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The Privatization Push is On

I’m an optimist, so I’d like to believe that Gov. Corbett is actually going to get this done.

Governor Tom Corbett has unveiled his plan to get Pennsylvania out of the business of selling wine and liquor.

During a news conference Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Corbett said the three- to four-year process of selling wholesale and retail licenses would generate $1 billion in revenue to create educational grants for Pennsylvania’s schools.

“My plan gets the state completely out of the liquor business,” Corbett said. “The state will no longer be a marketer of alcohol. Instead, it will now focus on its role as a regulator.”

Under the governor’s proposal, more than 600 state-owned wine and liquor stores would be shut down and the entire liquor wholesale and retail system would be privately owned and operated.

Only in Pennsylvania could the prospect of buying a six-pack at the grocery store be an earth-shaking political issue, but that’s our state. Love it or leave it move to the Carolinas like everyone else. For conservatives, this should be a no-brainer–getting the state out of any business is usually a smashing success–and it looks like privatization has a lot of support among the general public. If he’s successful, Corbett can stand next to this issue, smile, and have an easy bid for reelection.

By the way, here’s the official word from the Gov. if you’re interested.

January 30, 2013 at 10:13 pm Comment (1)

Corbett: Raising Gas Taxes

It’s been trendy of late to pile on Governor Corbett, for a variety of reasons, mostly not being able to get things done, what with Republican majorities in the House & Senate. I’ve been reluctant.

But damn dude. This is brain damaged.

Two people who learned details of the plan told The Associated Press Wednesday that the governor will announce the fine points of the long-awaited initiative next week.

They both spoke on condition of anonymity because Corbett has not publicly disclosed the plan.

A message seeking comment that was left with Corbett’s press office wasn’t immediately returned.

The proposal would remove a statutory cap on the oil company franchise tax.

The per-gallon tax is applied up to an average wholesale price of $1.25, and the administration says lifting the cap could produce $1.9 billion a year.

I understand that the governor is denying the reports, and I appreciate that. But the idea is so stupid, it could only come from Harrisburg.

Literally, there is no tax that is paid that IS NOT paid by the consumer. Call it what you want, but that $1.9 billion is gonna come down the food chain to you and me. No way to avoid that.

So by all means, tax the oil companies, tax the gas companies, tax the refiners, tax the pipeline companies, tax the frackers. But they’re just going to send it on to us.

January 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm Comments (0)

Will Sandusky And Corbett Defeat Romney?

The Governor’s mishandling of the Sandusky investigation may doom the GOP

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. It’s all about Ohio. Win the Buckeye state — win the White House.

Very true, especially for Mitt Romney, since no Republican has won without it.

But the monumental point is being overlooked.

Ohio is only kingmaker by default.  Its 18 electoral votes would not be needed if Romney wins Ohio’s larger neighbor — Pennsylvania and its 20 electors.

That’s not wishful thinking, but eminently achievable. Or at least it was, until two men severely diminished hope for delivering the Keystone State: Jerry Sandusky and Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

*****

Make no mistake. Pennsylvania should have been a lock for the GOP.  The fact that it has not voted Republican for president since 1988 is misleading. When there is a solid candidate, Pennsylvania is always in play, where a small vote swing changes the election result (George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004).  Conversely, bad candidates lose handily (Bush I in ‘92, Dole in ’96, and McCain in 2008). And remember that Ronald Reagan won it twice, and George H.W. Bush in ’88.

In 1994, it became the most Republican state in the country in terms of elected officials, with the GOP claiming both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, total control of the state legislature, a majority in its congressional delegation, and two of three statewide row offices.

Fast forward to 2010, when GOP Governor Tom Corbett rode to victory with a massive ten-point margin.  Conservative Pat Toomey was elected U.S. Senator, and Republicans gained control of the State House in historic fashion, smashing the Democrats and taking a ten-seat majority.  The State Senate remained solidly Republican — as it has for three decades.

So why is it likely that Romney will lose the Pennsylvania Prize?

Enter Corbett and Sandusky.

*****

The most worthless commodities in politics are endorsements. Party leaders endorsing their own is expected, swaying no one.  And celebrities choosing sides only makes for good cocktail talk.  Romney doesn’t benefit from Clint Eastwood, nor Obama from Bruce Springsteen.

