure in the Middle East if we drilled domestically), we are willfully engaged in the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, as hundreds of billions go to China and Middle Eastern oil barons because we refuse to harness our limitless natural resources.

 

The way out of the recession — permanently — is to keep American petro dollars here.  And by the way, “here” doesn’t mean Canada, since it too is a foreign nation. So Republicans need to stop their grandstanding about the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved, would only re-direct American money to our Canuck friends.  By definition, that neither achieves energy independence nor creates large-scale American jobs. But never let the facts stand in the way of a good political gimmick.

 

America will never compete with Chinese labor costs, but the untold story is that we don’t have to.  We beat them by having the world’s cheapest energy costs, and that, along with reworked trade policies, would level the manufacturing playing field and get America making things again.

 

Just look at Proctor and Gamble’s manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania.  An energy bill in the tens of millions was virtually eliminated after the discovery of natural gas under the plant.  Saving that much money leads to company expansion, additional jobs, more service industries, and a larger tax base. 

 

But instead of embracing that kind of success, our leaders have punted the ball. Why haven’t all state buildings and vehicles been mandated to operate on natural gas? Why haven’t tax incentives been offered to private sector companies willing to invest in natural gas refueling stations? Why haven’t efforts been made to rescind job-killing and innovation-stifling regulations? Why weren’t the success stories of companies like Proctor and Gamble told and sold by our top political leaders? 

 

No vision, and no gameplan. And now it’s getting late in the fourth quarter.

 

Converting the refineries

 

But there is an opportunity that could provide the same type of boom on a much greater scale: convert the Sunoco and ConocoPhillips refineries in Philadelphia to process natural gas rather than the much more expensive crude oil.

 

(Note: While a Delta Airline’s subsidiary just bought the Conoco refinery to make its own jet fuel, we’ll see whether that high-altitude idea flies, since airlines have a hard enough time staying in the air financially.  An airline getting into the fuel business has the right idea, as lower fuel prices will make their bottom line take-off.  But given the industry’s track record, that type of diversification could send Delta into a tailspin, possibly ending in a crash-and-burn scenario. And that would occur for much the same reason that the oil companies themselves are divesting themselves of their refining operations — wild fluctuations in the price of oil and mindboggling regulations make it inherently unprofitable.)

 

However, if Delta really wanted to lower costs over the long-haul, it might consider retooling its refinery to convert abundant natural gas from 100 miles away to jet fuel —rather than relying on oil shipments in a volatile market from across the world.

 

Sure, converting a refinery to process natural gas rather than oil takes a significant investment, but it is one that would pay huge dividends given that America’s insatiable appetite for energy (and in Delta’s case, jet fuel) will only increase.  And that’s a good thing, because increased energy demand means companies are thriving, jobs are being created, people are traveling and the economy would be truly gaining strength (unlike the disingenuous “recovery” claims now made by government and the media).

 

How to do it? After the refinery conversion (and elimination of many energy-sector regulations that drive up costs), immense amounts of “dry” natural gas, primarily from northeastern Pennsylvania, would be piped down to the refinery, utilizing the right-of-way alongside the Northeast Extension of the Turnpike.

 

The dry natural gas would then be converted to gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel — at a consumer price point that may well be under $2 per gallon.  Fuel that inexpensive becomes an instant win-win: the rebirth of manufacturing, big job gains, fewer foreclosures, and the satisfaction of knowing that national security is bolstered every time you hit the pump.

 

In addition to Philadelphia’s refineries being in an ideal location for disbursement of those refined products, there is yet another opportunity for economic growth.  To meet what would surely be increased domestic and overseas demand, a pipeline could be constructed down the Delaware River, terminating offshore so that tankers could safely take on their loads out at sea.

 

(A liquefied natural gas tanker explosion, whether accidental or deliberate, would be akin to a small nuclear weapon. While extremely unlikely, that possibility would nonetheless present huge political challenges in allowing large LNG tankers in the Delaware River.)

 

Refine Our Way Of Thinking

 

Despite their good intentions trying to save the refineries, some politicians have missed the boat by only pushing the idea of exporting natural gas from Philadelphia.  That won’t create jobs, as we would merely be shipping the gas to be refined elsewhere.  How ironic that would be, watching Pennsylvania export its lifeblood in the shadow of three refineries, any and all of which could keep all of the economic benefits here, and none of which will likely be profitable refining oil as currently outfitted.

