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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.

****

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)

Ravens’ Cheerleader Has No Right To Super Bowl

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Go Baltimore!

Newsmax Link:

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Michigan Passes Right-to-Work

Can somebody please explain to me how this can happen in Michigan but not in Pennsylvania?

Republicans rushed right-to-work legislation through the Michigan Legislature Thursday, drawing raucous protests from hundreds of union supporters, some of whom were pepper-sprayed by police when they tried to storm the Senate chamber.

With six-vote margins in both chambers, the House and Senate approved measures prohibiting private unions from requiring that nonunion employees pay fees. The Senate was debating a similar bill, with Democrats denouncing it as an attack on worker rights and the GOP sponsor insisting it would boost the economy and jobs. Separate legislation dealing with public-sector unions was expected to come later.

Because of rules requiring a five-day delay between votes in the two chambers on the same legislation, final enactment appears unlikely until next week. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who previously had said repeatedly that right-to-work was “not on my agenda,” told reporters Thursday he would sign the measures.

Please?

December 6, 2012 at 10:28 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)

Privatizing Liquor Sales

What are we waiting for?

When it comes to alcohol, a majority of Pennsylvanians agree on one thing: They want it firmly in the hands of the private sector.

So found the latest Inquirer Pennsylvania Poll, in which likely voters, by a ratio of nearly 2-1, said they favored doing away with state control over the sale of wine and liquor.

And 61 percent of respondents in the bipartisan survey said they supported allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine.

Even so, privatizing the Liquor Control Board remains an elusive goal in Harrisburg despite some big names behind the effort, including Gov. Corbett, who campaigned on the issue and often cites privatization’s popularity with the public.

I realize the unions are wrapped up in the liquor stores quite tightly, but if Scott Walker can take them on in Wisconsin (and their deeper entrenchment), can’t Corbett knock them out where they’re no public support?

November 4, 2012 at 8:51 am Comment (1)

Big Labor Chasing Conventions Away

… still.

Way back in the flush days of 2003, the leaders of the six local unions that work at the Convention Center signed a 21-page Customer Satisfaction Agreement, which was supposed to be dedicated to “creating and maintaining the highest level of customer satisfaction.”

In addition to laying out some ground rules for union members’ behavior (no verbal or physical threats against the conventioneers, no selling or using illegal drugs while on the job, no “shoving,” and no weapons “of any kind”), the CSA also spells out rules and “rights” for the exhibitors. And there it is, right there in Exhibit C, Paragraph E, Subsection 1: An exhibitor “may use hand tools … but not power tools including battery operated tools, or ladders.” My attempts to ascertain whether a flashlight counts as a hand tool have been unsuccessful.

As anyone with good sense would do, the Interphex people took issue with this clause and expressed their concerns to the Convention & Visitors Bureau. According to Gregory Fox, president of the Convention Center Authority’s board of directors, there was something resembling an attempt to accommodate Interphex’s needs by making available a small group of screwdriver-toting union carpenters, supposedly for free.

“But that didn’t do the trick,” says Fox, and Interphex turned its back on Philadelphia last week, a loss of $15 million in economic impact, according to the CVB’s Ferguson.

It’s a shame people can’t do the sensible thing here, and get on with the business of conventioning. Instead, we get this. Another embarrassment.

September 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm Comments (0)

Smith can win in November

It’s possible.  It shouldn’t be vastly more difficult than a Romney win in PA.

Granted, if you believe the polls, a Romney victory assumes an optimistic scenario.  But given that 2008 and 2010 were both outlier years, there is a degree of uncertainty in the turnout models used by pollsters.  I’m also a fan of playing everywhere.  If you don’t plan to win in PA, you’re planning to lose it.  Obama won a couple of extra states in 2008 because he was organized in every state.  [Begrudging hat-tip to Howard Dean's "50 state strategy" at the DNC.]  And if we lose PA at the Presidential level once again, we’ll see the Keystone state being written off for the indefinite future.

Obama is the worst President within anybody’s living memory.  Economic policy, foreign policy, social policy… pretty much disasters all around. (At least LBJ and Nixon could tell our allies from our enemies.)  What will it say if we can’t beat Obama in 2012?  That’s not a scenario I care to contemplate.

So for the purposes of talking about the Senate race, I assume that it’s at least conceivable that Romney wins in PA.

As of this writing, the Real Clear Politics spread for the Presidential race in PA is Obama+8.  The spread on the Senate race is Casey+15.2.  Step-one is to close the spread.  Casey has a truly atrocious, liberal voting record.  Given that Casey and Obama are about 98% the same person, and if you think about it, Tom Smith is in a lot of ways a more likeable guy than Mitt Romney, closing the gap should be somewhat easier than people think.