But while endorsements don’t sell, popularity does. And they are distinctively different.

If a leader possesses a bold vision — and the ability to articulate ideas in a common sense, bipartisan way — he will have followers from the entire political spectrum. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie is the best example, having achieved monumental victories despite both legislative chambers being heavily Democratic.

While no single Republican could swing Jersey to Romney, that feat should have been in the bag in much more Republican Pennsylvania. If Christie could rack up wins in The People’s Republic of New Jersey, gaining immense popularity, how could Corbett not deliver Pennsylvania?

Because he is an MIA governor.

After the first year of his Administration, when virtually nothing was accomplished, Corbett’s own legislators nicknamed him “Christie-lite.” But after the second year, with an even more startling lack of achievements, the nicknames became unprintable.

We’re not talking about a failed extreme right-wing agenda, but common sense ideas Corbett promised but didn’t come close to delivering, despite holding all the cards.

-Was the nation’s largest state-controlled liquor system dismantled — a move overwhelmingly supported by most Pennsylvanians? Nope. Zero action.

-Was any effort made to 1) solve the state’s massive pension crisis, 2)lower the job-killing, corporate net income tax (second-highest in the nation), or 3) reform the nation’s most hostile legal climate? All drive businesses away, but no action was taken. The can was kicked down the road.

-Did state union workers receive a contract in line with private sector employees? No.  Instead, Corbett gave them guaranteed raises, no increases in health care premiums, and eliminated layoffs for economic reasons. At the same time, he raised salaries of his inner circle, aides who apparently couldn’t get by on $135,000.

While his inaction sunk the Governor’s favorable ratings, it was his handling of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky that really put him in the toilet, flushing away whatever attractiveness he had left.

Corbett’s attempt to steal the national limelight at Penn State news conferences by portraying himself as the savior who took down Sandusky rapidly backfired. Instead, his decisions in that case (he was the investigating Attorney General) grew into a firestorm that continues to explode.

No one is buying Corbett’s claims that he didn’t play politics with the Sandusky investigation. A whopping 69 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t view Corbett favorably, making him the nation’s least popular governor.  And a miniscule 17 percent think he handled the Sandusky investigation well.

Why? Maybe because:

-It took three years to get Sandusky off the street. Within the law enforcement community, it’s almost unanimous that Sandusky should have been nailed much, much earlier. Ten cases weren’t needed, as Corbett maintains, but only two or three to make an arrest while continuing to build the case.

-Corbett ordered a narcotics agent to lead a whopping team of two to investigate Sandusky, while scores of agents — including child predator units — prosecuted a political corruption case.

Because of Corbett’s colossal inconsistencies, Republican leaders were forced to abruptly end a legislative session, killing a motion requesting a federal investigation of Corbett’s handling of the case.

As a result, Corbett’s numbers have stayed in the basement. The erosion of his popularity, transcending Party lines, stems from the nagging feeling that Corbett placed politics above the protection of innocent children.

*****

The most far-reaching result of the Governor’s failures will be the political earthquake that never was. If Corbett had been just a fraction of Chris Christie, and had run the Sandusky investigation properly, Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania hands down.

Instead, because of Corbett’s toxicity, Romney was forced to focus on Ohio, which he will likely lose, and with it, the White House.

But that may be the least of Corbett’s troubles. Kathleen Kane is poised to become the first elected Democratic Attorney General in Pennsylvania history.  Should that occur, the political embarrassment for Corbett would be immense, since he would be seen as the main contributor to a Kane victory.

If elected, Kane promises an intense review of the Sandusky investigation, with no hesitation to charge anyone —including the Governor — should improprieties be uncovered.

And who thought politics wouldn’t be interesting after this election?

As published in Daily County Daily Times:
http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/11/05/opinion/doc50979500780a2499235935.txt

Philadelphia Magazine:
http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/11/05/sandusky-corbett-defeat-romney/

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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November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm Comments (0)

The Slow Slog Towards Privatizing the LCB

I dream that some day I will be able to buy whatever booze I want in the Commonwealth without having to get ANY INPUT WHATSOEVER from any bureaucrats in Harrisburg. Privatization, while not exactly alive and kicking, isn’t dead yet so sayeth Governor Corbett.

