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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)

VoterID: To Retain or Not Retain

Why are we even entertaining the question?

The Independence Hall Tea Party PAC, “warned today that it will organize to defeat Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille, a Republican, and PA Supreme Court Justice Max Baer, a Democrat, in their respective 2013 retention races, if Voter ID is not implemented in the November, 2012 General Election,” the group wrote in a press release.

“If Judge Simpson does not uphold the law, we will ask Governor Tom Corbett to appeal the case back to the PA Supreme Court,” said PAC President Don Adams. “Bottom line, if this law is not upheld, we will hold Justices Castille and Baer accountable in their 2013 retention election–and, possibly, Governor Corbett in his 2014 primary contest.”

The group is one of Pa.’s largest Tea Party organizations.

C’mon guys.

Let them hear the case (honestly) and not attempt to put a thumb on the scales of justice by appealing to their basest sense of job-preservation.

It’s not like they don’t know retention stakes. We’ve done it (incredibly) before.

Jeez, and I thought Corbett signed the damned thing.

October 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm Comments (0)

Voter ID – It’s Not Dead Yet

The Supreme Court sent the law back to Commonwealth Court with a message that basically said “figure out if anybody will actually be disenfranchised and make a ruling”.

If nothing else, it will be entertaining to watch liberals hyperventilate about disenfranchising voters for another few weeks as people line up to get their free state-issued voter ID cards.

September 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm Comments (0)

Voter ID Law Goes Forward

I know it’s going to the PA Supreme Court, but a win’s a win.

A Commonwealth Court judge today refused to halt the state’s photo ID requirement to be used for the first time in the November election, saying he believes it will be administered by the state “in a non-partisan, even-handed way.”

Judge Robert Simpson turned down a bid by individuals and groups such as the NAACP and the League of Women Voters to block use of the law. Simpson also said it appears unlikely the petitioners will prevail on merit in challenging the overall law.

Those seeking the injunction did not establish that “disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable,” Simpson said.

Yeah, we’ve all heard all the arguments for and against by now, but the US Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws like the one that PA’s was based on are constitutional. So can’t we just get this wrapped up by November?

August 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm Comments (0)

Gov. Corbett Still Refuses To Answer Sandusky Questions!

 

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

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

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

 

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

 

*****

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1) Politics

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

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

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

 

2) Priorities

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

*****

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Read the column in the Delaware County Daily Times:

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

Gov. Corbett Response to Freind

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

And it backfired in spectacular fashion. Why?

Because Tom Corbett is no Chris Christie.                      

*****

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

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

*****

Dear Governor Corbett:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*****

 

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

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

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

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

 Link to column in Delaware County Daily Times:

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

An accredited member of the medi\a, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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July 17, 2012 at 7:59 am Comment (1)

PA Supreme Court Places Turd in Punch Bowl

Our judicial masters have decided that we’re not having an election in Pennsylvania until they like the election we plan to have.

PA Supreme Court Invalidates General Assembly Redistricting Map

A narrowly divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday invalidated a plan to redraw state House and Senate district lines, calling the redistricting approach “contrary to law” and throwing into disarray plans by candidates and parties for this year’s General Assembly races.

The justices voted 4-3 to send the plan back to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. The majority said their written opinion in the case, which will lay out their reasoning, would be released later.

For those of you who don’t follow the inner workings of politics, candidates have already started collecting signatures to get on the ballot and some have already been campaigning. It’s a little late for a do-over. More to the point, the Supreme Court has just put a halt to representative democracy in Pennsylvania, and they say they’ll tell us why “later”.

Later? Are you freaking kidding me?

It’s times like this that I understand why people used to march through the streets with torches and pitchforks.

January 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm Comments (2)

Fumo Judge Buckwalter Is Disgrace To Federal Bench

Get a hit just one out of three times, and you’re in the Hall of Fame. Get nine out of ten problems right on a math test and you’re a star student. Nail one of the biggest political dirtbags in Pennsylvania history with 100 percent success — gaining convictions on every one of 137 federal counts —  and you’re the bad guy.  You’re the one who gets roundly reamed out in very public fashion.  You’re the one criticized for disregarding the law.