 

Failure to convert the refineries may well kill off the gas industry altogether, making us ever more dependent on foreigners for our vital energy needs while prices continue to soar.

 

But if we rekindle that slumbering can-do American spirit and put America first for a change, the possibilities would be limitless, and we would no longer be bent over a barrel.

 

And what a gas that would be.

 

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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May 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm Comments (0)

Blame Impotent Congress – And Yourself – For Gas Prices

 Americans don’t have enough holidays.

 

Unlike our Euro brethren, who take off all of August to refresh themselves after their grueling 25-hour work weeks, those in the U.S. can’t catch a break.  Sure, we have Arbor Day and Wildflower Week, but we need to celebrate more.  So it’s only appropriate to propose a holiday to which we can all relate, one that stays with us for more than just a day.

 

National Colonic Month.

 

No, not the colonic used to flush the body of evil red meat. That would be pointless since, according to a new study, just looking at a hamburger increases the likelihood of death by 900 percent.

 

National Colonic Month would be the collective feeling of having a gas pump forcefully inserted where the sun doesn’t shine by the United States Congress each time we refuel our cars, buy groceries, heat our homes, lay people off, lose our jobs, pull out our hair and contemplate “crimes of opportunity” (aka siphoning your neighbor’s gas tank), all in the name of making Arab sheiks the world’s first trillionaires.

 

Since America has perfected its current position of being bent over a barrel, its posterior wide open and ready to receive whatever comes, what better time for a national colonic of Middle Eastern petroleum?  And here’s the best part.  Given America’s insatiable appetite, National Colonic Month would just roll from month to month. So whether gas is $4 now, $5 in the summer, or $9 when the Washington braintrust strikes Iran, we will never have to worry about a shortage of colonic activity.

 

Of course, as with any procedure, there are side effects.  In our case, it hurts a lot more as the price goes up, hemorrhaging can occur, and decay and disease may soon set in. And since we are the only doctor in town, yet remain impotent to solve, let alone diagnose, the problem, the prognosis for recovery isn’t good.

 

Kind of reminds you of Fletch’s most famous line, “Using the whole fist, Doc?” 

 

In America’s case, it’s a lot more than a fist.

 

*****

It’s really tough to figure out who is dumber: Congress or the people who elect them.

 

Are people up in arms about skyrocketing gas prices? You bet.  My answer? Shut up and take your colonic.  It’s no one’s fault but your own, so deal with it.

 

Oh sure, there are renewed calls for drilling now that gas is $4/gallon — just like in 2008 when it hit $4.50.  But then the economy tanked, oil prices collapsed, and gas returned to “normal” (under $3).  Result? Back to complacency.  The only thing that got drilled was the people, but they were too ignorant to know better.

 

Now that prices have spiked again, we are looking for a scapegoat.  Obama is a convenient target, and while he is partially responsible, so are his blamers, namely the Republicans. Consider:

 

1) It was George H.W. Bush who implemented the moratorium on offshore drilling.  And it was Junior Bush who, rather than being proactive by opening up ANWR and reversing Dad’s mistake while he had significant majorities in Congress (and let’s face it — after 9/11, he could have had anything he wanted in the name of security), waited until gas spiraled out of control to call for drilling.  Too late, as the Democrats slammed the door in his face.

 

2) A local Republican congressman told me during a 2010 interview that he couldn’t introduce a drilling bill while in the minority. Uhh, sorry, but Civics 101 says differently. The bill may not make it out of a Democratically-controlled committee, but it absolutely could have been introduced.  And, by the way, that would have been a coup, since Obama made offshore drilling and nuclear power a cornerstone of his 2010 State of the Union address.  But the GOP response? He didn’t really believe that. 

 

Remember, this is the same president who just green-lighted the first new nuclear power plants since 1978.  A Democrat doing that is akin to Ronald Reagan calling for a ban of all handguns.  But rather than work with the President on a (yes—Republican!) issue, the result was bitter, partisan attacks. Hence, no offshore drilling.

 

3) But Mr. Obama doesn’t get a free pass. He recently ridiculed those who advocate “drill, drill, drill” to lower energy prices. Well, not to be a stickler, but if you produce more of something, the price will, in fact, drop.  Yes, we should all be more energy-conscious. That’s common sense. And alternative energy resources should be developed so long as they are market-feasible. But let’s be real. Oil is the unrivaled king of the energy world. Since that will not change for decades, if ever, it’s time to remove our heads from the colonic area and do what we all know has to be done: drill domestically.

