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Sue The NFL For Concussions? Get Your Head Examined!

Now that the Super Bowl is over, the really big game begins. And it’s going to be a head-knocker .

On one side we have the raiders. No, not Oakland, but the Trial Lawyers, who delight in raiding everything good and decent in America. They are representing former NFL players in their fight against the evil empire, a.k.a. the National Football League. At stake? Upwards of ten billion dollars, and possibly, the existence of the NFL itself.

And what is the nerve center of this federal lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia, that have the plaintiffs so mad they’re seeing double? What went so wrong that these former players, given a life of royalty by the NFL, now want to ring the League’s bell?

They suffered concussions playing football.  No lie.  That’s actually the basis of the lawsuit.

The sheer stupidity of such a suit makes you wonder if they really did get hit too many times, because no one of sound mind could dream up something like this.

It would seem, therefore, that their motive is rooted in something else. In the preferred legalistic nomenclature, they’re looking for a handout.

Maybe they’re bitter because they didn’t play in the era of massive contracts. Maybe it’s because they can’t function as “regular” guys after being worshipped for so long, which, for many, started in grade school. Others may feel lost, with football the only thing they know. But their commonality is thinking they are entitled to something.

****

The outcome of this lawsuit should be a no-brainer. But given the insanity in America’s civil legal system, a jackpot jury award is definitely possible.  (NFL Properties and helmet maker Riddell are defendants, too.)

The players claim the NFL hid information linking football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries (such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease). In addition to monetary damages, they want the NFL to assume responsibility for the medical care involved for those players suffering from those health problems.

Let’s look at the case objectively:

1) This sense of entitlement is not just misguided but inappropriate. No one held a gun to players’ heads to sign lucrative contracts and become celebrities to play football.  They’re big boys, and chose their profession — with its risks — of their own free will.

2) And yes, there are risks. Plenty of them. Football is not a contact sport; it’s a collision sport. It is an intensely physical, violent profession. That’s why God made pads and helmets, but any third grader can tell you that those things only help to minimize injuries, and can never totally prevent them. The NFL is not a flag-football league, but one with punishing hits. That’s the game. Players can take it or leave it.  Not surprisingly, they take it.  Always.

3) The pass-the-buck, take-no-personal-responsibility attitude so prevalent in America is once again on full display. Players knew the risks, reaped immense rewards, and now, after the fact, want to blame the NFL for their issues. And are we really supposed to believe that the NFL willfully engaged in a grand conspiracy to keep players in the dark about the effects of hard tackling? To swallow that, we must assume that the League had every doctor in the country on the take, preventing them from speaking to any player who had questions about concussions. And that it somehow inhibited medical professionals from conducting research into concussions and brain injuries.

4) Did the NFL, the medical community and our society know as much about concussions several decades ago? No.  Is there a concerted effort now to better understand brain trauma, and to make all sports — including NFL football — safer? Absolutely.  That’s not malfeasance. It’s progress.

5) Is the NFL culture one that glorifies big hits, highlights them on NFL films, and encourages playing through injuries? Yes, but so what? Fans love when players get leveled, and players love delivering big-time jolts, which often help their team. Gutting it out has always been a source of pride for players, who do it not to secure the next big contract but because they love the game.  An admirable choice, but a choice nonetheless.

6) Where does it end? Should a firefighter who gets burned sue the fire department? Is a baker responsible because an obese donut-eater develops heart disease? And should office workers who develop carpal tunnel syndrome have legal standing to sue their company?

Some jobs have higher risks, and playing NFL football is one of them. But given the lavish rewards, it’s an acceptable risk to players — past and present.  And regarding former players who state that, if they had today’s knowledge back then, they would have opted out — give us a break.  Not a chance in the world.

7) The NFL (and the Players Association) has spent more than a billion dollars on pensions, medical and disability benefits for retired players.

The NFL also operates numerous health programs for current and former players, and offers medical benefits to former players, such as joint replacement, neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program, according to the League. Equipment has improved, and safety has increased, including outlawing certain types of hits.