LCB nears privatization with Corbett’s nominees

Gov. Tom Corbett’s moves to reshape the Liquor Control Board could inch the state a step closer to private liquor stores and spell the end of Joe Conti’s $156,700-a-year position as CEO.

156K? Please God, make it stop.
Anyway…

Corbett, who favors privatization of the state-owned liquor system, soon could have two appointees on the three-member board if the Senate approves his latest nominee, Philadelphia lawyer Kenneth Trujillo, to a four-year term. Corbett appointed Joseph E. “Skip” Brion as chairman last year.

The Senate must confirm Trujillo by a two-thirds vote, which Corbett hopes will occur before the end of the session this month.

Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson said the chamber might consider Trujillo’s nomination when lawmakers return on Oct. 15.

Trujillo will replace privatization opponent Patrick Stapleton, whose term ended in May but who continued to serve until Corbett nominated a replacement. Stapleton on Thursday gave official notification of his departure. The other board member, Robert Marcus, and Stapleton opposed privatization.

It’s a good thing this is in the hands of the PA Senate. They would never **** up something like this.

Free political advice for Tom Corbett: Do you want to do something that will have broad bipartisan appeal, energize the Republican base, and allow you pimp-slap Rob McCord all the way back to Montgomery County in 2014? Make this happen.

And a note to the people on my side of the aisle who whine incessantly about Tom Corbett and/or want to primary him in two years: Are you high? Seriously. Think about this. Would Ed Rendell ever have considered doing something like this? Bob Casey? ANY Democrat? We all wish Corbett could and would do more, but never forget that he is doing more than any Democrat would do. In politics, it’s not where the ball is but in which direction it is moving.

October 6, 2012 at 8:50 pm Comment (1)

Gov. Corbett Still Refuses To Answer Sandusky Questions!

 

In a speech before the world’s press, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said, “We must keep in mind that when it comes to the safety of children, there can be no margin for error, no hesitation to act.” It was the same authoritative tone he took when chastising Joe Paterno for not doing more to stop Jerry Sandusky.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

It is Tom Corbett himself who is most guilty of hesitating. Hesitating to appropriately staff the Sandusky investigation, and hesitating for years to make an arrest — both of which jeopardized the safety of children. That hesitation, and the stonewalling that Corbett has now employed, has created an intense firestorm around the Governor.

 

Given the unprecedented nature of the Penn State scandal, this issue is not going away. In fact, if Corbett doesn’t come forward with answers, it promises to be the Number One issue in his 2014 re-election campaign.

 

*****

 

Last week, the Governor responded to Freindly Fire’s Open Letter, which had requested specifics on key issues.  But rather than answering any questions, the Corbett response raised even more red flags.

 

The Corbett response stated, “Grand juries take time. Evidence in decades old molestations must be reassembled. A moral certainty of conviction must be reached… Where does Mr. Freind think that decade’s worth of evidence came from? It had to be gathered, reluctant witness-by-reluctant witness, with accompanying corroborating evidence.”

 

Absolutely correct — and precisely Freindly Fire’s point. Corbett is admitting that this high-profile case required a tremendous amount of work. So why were so few investigating it?

 

Here’s the bottom line.  The Sandusky investigation took three years, was reportedly staffed by a single investigator at the outset, and later spearheaded by two narcotics agents, neither of whom had any experience in child molestation cases. Compare to this to the army of investigators Corbett used in the Bonusgate political corruption probe, including, sources say, agents from child predator units.

 

Given those facts, it seems logical that there can be only one of two explanations:

 

1) Politics

It doesn’t take a genius to know that sullying the reputation of the state’s largest university and taking down its legendary football coach would be a monumental challenge to any candidate running for governor. This would have been particularly true in Corbett’s case, given that his opponent, Dan Onorato, was a Penn State alumnus.

And the might of Penn State’s massive alumni network was just illustrated, where 76,000 alumni donated much of the $208 million the university raised this year.

So was the understaffed investigation dragged out in such a fashion that the arrests were not made until after the 2010 gubernatorial election?

 

2) Priorities

 

Or was the Sandusky case mishandled because Tom Corbett did not prioritize catching child predators?