 

Obama delayed the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was a mistake.  But what damn near everybody is missing is that, save for a relatively small amount of product from North Dakota, the oil is all Canadian.  Granted, getting oil from our Canuck friends is certainly better than relying on Middle Eastern nations, but it misses the point entirely.  Why are we not responsibly drilling on our own turf, keeping the jobs and revenue stateside?

 

4) Natural gas just hit a ten year low, while oil (and gasoline) are soaring. Go figure. So the wells that should be tapping the unlimited, clean-burning natural resource literally beneath our feet are being capped, killing jobs and entire industries.  Well, except for colonics.

 

5) Most disturbing is that our local congressional representatives are spending their time holding hearings on the closings of the Sunoco and Conoco-Phillips refineries. No, that’s not a joke. Congressman Pat Meehan and Senator Bob Casey are looking for answers as to how the closings will affect oil prices and impact national security.  (This should be no surprise, as Congress routinely holds hearings on weighty matters such as how the College Football Bowl Championship should be decided).

 

Perhaps I could save a boatload of taxpayer cash by releasing the results of a poll conducted of a sixth-grade class I teach.  The closings will be bad. Very bad. Prices will continue to rise, since if there is less of something, its cost will increase. And we will be less secure. Next hearing?

 

When did we start prioritizing national security anyway? Congress cares infinitely more about the national security of Middle Eastern sheikdoms than it does America, despite some of those nations funding anti-American terrorist groups with our petro dollars.  And all for one reason: their oil.

 

Here’s the bottom line: as long as we refuse to domestically drill, American soldiers will continue to die in Muslim lands.  And no amount of hearings, protests, or political rhetoric will change that. And let’s be honest. Our men and women are not “fighting for our freedom,” nor are they “keeping the war over there.” They are simply doing the bidding of a Congress —and the people who elect them — who are too complacent, or worse, impotent — to do the responsible thing: protect America by harnessing our vast and unparalleled domestic energy resources.

 

And there’s no colonic to cleanse the soul from the blood we all have on our hands.

 

So to be crude, stick it in and fill ‘er up, Sheik.

 

 

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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March 21, 2012 at 7:04 am Comments (2)

Gingrich Is Right To Shoot For The Moon

Romney, McCain are visionless dream-killers who should be ashamed

 

In May, 1963, the astronaut sitting atop the Mercury-Atlas rocket “went higher, farther, and faster than any other American…for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen.”  So were the ending words of The Right Stuff, an incredibly inspirational film which followed the brave exploits of America’s space pioneers, as chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s famous book of the same title.

 

Heroes they were: Chuck Yeager, Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and all the others who volunteered to charge into the unknown, routinely working on projects that more often resembled suicide missions than scientific research.  While they garnered glory and headlines, these men were deeply driven by something far more important: the opportunity to put America on top in the Space Race, and in doing so, become part of arguably the most exciting time in all of civilization.  These explorers opened the door to the final frontier, an astounding achievement that taught the whole of humankind that no dreams were too big, and that men and women could aspire to do things greater than themselves. They literally made true the can-do spirit that “the sky is the limit.”

 

But their road was paved by ridicule and doubt. Just years before these men — and the countless unsung heroes at NASA — achieved the impossible, their ambitions were considered folly. Putting a man into space? Pure science fiction.  Landing on the moon? Unthinkable, unattainable, unwise.  Reaching for the stars? Grow up.

 

Yet a mere 58 years after the Wright brothers first took  flight, America put those cynics out to pasture as Shepard blasted into the record books, with Armstrong later taking the greatest “step” in human history.

 

In addition to the lofty goals of exploring worlds beyond our own, the Space Race fostered something else: a fierce sense of nationalism that unleashed America’s competitive spirit as never before.  And for good reason. The Reds beat us into orbit, hell-bent on dominating Outer Space. From that point, it was “game on.”  And you know what? We won. Repeated trips to the moon, deep space probes, interplanetary missions, permanently manned space stations and newly discovered technologies that later benefitted Americans in every aspect of their lives.

 

That undisputed American leadership was as bold as it was purpose-driven, the result of generations inspired to study mathematics and science like never before, all for the opportunity to do things no one else had ever done — to be on the cutting edge not just of technology, but of humanity.