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Is it sad that some former players have trouble walking, concentrating and living a “normal” life? Sure.  Is it a tragedy when a few commit suicide? Absolutely.   But it’s time that these players stop blaming others for their situations and look in the mirror. They made their choices, and for most, lived a fairy tale.
If they now choose to feel sorry for themselves, or regret their choices, fine.  But it’s a personal foul to ruin the game not just for current and future players, but for the ones who allow the League — and its former players —to be so successful: the fans.

And you don’t need your head examined to see that.

Nationally in Newsmax:

http://www.newsmax.com/Freind/NFL-Concussions-Lawsuit-brain/2013/02/07/id/489347

 

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 12, 2013 at 10:03 am Comments (0)

Tip The Scales Against Obesity? Try Shame

                                                        Part 2 of 2 on obesity, bullying, and the lack of shame in America

Several years ago, one of the best-loved theme parks in the world shut down a classic ride so it could make some “large” adjustments.  Why the need? It was something very “deep-seated” — people had become so obese that the boats in which they rode were scraping the bottom.

 

How would obese patrons feel if, in front of hundreds, they were required to stand in a different queue — one simply marked “Obese Riders Here.” And that instead of meeting just the height requirement, they were also forced to meet a “width” criteria.

 

Or when boarding an airplane, fat people would be called separately so they could sit in extra-wide seats, for which they pay double?

 

And what if stadiums had a section of reinforced double-wide seats where obese folks were required to sit?

 

Unfortunately, our country doesn’t binge on such options, which is truly a shame.

 

Literally.

 

And that’s precisely the problem.  There is no shame.

 

In genuflecting to political correctness, America shuns shame. It has become a nation so afraid to offend that it turns a blind to its biggest problems, such as obesity.   And that problem is burgeoning. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and a staggering percentage of our children — our future — are growing up (and out) with little regard for how this epidemic will impact them. In this regard, some medical experts have predicted that our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. For many, they are the product of their environment, where parents (many obese themselves) and society as a whole have sent the message that being fat is no “big” deal.  The stigma once rightly associated with obesity is disappearing as quickly as fat is accumulating.

 

So how do we get to the bottom of this problem?  For starters, shame.  Because no matter what else is attempted, if shame is not the cornerstone of the solution, the situation will never improve.

 

*****

 

Two fantastic and courageous examples of how shame is being effectively utilized are occurring in Georgia and Minnesota.  In Atlanta, an extensive advertising campaign “Stop Sugarcoating It,” sponsored by Children’s Healthcare, targets childhood obesity.  Taglines under obese children include “Warning…It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not”; “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid”; and “Big Bones Didn’t Make Me This Way…Big Meals Did.” There was also a YouTube ad with a sad girl saying, “I don’t like going to school, because all the other kids pick on me. It hurts my feelings.”

 

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota has launched a similar campaign, targeting overweight parents whose behavior is often mimicked by their children. One ad shows two chubby boys arguing about whose dad can eat more — a discussion overheard by a father as he approaches their table with a heaping tray of fast food.  Another shows an obese woman filling her shopping cart with junk food, only to notice that her obese daughter is doing the exact same thing with a smaller cart.

 

Both campaigns use shame correctly. Without being mean-spirited or over-the-top, they prod people to acknowledge, and change, their unhealthy behavior. Not surprisingly, though, both have something else in common: significant criticism from the waistline-challenged community.  Their biggest beef? It’s not education, but shaming, which, of course is “bullying.”

 

They simply don’t get it.

 

Shaming isn’t the total panacea, but it must be an integral part of the solution. And there is no better example than how it changed the perception of smoking, once considered cool but now viewed with utter disdain.  Sure, cigarettes are expensive, but that’s not why smoking is down.  It’s because society made a conscious effort to shame smokers.  Try lighting up in a bar with co-workers, and you receive dagger-like stares. Do it outside, and people immediately move away, because smoking is regarded as disgusting, and therefore, the smoker must be, too.

 

Smoking kills, and we have no problem pointing out that as a deterrent.  But so does obesity, yet we hesitate to mention it.  Just as non-smokers are picking up the tab for the massive medical costs related to smoking, non-overweight people are subsidizing the obese since it is “discriminatory” to charge differently for health care (though a section of the Affordable Care Act would change that).

 

But unlike the “good old days,” shaming is now taboo. No one is ever at fault or accountable for his actions. Consider:

 

-It used to be, when a student received a detention, they weren’t just shamed in front of their classmates.  They knew they had to tell their parents, which would invariably trigger another punishment.