 

If politics played no role, then Tom Corbett clearly prioritized corrupt politicians, who we will always have, over taking a serial child rapist off the street.  One can only wonder how many more victims Sandusky molested while he was under investigation.

 

There are a number of quotes, some by Corbett himself, that are quite telling.

 

Randy Feathers, the head of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Office in State College who eventually headed the investigation, stated, “During the Bonusgate investigation, we had a shortage of investigators in Harrisburg.” (Altoona Mirror, June 24, 2012)

 

Corbett was obviously proud of the fact that he pulled no one from Bonusgate, stating, “We used a completely different unit from Bonusgate… (the agents working the Sandusky case) were pure narcotic investigators from up in that region.” (Corbett press conferences, July 12, 2012, and July 14, 2012).

And Corbett admitted worrying that Sandusky could still be victimizing boys during the lengthy investigation, stating, “It was a calculated risk.” (CBS Philadelphia/KYW New Radio, June 26, 2012)

So Corbett knew of the risk, and yet decided that investigating a child-victimizing monster was worthy of only two investigators.

 

What’s even more telling is the fact that, upon Corbett becoming governor, he immediately ordered state police resources to the case.  Why wasn’t that done before?  So again, the question has to be asked whether Corbett, as Attorney General, ever requested additional assistance from then-Governor Ed Rendell, himself a highly respected former prosecutor. It’s not a trick question, and only requires a Yes or No answer.

 

And did Corbett ask the Feds for assistance, especially if additional state police resources were denied by Rendell and no one could be pulled from Bonusgate?

 

If the answers are in the negative, as they appear to be, what were Corbett’s motives in choosing to stay with such a bare-boned investigative staff?

 

*****

No one has suggested that Sandusky should have been arrested before evidence was gathered. Common sense dictated that at least two or three solid cases be assembled before an arrest was made, and numerous prosecutors with no ax to grind have stated that strategy would have been a viable one.

But, as has been stated in the media, Corbett waited to have at least 10 cases before making an arrest, which just boggles the mind.

Once several victims were identified and an arrest was made, with the spotlight on Sandusky, more witnesses would come forward. More importantly, Sandusky would have been closely watched and children would have been safe. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, a predator was given three more years to victimize his prey.

No wonder the Governor doesn’t want to answer questions.

So the stonewalling continues.  There are still no answers as to why Bonusgate investigators were not ordered to work the Sandusky case, and why, sources say, Attorney General agents, including those in child predator units, were pulled from other cases to assist with that corruption probe.

*****

Governor Corbett also failed to answer the Open Letter’s other questions, including why he did not consider it a conflict of interest to serve on the Penn State Board of Trustees while simultaneously investigating it, and why he approved the $3 million taxpayer grant to Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, when he could have simply done nothing or vetoed it without raising one eyebrow.

The latter is particularly compelling since $640,000 in campaign contributions were made from Second Mile board members and affiliates to Corbett’s Attorney General and gubernatorial races.

*****

The Open Letter received an astounding response from across the political spectrum. It was Facebooked and Tweeted thousands of times, published in media outlets and websites across the nation, and was the hottest topic on talk radio, with Freindly Fire discussing it from coast to coast. Most telling is that 99.9 percent of that dialogue had one common theme: why was there so much hesitation to act by Attorney General Corbett?

 

Rather than invoking “space aliens,” as he did in his response, Governor Corbett would be better served by coming clean with the only thing that matters: the truth.

 

There is no such thing as “fair and balanced.” There is only truth and accuracy.  It is time for Tom Corbett to tell the whole truth — accurately — regarding the very troubling Jerry Sandusky investigation.

 

The best place to start? Answer the questions. And the truth shall set you free.

 

Read the column in the Delaware County Daily Times:

 http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/07/25/opinion/doc500ee47ae1559699997615.txt

Gov. Corbett Response to Freind

 http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/07/18/opinion/doc5006905ca4fe6470627721.txt

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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July 25, 2012 at 7:56 am Comment (1)

Gov.Corbett Could Have Stopped Sandusky — But Didn’t

An open letter to Pennsylvania’s governor, who refuses to answer disturbing questions about his role investigating the Penn State sex scandal

 

Bursting with righteous indignation, his cheeks flushed with rage, the Governor banged the podium in disgust while berating a journalist — in fact, chastising the entire media — for the audacity to ask questions on the issue.