 

The United States still had its problems, of course, but there was never the slightest doubt that it would continue to achieve unparalleled greatness as the most benevolent nation the world had ever known. From attaining civil rights for all its citizens to being the beacon of hope for oppressed peoples the world over — and yes, to push the envelope in space — America embodied the spirit that it would always be on an upward trajectory.  Mediocrity, timidness — and fear itself —were not part of the American vocabulary, and dreams were simply visions soon to be realized.

 

But somewhere along the way, we lost that spirit.  And oh how things have changed.

 

Now we find ourselves in the midst of The Great Decline — a situation we have brought upon ourselves — slogging through a tragedy which only seems to be accelerating.

 

We haven’t been back to the moon to unlock its vast secrets in nearly four decades.  We have all but abandoned plans for a manned mission to Mars. And most telling, we no longer possess any means of transporting Americans into space, instead relying on the Russians to get us to the (misnamed) International Space Station — you remember, the one America engineered, constructed, financed and put into orbit.  Yes, the same one which the Ruskies have decided to eventually abandon, allowing it to fall back to Earth as a crumbling fireball, a once-proud testament to American ingenuity vaporizing right before our very eyes. The symbolism to America’s fate is sickening in its reality.

 

And now we have a new adversary rising, challenging America at every turn. In addition to owning much of our debt, China now possesses the fastest trains, the biggest dams, the most dynamic growth, and an aggressive space program. That’s not an endorsement of the Chinese, but an angry lament that they have taken a page right out of America’s playbook, and worst of all, that this nation is paralyzed to counter it. Instead of rising to the occasion, as we always did before, the United States seems impotent, content to just watch the events unfold without so much as a last gasp.

 

The best example?  Mitt Romney, campaigning for the most important job in the world — leader of the Free World and Sentry to American Dreams — lambasting Newt Gingrich’s plans to erect a permanent base on the moon, cut NASA bureaucracies, and incentivize the private sector to reinvigorate America’s space program.  Romney went so far as to say he would “fire” anyone who dared propose something so bold.

 

Is that the kind of leadership America needs to get back on track?  Think big, and you’re out the door?

 

But it wasn’t just Romney who attempted to kill Newt’s admirable vision.  So many of the Republican Establishment who have been part and parcel to the deterioration of The American Dream weighed in, none more noteworthy than the Grand PooBah of Incoherent, Spineless and Worthless Political Hacks, John McCain, as he skewered Newt’s space vision by saying that “we ought to send Gingrich to the moon.”

 

How pathetic have America’s “leaders” become when they can’t separate partisan politics for even one minute to agree on that which should be a no-brainer: a rejuvenated space program is so eminently important that it should be a centerpiece of any Administration?

 

Of course, the cost factor arises, as it should. But that is an issue that should be settled in budgetary debates.  Instead of thinking big, as our leaders once did, the Romneys and McCains openly delight in mocking the dreams that still inspire so many Americans. And for what? Miniscule partisan advantage? Shame on them.

 

How can we afford to fund such a grand endeavor?  The bigger question is, “How can we afford NOT to?”  But it is a legitimate question, so here’s the answer:

 

First, it is imperative to use the presidential election platform as a bully pulpit, explaining to the American people how their money — and by direct extension, their dreams — have been wasted to fund ridiculous projects of absolutely no value, including so many entitlement programs which are simply unaffordable. It is necessary to identify the mistakes —by both Parties —so that they aren’t repeated.

 

Second, find concrete ways to save money.  Ending the pointless quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan — which have cost Americans trillions of dollars — would free up huge amounts of capital. Reorganizing the military so that it isn’t guarding Western Europe from a Soviet land attack would also be a good idea, since that threat evaporated 21 years ago.    And of course, common sense entitlement reform would free up trillions more.

 

Third, grow the American economy to increase tax revenue.  We cannot tax out way out of recession and into prosperity, nor can we simply cut our way out, as that only places more people on the welfare rolls. But responsibly utilizing our vast (and unused) domestic energy resources to become energy independent will allow America to compete with foreign labor costs. Having the cheapest energy on the planet would be more than enough to resurrect American manufacturing and permanently jumpstart the economy.