 

Contrast that to the reaction this week of a New Jersey principal’s letter to parents about pictures of their underage children on Facebook holding alcohol bottles. Instead of thanking the principal for bringing that situation to their attention, a number of parents ripped him.

 

-Airlines have attempted to charge double for obese passengers whose girth extends beyond the armrests. While this is clearly commonsense, since not doing so penalizes paying passengers of normal weight, such policies are met with scorn and even lawsuits by those lobbying for obesity-without-consequence.

 

-And since it would be considered “discriminatory” to have an obese-only section in stadiums, seats are being made wider to accommodate overly plump posteriors.  And when seats are wider, there are fewer of them.  Who pays?  You do.  The same way that the non-obese eat the cost of new toilets that must be installed with ground supports, as the standard wall-mounted commodes can no longer bear the weight of America’s fat brigade.

 

We have coddled ourselves so much that we have shamed using shame.  As a result, people have become clueless to their appearance.  Sure, what’s under the skin matters, and no one should feel that obese people are bad, but what’s on the outside counts, too. Or at least it should.  But go to any beach, and count how many linebacker-sized women are showcasing themselves in bikinis.  Ditto for men whose guts reach the next block.  Since they all have mirrors, one can only assume that shame is simply not a part of their lives.

 

Should we have scarlet letters for the obese? Of course not, since there is no problem identifying them. But we should employ shame to shed light on an issue that affects us all, in the same way that some judges order drunk drivers to place “Convicted DUI” bumper stickers on their cars.

 

And speaking of cars, how shameful is it that overweight people are not just guzzling food, but fuel?  A recent report calculated that 1 billion gallons of gasoline are wasted every year (one percent of the nation’s total) just to haul Americans’ extra pounds. And given that the average American weighs 24 more pounds than in 1960, airlines are using roughly 175 million more gallons of jet fuel per year just to accommodate the overweight.  That’s downright shameful.

 

And if not shame, then what? Do we tax fast food? Soda? Candy?  Do we regulate portion size? No to all. Not only are such ideas preposterous and unenforceable, but they are tactics, not strategy.  It’s time to tip the scales against obesity and solve the problem.

 

Otherwise, we will soon find out that the “elephant in the room” isn’t a pachyderm at all.

 

It’s an average American.

 

                                                                                     *****

As published in Delaware County Daily Times:

 http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/10/16/opinion/doc507c724224c08947340181.txt

Part 1, as published in Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post:

 http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/10/10/america-open-honest-conversation-fat-people/

 

 

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 16, 2012 at 9:47 am 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)

Romney: Barely 47 Percent Of A Good Candidate


So Mitt Romney is having big problems. What a newsflash, ranking right up there with the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

 

That Romney is a severely-challenged candidate is no great revelation. What should be a surprise, but isn’t, is that the Republican hierarchy pushed such a flawed candidate in the first place, one who had to be dragged across the nomination finish line.

 

And now, the seeds of that ill-fated decision are bearing fruit. Problem is, it’s rotting on the vine, and the harvest is still seven weeks away.

 

*****

 

At the risk of sounding like so many on the “Ronald Reagan Is God” bandwagon, it is nonetheless true that the Gipper was the last quality Republican candidate.  For those in the GOP who struggle with math, that’s over three decades ago. How is that possible? Because as Freindly Fire has pointed out on so many occasions, the Republican Establishment prefers coronations over elections, strong-arming nominations for those with big wallets and whose “turn it is.”

 

How have they fared since Reagan and his 49-state near-sweep in 1984?  Bob Dole and John McCain were pathetic. George Bush I was elected only because of A) Reagan’s legacy, and B) the Democrats put up an even weaker candidate (Dukakis).  And George W. Bush was an unmitigated disaster, paving the way for Barack Obama.

 

Given the President’s dismal performance the last four years, this election should be a slam dunk for Republicans. It is the GOP’s to lose, and more than likely, that’s exactly what they will do.

 

Enter Romney.

 

*****

 

Romney’s immense wealth and access to big donors made Party leaders come down with amnesia, totally forgetting Mitt’s debacle four years ago when he lost to McCain, whose campaign was literally bankrupt.