It seems some folks still haven’t gotten the memo that Casey really isn’t a moderate.  Whether you believe the conservative organizations (ACU = 5.65, Heritage Action = 3, NTU = F, Club for Growth = 2) or the liberal ones (ACLU = 73, Americans for Democratic Action = 100, League of Conservation Voters = 100, NAACP = 100, SEIU = 91), Bob Casey Jr. has an extremely liberal voting record.  Our supposedly “pro-life” Senator even scores 65% from NARAL.

Those are the aggregate numbers. Behind those abstract figures lie real liberal votes.  He voted for ObamaCare, destroyer of jobs and religious freedoms. He voted for the abominable stimulus/”Recovery Act” that sunk us deeper into debt to China for no discernible economic benefit.  He voted for EPA regulations that will hurt Pennsylvania both in the form of lost coal industry jobs and in the form of skyrocketing higher electricity costs.  He voted to continue taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, provider of approximately three hundred thousand abortions per year. He voted to continue funding for ACORN even after multiple video stings revealed a systemic propensity to help pimps of underage children evade law enforcement, to say nothing of ACORN’s sordid history with voter registration fraud.  (Hey, didn’t we just go through some kind of big scandal with child sex abuse? Think that issue might have any resonance?)  He supports EFCA/”Card Check”, giving free hand to employee intimidation by union organizers.  He supports taxpayer bailouts of private pension programs.  He voted against several international free trade agreements that would have helped the US economy, including the Colombia FTA, which was a no-brainer for approval from a US jobs perspective, and the rejection of which was a gross geopolitical error (in favor of Hugo Chavez and against a cooperative Colombian government).  He voted against common-sense labor reforms like allowing union workers to earn raises.  He voted for higher taxes on domestic oil production.  He voted for higher taxpayer mortgage guarantees for rich people.  And he voted against Senator Toomey’s amendment that would eliminate legislative earmarks, currency of shady vote-trading in Congress and source of much abuse.

That Casey continues to skate by as a “moderate” with such an abysmal voting record is astonishing.

Expose Casey as being objectively something other than what the voters were led to believe he was, and that Presidential/Senate vote gap should close up pretty nicely.  Assume that the national environment will continue to favor Republicans, and hope that the Romney campaign has some mojo.

So yes, I think it’s possible that Smith wins in November, assuming a few stars align correctly.  They did for Pat Toomey, another guy who “couldn’t win”, and who we now refer to as “Senator”.

July 9, 2012 at 5:40 am Comments (0)

Look for the Union Label on the Carton of Milk from 1987

It’s been a while since something in Pennsylvania has been screwed up enough to get front-paged by Drudge. As of today my wait is over. Apparently AFSCME employees in the Sharpsville School District went to the mat for the right to eat expired food.

The grievance was based on the allegation that the school district “violated established past practice” in charging cafeteria workers for food or drinks that couldn’t be sold or consumed by students. These items would include food or drinks with expired dates or foods that had been reheated, none of which can be served to students according to safe food regulations.

But according to the settlement, cafeteria employees indeed can eat and drink those expired or reheated items – at their own risk. And they don’t have to pay for them.

The items cannot be sold or given to any other party, the agreement says.

People. United. Will never be defeated. People. United. Will eat rotten meat.

Me? I blame Scott Walker’s reforms.

June 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm Comments (2)

Opposing Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients? Are You High?

Randomly testing all public workers is simply common sense

Random drug testing of welfare recipients and public workers is racist, discriminatory and blatantly unconstitutional.

And if believe any of that, you’re smoking something.

Once again, the drug testing issue is making headlines in Pennsylvania, as such a program is now underway. Unfortunately, because the Legislature dragged its feet (what else is new?), the current initiative is a scaled-down version of the original bill, and has been put into effect via an emergency budgetary order from the Governor. It only applies to welfare recipients who have been convicted of a felony in the last five years or are currently on parole or probation.

Too bad.  It should include every single non-elected person receiving a paycheck courtesy of John Q. Taxpayer.

(The only officials who should be exempted from mandated drug testing are elected officials, though that position is sure to generate hoots and hollars from the cheap seats.  The rationale is simple: they are elected by the people. They are not collecting government assistance checks, nor are they hired as civil service workers. True, much of what we see from elected officials leaves us wondering if they’re all on drugs.  And yes, at first glance it seems hypocritical for lawmakers to enact laws that they themselves do not have to follow, but they are in the unique position of being employed directly by the people. What’s next? A State Rep fails the test and is stripped of his seat? Not practical, probably unconstitutional, and a very dangerous precedent.  Would these elected office holders be smart to voluntarily take a drug test? Absolutely, because if they don’t, they’ll be unsuccessfully explaining themselves all the way to the ballot box.)