In becoming the new poster boy in the “What the F&*# was he thinking?!” category, United States District Judge Ronald Buckwalter did the unthinkable — again — by giving former State Senator Vince Fumo a Get Out Of Jail (Almost) Free card.

Convicted of charges in 2009, ranging from public corruption to tax offenses, and from fraud to obstruction of justice, Fumo received the appallingly light sentence of just 4 ½ years.  People routinely get sentenced to a whole lot more for a whole lot less.

But this Judge, who before the trial was viewed as somewhat competent, made a series of mistakes after conviction, including incorrectly reading the sentencing guidelines. So he was forced by an appeals court to re-sentence Fumo.

Despite the fact that:

A) Every one of the convictions still stood,

B) Federal sentencing guidelines called for 17 to 22 years,

C) The public and legal community had been outraged at the original lenient punishment, and

D) Fumo showed absolutely no remorse — none —, which the Judge acknowledged,

E) Buckwalter gave Fumo six more months.  That’s not a typo.  Not six more years, which itself would have been woefully inadequate, but six short months.

Just writing that is enough to make you vomit.

Ronald Buckwalter is an absolute disgrace to the federal bench, and his flagrant disregard for justice calls into the question the very nature of lifetime judicial appointments.  There is simply no rational explanation for his pig-headed decisions regarding Fumo, but making the sin mortal was chastising the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

That’s like a parent blaming the teacher because his child bombed the test.

The investigation, which started under then-U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan, was thorough and professional, without so much as a single black mark. The investigators brought what they believed to be an iron-clad case against Fumo, and a jury of Fumo’s peers obviously agreed.

In appealing Buckwalter’s original sentence, the Office again acted responsibly, correctly noting Buckwalter’s mistakes, and seeking the only thing that everyone but Fumo and his dwindling posse wanted: justice.

*****

An appropriate punishment at the original sentencing should have ended the Fumo saga, but like the referee who feels compelled to upstage the players and become the center of attention, Buckwalter seemed to want the headlines for himself.

Mission accomplished Judge.  But at what price?

His disparagement of the U.S. Attorney’s office without a doubt provided ammunition for future defendants to argue that they too are the victims of overzealous, politically-motivated prosecutors. Wittingly or not, Judge Buckwalter opened a Pandora’s Box that will be very difficult to close.

In calling the prosecution excessive, Buckwalter stated that Fumo should not have been charged with so many counts, when in reality, he could have been charged with more. He even went so far as to label the prosecution’s efforts “unfair.”

Unfair?

No, the prosecution was more than fair.  They didn’t commit the crimes.  Vince Fumo did.  What’s patently unfair is letting him off easy because he was an “effective” legislator (which, by the way, is one of the biggest myths in all of Harrisburg, but that’s another story.) and because he was involved in charitable works.

Excuse us, Judge, but what does that have to do with anything?

You do the crime, you do the time.  It’s that simple.  And for the other factors that may have played a role in leniency, they too should have been irrelevant.

If, because of poor health, Fumo would have died in prison if given a longer sentence, so be it. If, because he would have been a very old man getting out of prison had he gotten the lengthy punishment he deserved, that’s his problem.  No one held a gun to Fumo’s head to embark on a life of crime.

To give Fumo what is perceived by most to be special treatment is, in some respects, the biggest crime of all.  Not illegal, of course, as sentencing is at Buckwalter’s discretion, but criminal in the sense that justice was not adequately served.

Perhaps more than any other city, Philadelphia has a reputation for rampant, institutionalized corruption. For decades, the bad guys always seemed to operate with impunity.  From rigged elections to pols illegally living it up on the taxpayers’ dime, the perception, rightly so, was that the politically-connected could operate above the law, and the average Joe got the shaft.

But then a funny thing happened. After witnessing numerous convictions at the city, county and state levels, most notable in the Bonusgate scandal, the public started to believe again.  Hope was renewed.  Turns out that the people, through their honest, hard working prosecutors, were fighting City Hall — and winning.