We’re not talking about New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who gets away with such outbursts because of his stellar track record and pure gravitas.

No, this tantrum came from Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett after being queried about his incredibly long investigation of child predator Jerry Sandusky.

And it backfired in spectacular fashion. Why?

Because Tom Corbett is no Chris Christie.                      

*****

Since questions on this matter remain unanswered, it seems only fitting, on behalf of the media and public, to pen an Open Letter to Mr. Corbett.

For the record, no media commentator in Pennsylvania supported Corbett’s ideas more than Freindly Fire during the 2010 campaign, from increased Marcellus Shale drilling to school choice to liquor privatization. In fact, FF even backed Corbett’s decision to subpoena Twitter during the Bonusgate corruption probe — a highly unpopular position. Bottom line: this isn’t personal, and it’s not partisan.  It’s only about one thing: the truth.

*****

Dear Governor Corbett:

Since there are a number of questions which you have failed to answer concerning your investigation of Jerry Sandusky, on behalf of the media and the public, I respectfully ask for clarification in the following areas:

1) Based on a decade’s worth of evidence of Sandusky’s predatory activities, why did it take the Attorney General’s office three years to arrest him? I fully understand that it takes time to conduct an investigation, but as numerous prosecutors have stated, you could have arrested him quickly and continued building the case.

Tragically, it is probable that Sandusky continued to molest victims during your epic investigation, as predators do not stop preying unless forced to do so.  Had he been arrested early, (standard procedure in many cases with a lot less evidence), Sandusky would have had to post bail, had restrictions placed upon him, and, most important, been under an ultra-intense media and community spotlight — every minute of every day until his trial.

In short, children would finally have been safe. And contrary to your assessment, this would have created a much more favorable environment for additional witnesses to come forward, knowing their bigger-than-life demon could hurt them no more. Arresting Sandusky quickly would have in no way jeopardized the strength of the case.

One of two things seems to be true, as there is no third option. Either A) you were an incompetent attorney general, which virtually no one believes, or B) the investigation was deliberately understaffed and drawn out  because you did not wish to be the gubernatorial candidate who took down fabled Penn State — with its massive and intensely loyal alumni network — and the beloved Joe Paterno. Since doing so would have presented difficult campaign challenges, many are asking if politics was placed above children’s safety.  Which leads to the next question.

2) Why was the investigation so understaffed? Yes, you just now claimed — after eight months — that media reports are wrong that only one investigator was assigned the case for the first 15 months. The real number, as you now state, was a whopping two.  We know you were busy with Bonusgate, but political corruption never threatens anyone’s physical well-being, particularly defenseless children.

And the two investigators assigned were narcotics agents. While Sandusky’s heinous crimes were many, drug offenses were not among them.

Yes, they were former police officers. But wouldn’t the reasonable course have been to assign agents with experience in child molestation cases? Did their inexperience lengthen the investigation more than normal…say, past your election in November, 2010?

Additional resources were available. Upon becoming governor, you placed state police on the case. You could have made that same request to Governor Rendell, and, given the stakes, there is virtually no possibility he would have refused. And since you are a former United States Attorney, you undoubtedly realized that federal assistance was also available.

3) Do you believe ethical and moral lines were crossed when, after investigating Penn State as Attorney General, you then participated as a member of the Board of Trustees upon becoming Governor?  

In other words, knowing full well that the investigation was still in full swing, conducted by your handpicked Attorney General successor, you nonetheless chose to sit on the very Board you had been — and still were — investigating!

Did you ever consider recusing yourself from Board activities until the investigation was concluded? Since governors rarely attend Board meetings, this would have in no way raised suspicions.


4) As governor, why did you personally approve a $3 million taxpayer-funded grant to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity, given your knowledge that Sandusky was under investigation for multiple child rapes?

Your statement that blocking the grant would have tipped people off to the investigation is utterly disingenuous, particularly since the media reported on the investigation in March, and you did not approve the funds until July, 2011.  

Vetoing the charitable grant would have simply been viewed as another financial cutback in a budget full of slashed programs.