A thriving economy means bold space exploration would once again be taken for granted. And if and when that happens, something else far more important would occur: the indomitable American spirit would once again nurture the achievable dreams of young children who fall asleep while looking out their bedrooms windows, gazing upon the moon and stars overhead with but one thought:

“…Someday I’ll be up there….”

 

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 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm Comments (0)

Don’t Blame Sunoco, ConocoPhillips, Or Unions For Refinery Shutdowns

 

Second in a series on how retooled refineries can save jobs and revitalize manufacturing

“Thank you for trying to get those who should understand the urgency of energy independence, jobs, and our future…to do so.  (We are) loading up the SUV almost every day to give away household items to Neighborhood Services and friends…and preparing to relocate if necessary.  You are right… finding middle class wages here in Pennsylvania is challenging if not impossible.  The blood, sweat and tears of years planning and building our dream home only to sell it in a bad housing market is like adding salt to the wound….”

This heartbreaking message was sent by a distraught wife of a 19-year Sunoco refinery worker, as that company’s two refineries (Philadelphia and Marcus Hook) are slated for closing, as is the ConocoPhillips refinery in Trainer, Delaware County, if no buyers are found.  Making the sin mortal, there are reports that the ConocoPhillips plant might be dismantled, shipped overseas, and resurrected in a foreign—potentially adversarial — country.  But this is nothing new, as America’s abandonment of its manufacturing base has often included shipping entire facilities overseas for the benefit of our competitors.

Can it be reversed? Is it possible not only to save these refinery jobs but at the same time create a rebirth of American manufacturing — mandatory for the nation’s future since no country has ever survived without an industrial base?  Many “experts” will arrogantly claim “no,” that America can’t compete with Chinese labor costs, and smugly proclaim that manufacturing is passé anyway— unnecessary in a modern 21st century economy.

Unfortunately, the wrong people here are losing their jobs.  The backbone of America shouldn’t be facing the unemployment lines. The so-called experts, including the politicians from both Parties who got us into this mess, should be the ones getting canned. 

(See Freindly Fire’s Sunoco Refinery Part One:)

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2011/12/21/save-philadelphias-sunoco-refinery-jobs/

But if we are to save jobs by retooling the refineries to process God’s gift to Pennsylvania (and the nation) — Marcellus Shale natural gas — it is imperative to stop the blame game and halt the tendency, while natural in a time of such high emotion,  to conveniently point fingers at whatever “boogeyman of the day” caused this unfortunate situation. Likewise, the fly-by-night ideas proposed by some shortsighted politicians must be seen for what they are: either clueless suggestions or a naked pandering for votes.

*****

Who Didn’t Cause The Problem

Sunoco

A million dollars is a lot of money — who hasn’t thought about having that much cash? You could do a lot with a mil per year, even more if you made that per week, and would be king of the world if you raked in seven figures per day, especially if that that was the case for three straight years. Life would be sweet — unless, of course, you happened to be in the sweet crude oil refining business in a deteriorating market.

So let’s be consistent. If making a million a day is desirable, losing that amount on a daily basis would be, in professional financial nomenclature, very, very bad. Common sense tells us that anyone losing a million a day for three years would do everything possible to stop the hemorrhaging. Welcome to Sunoco’s plight.

Ask any student unschooled in economics what the primary objective of business is, and he will invariably answer, “to make money.” Wrong.  Making money is easy.  Earning a profit by taking in more than you spend — the correct answer — is the hard part.

Despite the misguided “Occupy” mentality that profits are nothing more than gluttonous greed, the truth is quite different. They are necessary to expand operations, hire more personnel, pay salaries and benefits, and contribute to the overall health of a company —and the entire economy.  (Not that Wall Street greed doesn’t exist in numerous other forms, much of which should be regulated/outlawed, but that is another column).

Sunoco and ConocoPhillips are not in the “business” of losing money, and their past profits and payouts to shareholders are completely irrelevant to the fact that the outlook for the refining business is bleak.  They are under no moral, ethical or financial obligation to keep the doors open. Keeping people employed inefficiently—READ: subsidized — in a business with no possibility of profit is anathema to the Free Market and would eventually collapse the entire entity.  This is not speculation but economic certainty.

And if you want to see what happens when this course is recklessly pursued, pull up a chair because you’re in luck. You have a ringside seat watching such an implosion in action: the unsustainable economic policies of the United States Government.