Faith in truth, justice and the American way, now restored, hit its pinnacle when Vince Fumo, once untouchable, was brought back down to Earth, led away in handcuffs. But when the original sentence was announced, the collective breath of our society was forcibly expelled, the result of an immense kick to the gut.

Yet hope remained, if by a delicate thread.  It wasn’t over.  Maybe, just maybe, things would be made right, and Vince Fumo would finally “get his” at the re-sentencing. But as before, the people were left devastated, angry, and dumbfounded. Somehow, Fumo escaped the fate he deserved.

And with that, all the goodwill and hope that had been cautiously accumulating evaporated in a heartbeat. Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

The bitter hardness that is Philadelphia’s attitude just got stiffer.  As a direct result of the Fumo travesty, no longer do folks believe in fairness, but instead have reverted back to the “they’re all corrupt, they’re all in it together” mentality. And who can blame them?

No matter how you slice it, the bad guys came away with the better hand, and the good guys finished last.  Thank you, Judge Buckwalter.

There is no worse death that the end of hope. And more than anything, that’s why Philadelphia is dying.

Case closed.

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 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm Comment (1)

Curfew Doesn’t Address Why Flash Mobs Riot

The televised images of violence and looting triggered one recurring thought in many people— that this isn’t supposed to happen in our civilized cities.

No, we’re not just talking about London, but right here in Philadelphia, as flash mobs have grown more frequent — and more violent.

To deal with mobs — which keep residents barricaded in their homes and visitors out of the city — Mayor Michael Nutter has instituted a citywide curfew.  Areas around Center City have been targeted with an extra police presence.  

Common sense tells us there will be a drop in flash mobs with the curfew, although violent incidents have still been occurring just outside the targeted zones.

In and of itself, the curfew isn’t a bad idea, but that seems to be the Mayor’s only answer, and that’s the real problem.

It should be obvious that a curfew can’t solve the underlying reasons as to why the uprisings are taking place.  But given the fact that flash mobs have been plaguing the city since early 2010, the Mayor has shown himself to be unable or unwilling to address the root causes.

So the problem only worsens.

*****

Curfews Aren’t A Panacea

Curfews are short term, reactive tools of government, a tactic rather than a strategy.  While people feel safer — which is important to keep society functioning — the false sense of security that a curfew provides often evaporates when the situation doesn’t stabilize or the curfew is lifted.

They are simply too expensive and resource-intensive to be permanently maintained. Police become bogged down in the menial work of processing curfew violators and contacting their parents (who will be hit with fines they can’t afford), instead of focusing on the real criminals prowling the city.

And that is simply not the most effective use of our crime-fighting resources.

The other downside is that curfews create resentment among those affected — most of whom are law abiding citizens — because an entire group now becomes classified as criminals for doing something that two weeks ago was perfectly legal.  The majority are punished for the actions of very few.

Measures which are perceived to unfairly target people based on age, skin color and gender will only enflame tensions, not soothe them. And as a result, people take on the persona of that which they are accused of being.

Curfew aside, perhaps the focus should be on targeting actual crime, and concentrate on arresting actual criminals, (not curfew violators).  If the police catch the bad guys, the prosecutors gain convictions, and judges hand down tough sentences, we’d be light years ahead of where we are today.

Here’s the bottom line: you don’t solve a crime problem by making something a crime that is now not a crime.

So why do we do these things? Because they’re easy and make good 30-second sound bites.  While the Mayor wants us to believe that the curfew will make everything right, in reality we are left with a city that is no safer in the long run.

Beyond the curfew, what does the Mayor suggest to solve the problem? That parents and children need to “get their act together” and that there will be a “zero tolerance” for this type of behavior.

Some parents absolutely need to get to get their act together, but for many, they are doing all the right things yet are still swimming against the tide. Things that would improve their situation are out of their control, and the person who could fix the problems — the Mayor — chooses not to.

Too bad Michael Nutter doesn’t employ a zero-tolerance policy where it’s needed most: educational failure and businesses fleeing the city.