So one has to ask if the $640,000 in campaign donations from board members of the Second Mile, along with their businesses and families, had anything to do with your actions?

If not, fine.  But how did such a massively significant point slip your mind — until the media brought it up? And was that question also out of line?

Since these are matters of grave concern, I and many others look forward to your immediate response.

 

*****

 

The media talks about Penn State’s Big Four casualties: Joe Paterno, former President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley. But perhaps they are missing the biggest: Tom Corbett.

He has always claimed to hold himself to a higher standard, and has roundly criticized Paterno and others for not doing more to stop Sandusky. But when it came down to it, when Corbett had the power to put a speedy end to Sandusky, he didn’t.  

If mistakes were made, fine. People can accept that.  But to stonewall reasonable questions on such an important matter, and then stalk off , is something that should not, and will not, be tolerated.

Tom Corbett has a choice, perhaps the biggest of his career.  He can either answer now — or in 2014.

 Link to column in Delaware County Daily Times:

http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/07/17/opinion/doc500484c4eef82305964009.txt

An accredited member of the medi\a, 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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July 17, 2012 at 7:59 am Comment (1)

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)

Corbett’s Colossal Cockiness Castrates His Credibility

Candidate Choice Creates Calamitous Clusterf**k of Carnage

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

*****

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Corbett’s Love Affair With The Democrats: An Election Letter Back At Ya’

 Well, primary election day is almost here, and some of the races have gotten downright nasty. From disingenuous, mean-spirited campaign ads to a Democrat masquerading as a Republican accusing his opponent of being a Democrat (did you get all that?), there’s something to satisfy everyone’s entertainment needs.

 

Perhaps the ugliest race is the Democratic contest for Attorney General (an office that Party has never held), pitting a woman against a whiner: prosecutor Kathleen Kane and former congressman Patrick Murphy.  Murphy certainly can’t run on his record (there isn’t one), so instead has charged Kane with being a millionaire trucking executive. (Note: if you can figure out how being married to a trucking company owner would prevent a career prosecutor from being an effective AG, please let me know. Perhaps she would look the other way on the rampant truck-on-truck crime in Pennsylvania?)

 

Of particular concern to many is that Murphy, who as a congressman perfectly personified the deer-in-headlights legislator (remember the Hardball interview with Chris Matthews on the Iraq war?), is running for the state’s top law enforcement job despite never prosecuting a single criminal case in Pennsylvania. He will need all the help he can get to pull out a victory, and apparently that help has arrived. Sources tell Freindly Fire that elements of the Republican Party have been covertly (and even overtly) pulling out all the stops for the young doe.  And for good reason: they see him as infinitely easier to beat in November than an articulate (and better looking) female prosecutor.

 

And speaking of Republicans helping Democrats, for your reading pleasure we have a letter from Governor Tom Corbett pushing Steve Welch, the Obama-voting, Joe Sestak-supporting U.S. Senate candidate he personally endorsed (and strong-armed the Republican Party to do the same). Unfortunately for the Governor, his letter is being received by an ever-dwindling number of supporters, many of whom are flat-out rejecting his call to back Welch. From elected officials to the grassroots, they are so incensed by what Corbett has demanded of them (akin to Party treason) that they are openly supporting other candidates in the race. Welch is most likely heading for a second-place finish, and maybe even third, either of which would be an incredible embarrassment to Corbett and a severe blow to his ebbing credibility.  

 

Alienating the Party faithful in a mystifying way is not exactly a recipe for influencing people and making friends, a fact lost on this Governor.

 

So in the spirit of accuracy, it is Freindly Fire’s civic duty to correct the Governor’s letter to reflect the truth, though we will leave the bad sentence structure intact. Commentary in bold:

 