Remember the point of state-mandated drug testing: to ascertain whether someone receiving money — given to them by hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers — is breaking the law by using those funds on illegal drugs. It is not to put people behind bars, but to ensure that they are clean and not abusing taxpayer dollars.

Proof that this is not a conspiratorial police-state tactic designed to incarcerate the state’s drug users, but a program to simply ensure responsible stewardship of the people’s money?

Consumption of drugs is not illegal. Manufacturing, distribution and possession of illicit narcotics is. And since having drugs in one’s system is not legally considered “possession,” no one failing a drug test would be arrested.

*****

Taxpayers have an absolute right to know that their money isn’t going to welfare recipients’ drug habits.  No one has a gun to his head to go on public assistance, just like no one forces people to work at a private sector company that mandates drug tests.  It’s part of the deal— take it or leave it.

Seemingly lost in the debate is that drug testing isn’t a discriminatory act against select individuals, but is increasingly common throughout all of society.  Many companies require applicants to pass a drug test as a condition of employment, for obvious, common sense reasons. No business wants drug users on the job, as they would be high-risk, untrustworthy employees who would undoubtedly threaten not just productivity, but company stability.

It’s key to remember that public assistance is supposed to help the recipient and his/her family survive; it should never be used carelessly, especially for something illegal.  Since drugs are illegal, if recipients can’t prove themselves to be clean, they should receive no benefits.  It’s that simple. Public benefits are a privilege, not a right, just like driving or flying. If people choose not to abide by the rules, that’s fine. But it’s simply arrogant to think one is entitled to these benefits without any conditions.

Here are some of the more disingenuous arguments the pro-druggie side likes to use:

Argument: Welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.

Answer: Who cares?  That’s completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the percentages are, although that claim is certainly suspect.  The majority of the population isn’t directly receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. For those who are, drug testing should be the rule.  Don’t like it?  Fine.  Get a job. And if you have a public sector job, be thankful you do and act responsibly to keep it.  You work for the people. It’s their money.

 

Argument: Drug testing is expensive.

Answer: If the government starts operating like a business, and aggressively negotiates volume discounts with private testing companies, the price isn’t that high.  This common sense expenditure would surely even pass Tea Party muster.  By definition, Government must spend money, but should do so smartly and efficiently. The testing should be for all new applicants, and random testing of the entire public pool thereafter, somewhere in the five to ten percent range.

And financially and ethically, what is the cost of having taxpayers subsidize a crack addict’s drug habit?

 

Argument: The ACLU challenged the mandatory drug testing program as unconstitutional, arguing that drug testing of welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches, labeling it “intrusive.”

Answer: That’s insulting to every citizen NOT on the public dole. First, the anti-testing folks, including legislators and the ACLU, are not Supreme Court justices, so it’s not up to them to determine constitutionality.  Second, odds are certainly favorable that given the makeup of both the state and U.S. Supreme Court, mandatory drug testing would be upheld. Welfare recipients arern’t being forced to do anything. They choose to apply for welfare.  After that, they must abide by the conditions placed upon them in return for receiving public money.

 

Argument: Random drug testing is thinly-veiled racism, and an attempt to demonize public sector workers by lumping them into the (false) public perception that all welfare recipients are drug-using, inner city dregs of society.

Answer: I wouldn’t have believed these accusations could be made with a straight face, but that’s exactly what was thrown at me during two televised debates on this issue. Such weak arguments only serve to bolster what most people instinctively know: random drug testing of those receiving taxpayer money is sound policy that serves to weed out bad apples and preserve the integrity of “charitable” giving.

Given that a Democratic Senator, John Wozniak, is the prime sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill, and his Party loves to bill itself as the defender of the poor, minorities and public sector workers, those charges don’t stand up for a second.

They are so ridiculous on their face that they shouldn’t need rebutting, but it bears repeating: this issue has nothing to do with race (many on public assistance are White), and zero to do with demonizing public sector workers and unions (as many in the private sector are tested as well).  It has everything to do with the reasonable expectation of taxpayers that their money be used for humanitarian purposes (public assistance) and an intelligent, stable and productive workforce (public sector employees).

*****

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart ran a comedic segment, with one of its “reporters” interviewing the Florida legislator who sponsored a similar bill, and Rick Scott, the Sunshine State’s Governor who also championed the drug testing cause. Both men are right on the issue, but may have lost the PR battle, looking downright foolish at times.  That’s a shame, because it’s communication miscues like those in that interview that sets the issue back in other states, giving credence to otherwise baseless arguments that should have been smoked from the get-go.

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. So in Pennsylvania, let’s say it loud and clear: “This is your paycheck (a lot of taxpayer money).  And this is your paycheck on drugs: Absolutely nothing!”

Finally something worth inhaling.

 

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 13, 2012 at 10:26 am Comments (6)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

Who Didn’t Cause The Problem

Sunoco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unions

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

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

Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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