Solve the Problem

Sure, there is an element in every society that is violent and lawless, and nothing can ever change that. The only solution for those thugs is a life in prison.

But for the majority of others, crime doesn’t have to be a way of life, but often is because of the lack of opportunities, both educationally and professionally. That’s where bold leadership comes into play, the ability to reverse years of decline with real solutions to the toughest problems.

Unfortunately, this Mayor is totally lacking in that category.

As Freindly Fire has repeatedly noted, the core reason for our situation is the horrendously bad educational system, which directly results in the lack of hope for young people.

There is simply no possibility of receiving a quality education in Philadelphia, despite taxpayers spending more than $17,000 per student, per year.  Some schools are deathtraps and, incomprehensibly, many sport graduation rates in the 20’s and 30’s — and that’s after a huge number have already dropped out. Despite all the rhetoric promising to turn things around, they have only gotten worse.

When the most basic life skills are lacking, the prospects for a decent job are virtually nonexistent, so many of our youth see the dream of a stable and prosperous life as nothing more than an illusion. Faith is lost.

If young people feel they have nothing to live for, they resort to criminal activity. The youths committing these crimes figure that, before they are thirty, they’ll either be dead or in jail. The “I’ve got nothing to lose” attitude turns them into predators, and law-abiding citizens become their prey.

When education is trumped by survival, everybody loses. But no one wants to fix the problem, instead pretending that more money is the solution. Wrong — it isn’t.  Only educational competition — school choice —can turn things around. But it isn’t happening, so another generation will be lost while gutless politicians continue their inane babble which accomplishes nothing.

And speaking of competition, is it any wonder why Philadelphia can’t compete with the nation’s cities that are growing? Could it have something to do with the fact that, cumulatively, it’s the highest taxed city in the country? And that the situation is only worsening?

Under the Mayor’s watch, property taxes have gone through the roof, the city portion of the sales tax has increased 100 percent, pension payments have been deferred, and numerous other taxes and fees have been instituted or proposed. And that’s in addition to what was already a crushing tax load.

It’s a simple cause and effect.  Businesses flee the city or refuse to relocate here. The resulting lack of opportunities in turn triggers despair and increased crime.

As the recently released Pew survey showed, residents who can depart Philadelphia do, leaving behind an underclass with scant opportunities and even less hope.

You wouldn’t treat a heart attack victim by giving him an aspirin, since that would only be treating a symptom. In Philadelphia, curfews and feel-good fairy tale rhetoric have become the “cure” but do nothing other than speed up the city’s deathspiral.

*****

Until leaders with a true understanding of the problems — and how to solve them — take control, citizens will continue to be held hostage to terrorizing thugs, and brazen crime sprees will increase.

Whether its flash mobs, riots, brutal subway attacks, or cops in the crosshairs, it’s clear that respect for authority is waning, and no one is off-limits to the predators.

Create opportunity, and you create stability.  People with good jobs buy houses, have families and become productive, law abiding citizens with an incentive to keep their neighborhoods safe.

Ignore the problems, and you have a powder keg ready to explode. With nothing to lose, all bets are off — and society takes a hit.

Anything less than real solutions will make flash mobs more than just a flash in the pan, but an unfortunate part of everyday city life.  

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

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

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

 

 

 

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August 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm Comment (1)

A Bill Coddling Illegal Aliens Is… Illegal!

State Rep. Tony Payton Wants Illegals To Have College Preference Over Citizens – An Illegal Act

“College is becoming a pipe dream for too many children, not because they aren’t talented or willing to work hard, but because they can’t afford it.”

That’s a true statement, as tuition costs have far outpaced inflation. So the elected official who said this must have a clue, right? Not a chance.

In an act that simply defies comprehension, State Representative Tony Payton of Philadelphia has just unveiled a bill that “would allow undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at any Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education school, community college or state-related university.” (This is similar to the proposed federal law known as the DREAM Act).

Hey Tony, nice to stick it to all the law-abiding Pennsylvania residents who want to attend college.  And who says good constituent service is hard to find? 