 

By pushing Mitt in the primaries, the Establishment showed that it had forgotten something else: listening to the rank-and-file. And that mistake became an embarrassment. The grassroots were so distrustful of Romney that seven out of ten were routinely voting “No” on Romney in the primaries, even after he had all but locked up the nomination.  It was so bad that Romney received only 16 percent of the caucus vote in Minnesota, placing third, down from his 41 percent, first- place finish in 2008 against a much stronger field.

 

Such abysmal results, after campaigning for six years and spending over $100 million, should have been a clue.

 

It’s bad enough that Romney is viewed warily because of his wealth and Mormon religion (a huge concern for many), but he has done nothing to improve his standing among his base, let alone the Independents, centrist Democrats and undecideds who always sway presidential elections. Consider:

 

-Romney is arguably the biggest flip-flopper, on any political level, of all time. And not just on the hot button issues of guns, gays, and abortion, but on virtually everything.  Hell, he couldn’t even decide whether to release his tax returns during one of the primary debates. It is simply unfathomable that he hadn’t made up his mind on that issue since A) he ran before and had to address it, B) his father pioneered the concept, and C) he knew it would come up again. Which it did— all summer long.  Indecisiveness is not a compelling trait to voters.

 

Note to Ann Romney: Your response to Mitt’s Republican critics of “Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring,” is woefully misguided. Just because campaigning is difficult, and others don’t have your husband’s $300 million net worth allowing them to get into “the ring,” doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Neither of your reasons justify Mitt’s lack of core and inept campaign.

 

- Many refuse to support someone perceived to lack core convictions. By contrast, the President’s convictions are, and always have been, on full display. He promised nationalized healthcare, increased spending, a larger, more regulatory government, higher taxes on the rich, and a pullout in Iraq. Well, mission accomplished. Conversely, Romney is all over the map on most issues, offers no specifics, and is now perceived as abandoning “47 percent of the electorate” as he states in the now infamous video.

 

-Has it dawned on Mitt that instead of writing off half the country, he might take a page from the Reagan playbook and try to win hearts and minds with ideas that benefit everybody? Just a thought.

 

-Give Romney the benefit of the doubt that he would be an effective President.  His problem in getting there.  Obama may be an unpopular chief executive, but he is a stellar campaigner.  And since we are in a campaign, that’s all that matters.

 

-No one “likes” Mitt Romney. That isn’t a cheap shot, but a fact reflected in every likability poll. And make no mistake. Many will go for the person with whom they feel most comfortable. Obama has always been light years ahead of Romney in this regard, and that gap will only widen as the one-third of the electorate who didn’t have an opinion of Romney get to know him.  The latest videos don’t help.

 

- Closely linked is “relate-ability” — does this candidate understand our issues, from college affordability to job security to housing foreclosures? Well, installing an elevator for your cars in your beach mansion somewhat kills the “I can relate to you” line. The double whammy is that Romney’s judgment will be questioned yet again, with many asking why he couldn’t have just waited until after November to install the lift.

 

Not surprisingly, a recent Esquire/Yahoo! News poll found that a whopping 75 percent of Americans feel little or nothing in common with Romney.

 

 

*****

 

Can Romney “win?” No. Obama can lose. There’s a difference.  Thus far, Romney has demonstrated an inability to articulate a bold vision for America. If that doesn’t change quickly, look for a concession speech by yet another coronated, crestfallen and clueless Republican candidate.

 

Column is published in numerous entities, including Delaware County Daily Times and Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post:

http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/09/24/opinion/doc50602917de09a893416731.txt

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/09/24/mitt-romney-win-election-2012/

 

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 24, 2012 at 11:50 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)

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)

Why Mitt Romney Will Lose To Obama

 

Being in the media, I have no friends, as it should be.  If I did, however, 3 of 10 Republicans would surely take offense to this column, since it points out what is increasingly obvious to everyone but Mitt Romney’s 30 percent base of support: Mitt won’t beat Barack Obama.

 

Should Romney become the GOP nominee — likely, but not certain — he will have a difficult time unseating the President.  Can he win? Given the stagnant economy, high unemployment, and skyrocketing gas prices, yes.  But will he? No.