It is also important to note that in 2009, Sunoco announced a significant worker layoff in an attempt to improve company competitiveness — and all were white collar, with no unionized personnel getting pink slips.  Closing the refineries is anything but anti-labor.

Unions

The refinery shutdowns have nothing to do with “greedy unions sucking too much money” from the companies’ bottom lines, as some critics of organized labor incorrectly state. Many of those in refinery operations are highly- skilled union workers who have made a solid living over the last several decades. But a look at the market conditions shows such a minefield ahead for the companies that no amount of concessions would come close to solving the problem.  In the big picture, the significant obstacles facing Sunoco and ConocoPhillips are infinitely greater than any “high” labor costs associated with operating the refineries.

Just like “evil empire” rich oil company executives make inviting targets for blame, so do “pillaging” unions who “want more for doing less.” Is either side perfect? Of course not, since there is no such thing. But while both make good scapegoats, it is simply counterproductive to continually throw darts at them.  Insults don’t solve problems. Strategic vision and genuine partnerships do. The only thing that matters is solving the problem — and quickly. 

Obama

Some find it convenient to blame the President for everything from high gas prices to their children getting a bad test grade. While he certainly has his faults, he extended his hand to the Republicans on the single most important issue of our time — moving America towards energy independence.  If some of his suggestions had been enacted (which, in reality, are part of the Republican platform), they would have quite possibly made the refining outlook much brighter for Sunoco and Conoco, and the shutdowns may not have occurred.

And the GOP response? No bills were introduced, and they absolutely refused to work with the President, with many stating that “he didn’t really believe what he was saying.”  What a brilliant, mature response.

For the disbelievers who need proof, just watch the President’s 2010 State of the Union speech, when, in front of the entire nation, he urged Congress to expand our offshore drilling ventures, and freed up millions of acres of coastal water for exploration and development. In addition, he called for an increase in nuclear power plants across America and pursued loan guarantees for new facilities (even one year later in light of the Japanese disaster).

Which was interesting, not only because he went against one of his strongest constituencies (the environmental lobby), but also because Obama’s move threw a wrench in the conspiracy that he was a closet Muslim who wanted to weaken America. Pushing for energy independence would be the polar opposite way to achieve that goal.

Granted, Obama has not been stellar in following up on his domestic drilling initiatives after the BP spill, and has yet to authorize the critical Keystone XL Pipeline project, but those shortcomings pale in comparison to the other Party’s inaction.

What did oilman George W. Bush or his Halliburton-affiliated sidekick Dick Cheyney do to increase domestic production? Zero.

Or the patriarch of the Bush family, George Herbert Walker Bush?  Well, it was the elder Bush who signed the moratorium on offshore drilling. His son W. left it in place for seven years, despite having sizable majorities in both Houses of Congress. Only after fuel costs skyrocketed to over $4.50 per gallon in 2008 did he call for the lifting of the moratorium. But it was too little, too late. And it never happened.

What could have prevented those crippling spikes at the pump? Offshore drilling — both off the continental shelves and in ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) — and the construction of new refineries, given that the last one was built in 1976.

And what better time to have pushed it through than right after the September 11 attacks. In addition to having a Republican congress and nearly 100 percent of the nation behind him, Bush had the world’s goodwill in his corner.

Instead, this nation’s reliance on foreign oil — which is a nice way of saying we are pumping billions of petro dollars into the coffers of some who are hell bent on destroying us — has only increased.

And this week, gas hit another all-time high for this time of year.

Both Parties are guilty of forsaking America’s security and economic well-being. It is only right that they atone by eliminating the red tape, bureaucracy and onerous regulations placed upon the energy industry, as well as rescind the economy-killing taxes on fuel.  Those steps would make it infinitely more palatable for entrepreneurs to convert the refineries, keeping those strategic assets and jobs exactly where they belong: in America.

 

Parts Three and Four will detail solutions for how refinery conversions can jumpstart the economy through specific uses of dry and wet natural gas — while NOT making Philadelphia a port for Liquefied Natural Gas. 

 

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 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm Comment (1)

School Closings Are Because Catholicism No Longer “Demands” Greatness

Part One 

Vatican II Destroyed Catholic Identity And The Essence Of Being Catholic

The message from Headquarters was sent to field agents worldwide:

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

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

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

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

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

And implement it they did.

The result? Disaster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It thought wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does the Church do?

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

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

Either way, it doesn’t matter.

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

What are they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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