Why the handout to those who least deserve it?  Because, as Tony explains, “undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid, (so) college is often extremely expensive and simply out of reach for many of these students.”

Oh, the tragedy. 

Of course, there is something that apparently hasn’t occurred to Tony as to why federal financial aid — political codespeak for American taxpayer dollars — is not available to these folks. They’re ILLEGAL.  As in, they have broken the law to get here, and are breaking the law being here.  Every single thing they do hurts American citizens and throws our nation deeper into the red. 

Yet not only are we supposed to feel guilty, but if Tony has his way, we should compensate them for their plight by sacrificing our children — so that theirs can have an education courtesy of the taxpayers.

Let’s set the record straight with facts — not rhetoric.  Illegal immigrants depress wages and take American jobs (and please, spare us the tired argument that “they only take the jobs Americans don’t want” — completely false). They cost taxpayers hundreds of billions (thousands directly out of each American family’s pocket) through healthcare costs, education expenditures (in Pennsylvania, every illegal in our public schools costs $15,000 per year, and that’s not including the extra money needed for additional teachers and classrooms), prison expenses, and yes, government services.

In the case of higher education, as addressed in Payton’s bill, it’s important to remember that just because we are talking about state universities, space is not unlimited. So one of two things is true: with illegals in attendance, the college will either 1) close its doors to new applicants after a given class is filled, thereby denying the RIGHT of a legitimate Pennsylvania resident to attend that school, or 2) once a classroom hits capacity, the need to hire additional professors and expand school facilities is triggered — both expensive propositions borne by the forgotten taxpayer.

The only saving grace is that, with Republicans in control of Harrisburg, Payton’s bill should have no shot at passage. But that’s not the point.  The real question is how such a bill could even be considered in the first place, and how 11 other states already passed similar legislation.

And quite frankly, this author doesn’t know what’s worse: the fact that a bill was introduced that empowers people to break the law, or the almost complete silence of Payton’s colleagues and the media on such a feat.

*****

When you cut right down to it, Tony Payton’s bill advocates the commission of a crime, and there isn’t any way to spin that to the contrary. (Federal law explicitly states that aiding an illegal immigrant is a crime). Among other things, it would aid and abet known lawbreakers. Period.  The fact that the feds do this on a regular basis, along with states (such as issuing driver’s licenses to known illegals) and municipalities just rubs salt in the wound.  The Government should not be above the law.

But if this debate is to advance, it is important to focus on the core issue.  And that is not whether a wall should be built (or if it is a racist barrier), or whether amnesty is a godsend (or a sell-out deal to the pro-illegal immigration forces). 

While these are important side discussions, the only relevant point is that when individuals attempt to circumvent a law because they don’t like it, the entire American system of justice — the very rule of law that keeps us civilized — breaks down. Once elected officials start picking and choosing what laws they will follow (setting the example for their followers to do the same), we all take a hit.

There’s no getting around the fact that Payton’s legislation overtly mocks the law. Under his bill, eligible students would have to attend a public or nonpublic secondary school in Pennsylvania for at least three years (an admission that we the people have already forked over at least $50,000 in education costs), pay state income taxes for at least three years prior to enrollment in college (how can you pay income taxes if you are here illegally, and how can the state abdicate its responsibility to apprehends these known lawbreakers), and provide an affidavit to the institution of higher education that the student will file an application to a become a permanent resident (giving a sworn legal document to a state entity that attests that one is here illegally, without fear of repercussion, is just insane).

Since the illegal immigration debate lends itself to easily getting off track, here’s the bottom line: For those who believe illegals should have rights, change the law to accommodate them — don’t break it.  Lobby for amnesty and fight to change the definition of “illegal immigrant,” but do not cavalierly pick and choose what laws you want to follow because you happen to disagree with some.

That’s what they do in places like Iraq.  It is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

On behalf of Rep. Payton’s real constituents, shame on you, Tony. 

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

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

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

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June 24, 2011 at 10:17 am Comment (1)

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