 

Since many Republicans are calling this election the most important in history, it’s worth a look at why Romney will fall short:

 

1) He cannot relate. Nominating Romney would be par for the course for a GOP that likes to elevate stiff, out-of-touch pols who can’t relate to most Americans.  John McCain, Bob Dole, and George Bush I (after he acted like he had better things to do than campaign for reelection) are prime examples.

 

Of course, it is rare for an incumbent president to lose, which occurred only four times in the 20th century.  But in those instances, sitting presidents lost to charismatic leaders articulating bold visions. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton achieved success over Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, because, more than anything, they were extremely effective communicators, speaking from the heart rather than a script. There was a widespread perception among Americans that these candidates were talking directly to them — that they were leaders who innately understood what the problems were, and how to solve them.

 

On a scale of one to ten, Romney’s ability in this regard is zero. Not only is he unable to relate, but when he tries, things gets worse. He either becomes a laughingstock (an aloof Northeastern moderate patronizing unamused Southern conservatives by saying “y’all” and “grits” as many times as possible) or a human gaffe machine (“$10,000 bet,” “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” telling unemployed people that he too is “unemployed,” he knows what it’s like to worry about getting a pink slip, and “I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners,” among countless other beauties).

 

Romney doesn’t understand that trying to be someone you aren’t is death to a candidate. Nowhere was that more apparent that in 1988, when another Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, was photographed riding in an army tank. Given his liberal positions on national defense, Dukakis was ridiculed to such an extent that his candidacy never recovered, with that iconic photo symbolizing his ill-fated campaign.

 

Apparently not a student of history, Romney is doing his best to upstage his Massachusetts colleague.

 

2) Romney is regressing. After spending hundreds of millions over the last six years, Romney is still routinely losing 7 of 10 Republicans. And that is with a weak field. Ron Paul is running to keep the others honest, Newt Gingrich has won just two states, and Rick Santorum, who two months ago was polling at two percent, is surging only because he is the last “anti-Romney” candidate standing.

 

Comparing apples to apples, Romney is faring considerably worse than in 2008. That negative trend is bad enough, but even more startling is that four years ago, Romney faced a number of credible candidates, including John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. In other words, he is doing worse now despite competing against a rag-tag cadre of opponents who have virtually no money or organizations and who mathematically can’t win the nomination.

 

The proof is in the pudding: of Romney’s 15 wins (out of 27 contests), he has barely broken fifty percent in just four — heavily Mormon Nevada and Idaho, his home state (Massachusetts) and Virginia, where Gingrich and Santorum weren’t even on the ballot. In fact, Romney couldn’t even attain 60 percent against “quirky” Ron Paul — known for his non-interventionist foreign policy and reduced military spending platform — in Virginia, despite it being one of the biggest military and defense industry states in the country. 

 

Four years ago in Minnesota, Romney garnered 41 percent, yet this time (as the “frontrunner”) he won less than 17 percent of the vote—yes, 17!  In his true home state of Michigan, where he grew up while his father was governor, he hung on just enough to defeat Santorum — and that was after a dismal debate performance by Rick.  In Ohio, despite vastly outspending his opponents, he eked out a one point win. And most recently, not only didn’t he win Alabama or Mississippi, but came in third in both states.

 

A successful candidate needs to win states in every region, an achievement that has thus far eluded Romney. A number of Mitt’s wins have been in states that will go Democratic in the general election (Vermont, Massachusetts, Washington and Hawaii), and he is struggling mightily in must-win battleground states (Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan). Not exactly a roadmap to success.

 

3) Flip-Flops.  Conventional wisdom keeps predicting that the Republican base, weary of the drawn-out primary season, desperately wants to coronate Romney so the focus can be on Obama. Yet every time another primary rolls around, Convention Wisdom is turned upside down. Why can’t Mitt seal the deal?  Because to many, he simply isn’t trustworthy.

 

Sure, Romneycare makes him wildly unpopular to many Republicans (whose main objection to Obama is Obamacare). But much more unsettling are his flip-flops, too numerous to list in their entirety, but which include abortion, gay rights, guns, government mandates , indexing the minimum wage, the auto and TARP bailouts, and even whether he is a Ronald Reagan fan.