Dear Friend,
 
In less than two years we have turned the tide (by being just like Ed Rendell?), and are righting the wrongs of the liberal agenda here in Pennsylvania (yes, that same “liberal agenda” that, in fact, was passed by an overwhelmingly Republican state senate).  We brought a new way of thinking to Harrisburg after inheriting a recession and a $4.2 billion dollar budget deficit in 2011 (Sorry, Guv, but despite the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, those deficits still exist because no one—Republican or Democrat — will address the issues that led to those deficits.  Examples abound, such as the $400 million in I-80 tolls used to “balance” a prior budget — even though that interstate never became a toll road, and the money was never “repaid.”). While we have witnessed others in the past attempt to solve our state’s problems by spending more of your hard-earned tax dollars, I have employed a fiscally conservative approach to our economic issues (Yes, by finishing Rendell’s spending legacy of bailing out the Philadelphia Shipyard to build ships with no buyers, constructing a new stadium for the (obviously poor) New York Yankees’ AAA baseball team, funding the multimillion dollar Arlen Specter library,  spending Delaware River Port Authority funds (AKA taxpayer dollars) on projects having nothing to do with the bridges while tolls continue to increase…we’d love to continue, but column space is limited to 10,000 words).
 
Together with the General Assembly, we have put our state’s economy back on track (uhhh, the natural gas industry is leaving the state, in part because of no political leadership, and the unemployment rate has not measurably dropped), not by demonizing the private sector, but by lowering taxes (Really? The job-killing taxes haven’t been touched, such as the nation’s second-highest corporate tax and the 18 percent tax on every bottle of wine and booze to rebuild Johnstown from the flood — of 1936!), cutting government spending (let’s be honest — that’s only because the federal stimulus dollars dried up), balancing the budget on time and giving businesses the ability to create jobs and drive economic growth. 
 
Unfortunately, we have a government in Washington, D.C.  stuck in the same liberal trap that Pennsylvania was suffering in. (Sorry, can’t help it.  You aren’t supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. Where’s your brain at? Or, to be grammatically correct, Where’s your brain at, Genius?) We started the fight in 2010 by talking about real change and real reforms (Very, very true.  It was, and remains, all talk.) With your help and support, I was elected along with a Republican State Senate and House Majority, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and 12 Republican congressmen to cut wasteful spending and promote economic growth. This year, we have to continue our efforts and send U.S. Senate candidate Steve Welch to join the fight! (The irony is just dripping here. Pennsylvania elects all those Republicans to stop the “liberal” Obama agenda — and Corbett is pushing an Obama-voter who was, until fairly recently, a Democrat. Go figure).
 
I endorsed Steve because he has the passion and ability to take our shared Pennsylvania values (Another truism, as Welch’s vote for Obama helped the President win Pennsylvania, and Corbett has acted more like a Democrat than Republican) to Washington, D.C. and get our federal government’s reckless spending back under control.  He is a businessman who has worked tirelessly to achieve the American dream, creating a successful living for himself and creating jobs for hundreds of others.  In the private sector, Steve has helped young entrepreneurs achieve their own dreams of launching a successful small business (In keeping with the “dream” theme, who in their right mind could possibly dream that endorsing an Obama-supporter would rally the Republican Party?)
 
Steve is running for the U.S. Senate because he believes in the same values you and I do! (Wait, whose values? Obama’s or Sestak’s? Or both? And do most in the GOP share those values? Admittedly, the Party’s pick for Prez is the architect of government healthcare, but still…). Steve could no longer sit back and watch as President Obama and Senator Bob Casey continue to spend our way into oblivion and add more debt onto the backs of future generations (Damn! If only Welch didn’t vote for Obama, that line may have worked!!). Steve wants to bring fiscal responsibility back to Washington, D.C. and help others achieve the American dream, as he has. (Unfortunately for Corbett and Welch, that’s not going to happen. There are no points for second (or third) place.  Sorry, Bob Casey — it doesn’t look like Christmas is coming early for you.)
 
Remember that we have a great slate of statewide candidates including Steve Welch – David Freed for Attorney General, John Maher for Auditor General and Diana Irey Vaughan for Treasurer – who need your support over the next few days.   You can visit www.pagop.org to learn how you can help. 
 
Most importantly, I hope you will join me on April 24thand cast your ballot for Steve Welch for U.S. Senate and our entire statewide team! (Too bad Democrats can’t vote in the Republican primary, since that would at least give your man a fighting chance…)
 
Sincerely, 

Tom Corbett
Governor (well, at least until 2014…)

 

 

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

 

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April 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm Comments (0)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

*****

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Talk about the chickens coming home to roost.

 

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

 

 

 

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

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