 

But Romney’s inconsistencies go beyond the policy arena and extend into his personal life, such as the issue of illegal immigrants working at his home.  When questioned about that situation, Mitt responded that he fired the landscaping company that employed the immigrants, not because illegals working in the U.S. is wrong, against the law and hurts American citizens, but because, “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake….I can’t have illegals.” Political expediency at its worst.
 

*****

 

Mitt Romney embodies an articulate politician without a soul, one who will say whatever it takes to get elected.   So prevalent is his flip-flopping that he couldn’t even decide whether to campaign in Iowa.

 

He’s so out of touch that he doesn’t understand the peoples’ yearning for a leader who stands for something and sticks to his guns.  Instead, Romney’s “be all things to all people” approach has him foundering, and should make him easy pickings for Obama in November.  

 

There are those who will say the media is deciding this election, because columns like this are killing Romney’s chances to win before the general election campaign even begins.

 

While it will be a bitter pill to swallow, those on the Right would be wise to realize two things. The “Anyone But Obama” approach is a losing strategy, since negative premises always produce inferior candidates.  And Republicans looking to cast blame for Mitt Romney’s troubles should stop looking for a scapegoat and see the real reason he will flop: Mitt Romney himself.

 

 

 

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 19, 2012 at 8:37 am Comment (1)

Philadelphia Catholic Schools Remain Open— But For How Long?

 Will the Church finally play political hardball?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

*****

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Is Philadelphia Archdiocese Lying Or Just Incompetent?

School Closings And Appeals Leave More Questions Than Answers —And The Church Isn’t Talking

“I don’t know Chief…this shark is either very smart, or very dumb…”

So was the famous line uttered by the legendary Quint in Jaws, as he was trying to figure out the intentions of the great white. 

After the recent roller coaster ride regarding Archdiocesan school closings — and now the many reprieves — Catholics across the Philadelphia region are wondering the same thing.  Is the Church hierarchy very smart (in a conniving way), or very dumb?

Or are they, and the “Blue Ribbon” school commission deciding the fate of so many, just downright incompetent?

There isn’t a fourth option.

At issue is that a whopping 75 percent of Catholic elementary schools that appealed their closings were successful, meaning that their doors are staying open, at least for now.

Last Friday, it was announced that of the 24 appeals, 18 won.  While it seemed like a “Good Friday” to many, something tells me it may turn into a day of regret, closer in fact to a Black Friday.

This is not meant to rain on anyone’s parade, as there is obvious cause for celebration for many Catholic families.  After all, they had been told last month that their beloved schools — 49 of them — were slated for permanent closure.  While there was an appeals process, based solely on factual errors committed by the Commission, virtually everyone figured there would be very few successful appeals, if any.

And with good reason.

In January, the chairman of the Commission, John Quindlen, former Chief Financial Officer of DuPont, made it crystal clear why schools were closing and consolidating.

“A lot of this should have been done 10 years ago…(but)… naivete and an unwillingness to face reality” kept many pastors and archdiocesan leaders from halting long ago the “death spiral” of declining population and rising tuition at so many schools, he said, according to Philly.com.  “They would say, ‘I can make this work…But we had to come along and finally say, ‘God bless you, but this has got to stop.’ ”

Fast forward one month to the Church’s about-face, and Quindlen’s comments tell a starkly different story. “I celebrate the results and pray they all survive in the long term…Neither the commission nor the Archdiocese was in a rush to close schools. Our focus was on how to sustain them.”

What? Did he seriously say that with a straight face?

How can you make the leap from a “death spiral” to “celebrating the results” and talking about sustainability in less than one month? 

Give the Archdiocese credit for one thing: if they are trying to anger as many Catholics as possible in the most bumbling manner while ignoring all rules of good communication and PR, they are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

Let’s cut through the emotions tied to school closings and look at this situation objectively.  In doing do, one has to ask: Why the games? Why did the Church say one thing — that in retrospect now seems very suspect — and then almost completely reverse itself, all the while talking in platitudes that didn’t remotely address the questions and concerns of many?

It has left many scratching their heads, and even more seething.

So here are the questions that absolutely must be addressed in order for the Archdiocese to have any credibility moving forward, and to prevent the exodus of loyal, but very bitter, Catholics:

1) Is Catholic education too expensive to sustain in most if not all of the 49 schools that were originally slated for shuttering?  If yes — which is what the Archdiocese has been telling us, and selling us, for quite some time — then how can 3 out of 4 appeals have been successful?  What changed?  Did a billionaire step up and write a big check to keep the schools open?  If so, we don’t need a name, because charity should be anonymous, but we do have a right to know if that happened (extremely unlikely as it is).

2) If the opposite is true — that those schools are in fact affordable — then why have we been told something so radically different for so long?  It’s like being pregnant: you are or you aren’t. Either the Church can operate these schools efficiently, or they can’t.  There is no in-between. But that’s exactly where this situation is — in no-man’s land, and their equivocation has just added to the confusion.

3) Is incompetence to blame for the contradictory messages? We were told that appeals would only be considered if factual errors were made in determining which schools closed.  Well, by that logic, that’s a heck of a lot of errors.  If a student makes “factual errors” on 75 percent of a test, his grade is a 25.  Which, unless you attend a public school in Philadelphia, is an F.  Not exactly a stellar track record.

4) Were we lied to from the get-go? And if so, why? Was the threat of closings a grand conspiracy to flush out big contributors as well as lighten the wallets of the rank-and-file even more? Don’t scoff.  The Archdiocese has a history of not being straightforward.

Just look at its red face regarding its mishandling — and lack of truthfulness — involving one its schools in Philadelphia.  According to a news report, a group starting a public charter school stated that it was assured by the Archdiocese that it could rent Our Lady of Mount Carmel school for that purpose — two months before the Commission recommended closing the school! Mount Carmel appealed its closing. Any guesses as to how that turned out? It begs the questions as to why the Diocese would even allow the school to appeal when its fate had apparently already been determined.

Since we are on the topic of education, perhaps a refresher is in order.  The 8th Commandment tells us that we should not bear false witness against our neighbor.  In layman’s terms, playing loose with the truth — and outright lying — doesn’t bode well for a Church preaching morality and in desperate need of credibility and trust.

5) What about the folks at all the other schools who wanted to appeal but were dissuaded from doing so because the odds were so long for success?  Common sense tells us that if they had known such a large number of schools would win their cases, many others would have appealed.  Now, those parents and students feel even more burned than they did a month ago — a remarkable feat in itself.

6) The appeals have thrown schools that were thought to be “safe” into chaos.  Nativity BVM in Media, for example, was originally intended to stay open, absorbing students from St. John Chrysostom in Wallingford.  St. John’s won their appeal though, and now, in a stunning reversal, Nativity is shutting its doors.

Not only do parents and teachers feel completely betrayed by this out-of-nowhere blindside, but there’s an even more unjust twist: Nativity apparently does not have the ability to appeal like all the other schools did. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

And it’s exactly that type of move, accompanied by virtually no communication, which drives fuming parishoners to leave the Church. Hence the decline in church attendance and school enrollment.

7) How can the Church push for school choice when it does not allow choice for its own members at the elementary school level? So some families in Annunciation parish in Havertown, for example, whose school closed because its pastor refused to file the appeal that so many parents begged him to do, must send their children all the way across town to St. Denis, when in fact they live within walking distance to Sacred Heart?  How ironic that the very Church fighting the image of hypocrisy born from the sex scandal now engages in more hypocrisy: fighting for school choice as long as it doesn’t apply to its own flock. When will they learn?

8.  There are no guarantees in life, but what assurances can the Church give that, in the next few years, those 24 schools, as well as any others, will not close? Since it is impossible to believe that the problems of declining enrollment, rising costs and overall unsustainability have all been solved in the last 30 days, woe to those parents who take the recent reprieves to be a sign of long-term viability, for they may well be revisiting this exact situation in the near future.  And that just isn’t right.

*****

The point of this column is neither to agree with nor criticize the specific school closings and successful appeals, but to implore the Archdiocese to come clean with all the facts. 

Quint had to figure out what the shark was doing and why. For all the blood, sweat and tears Catholics have shed for their Church over the years, they should never have to question the motivations of their Catholic leaders. They only seek the truth, and deserve no less. It’s time to give it to them.

And that’s no fish story.

 

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

 

 

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February 22, 2012 at 8:44 am Comments (2)

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

 

Chris Christie And Whitney Houston: Not Perfect Together

As published in Philadelphia Magazine…

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

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

 

Because the opposite simply defies common sense.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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