That 41 Republicans signed the recent discharge petition to resurrect the zombie Export-Import bank is beyond maddening. The Pennsylvania Republicans joining with the Democrats in this effort are Mike Kelly, Glenn Thompson, Ryan Costello, Tom Marino, Lou Barletta, and Charlie Dent.

Hearts and minds are gradually persuaded from one ideology to another in part via… [-ahem-] water cooler talk. When my coworkers accuse the GOP of looking out for corporate interests at the expense of everybody else, it’s policies like the Ex-Im bank that increasingly make me shrug my shoulders. It’s hard to defend a party that’s supposed to be for free markets when it clearly isn’t for free markets.

Ex-Im is not good policy. It is not good politics. Democrat-lite doesn’t cut it.

October 12, 2015 at 11:29 am Comments (0)

Garbage ads

It appears that Scott Wagner has won a special election for PA Senate as a write-in.

I’d like to preface the rest of this post by confessing that I did not follow this race at all and have spoken to nobody about it.  I couldn’t tell you whether Scott Wagner is the devil or the messiah.  Thankfully, that determination is irrelevant to my point.

The person or people who approved these attack ads (one ; two) need to seriously rethink how they want to run Republican campaigns.

Chiefly, I want to throw a serious red flag over the use of “millionaire” as a pejorative.  Our party ran Mitt frakking Romney for President a mere 16 months ago, and somebody with the memory of a horsefly thought it was a good idea to rag on a guy for being a millionaire?!? Do you think we’ll never run any more rich candidates?

These ads strike me as the type of feeble ads Democrats run against Republicans.  Running ads like these does nothing but reinforce clichéd Democratic themes about Republicans.  You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Look, you want to run ads against a guy, fine. Knock yourselves out.  Just have some self-awareness and perspective when you do so.

March 18, 2014 at 10:28 pm Comments (0)

A Lack of Nuance

Having recently railed against the “establishment”, it’s time for a crack at the base.

As I have previously asserted, the base is allergic to compromise.  While this idea is widely taken as a given among the establishment and the Left, few take the time to analyze the behavior.  The problem is actually a somewhat broader aversion to nuance.  Outrage fuels donations, and donations pay the bills, so there’s somewhat of a negative incentive for base-oriented groups to promote nuance.  But a lack of nuance can often inhibit constructive conservative policy movement.

A thought experiment: What if Democrats credibly and convincingly offered to cut Federal spending to such a degree that the budget would come into immediate balance, and also could somehow fix the Federal entitlement problem.  In exchange, Republicans would agree to a one percent increase in the personal income tax.  Do we take the deal?

True, the parameters of the thought experiment are absurd on their face, but for the sake of argument, take it for what it is.  We’d be fools not to take this deal, right?

Whoa, now!  Once you start to entertain this deal, you’re “for” raising income taxes.

Well, no, you weren’t really “for” it.  You were willing to make a concession in order to get a number of other things that you wanted and thought were more significant.

Take a more realistic issue, immigration.  The moment a Republican starts having any sort of conversation about immigration reform,  he is blasted as being “for” amnesty.  (The opponents of immigration reform use the term “amnesty” rather promiscuously, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use it here and not bother about details of what does or does not constitute “amnesty”.)

Understand that, to the Left, some form of amnesty is a sine qua non for any concessions on significant border security improvements, employment e-Verify, or – heaven forbid – voter ID.  You don’t even begin to have negotiations about how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants until you lay your amnesty bargaining chip down on the table.

But by reacting violently to this potential offer of amnesty as something we could consider giving up in order to get a better outcome, the base makes this a question of amnesty vs non-amnesty, not a question of what we could possibly get in exchange for amnesty.  When we put the focus on what we get in exchange for amnesty, we put the Democrats on the defensive.  When we focus on whether to offer amnesty at all, we make ourselves irrelevant, and the status quo reigns.

To be fair, Republican politicians have a history of being cheap dates.  I dare say though, it wouldn’t kill us to “show a little leg” on this issue.  I’m not “for” amnesty, I’m for using the offer of amnesty as a means of getting more significant concessions from the other side and for (hopefully) putting the issue behind us.  If we get a bad offer in return, we walk away and blame the Democrats for not being serious and for keeping people in the shadows unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, nuance requires trust, which is in short supply.

March 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)

A Lack of Trust

Some weeks ago I was asked my thoughts about the way forward for the conservative movement. I felt a little like I had been asked to provide a proof for Einstein’s general relativity and then handed a napkin and a crayon.

I mentioned the obvious “base-vs-establishment” split, but could not see an obvious way forward.  If anything, the divide continues to grow wider.  Both sides are at some fault, and I would be hard pressed to say which is more blameworthy.  However, the flaws of the base are fairly well known and understood, so I will be focusing more on the “establishment”.

The authority of the “establishment” is predicated on two assumptions.  Firstly, that they know what they are doing, and secondly, that the base will get at least some of what they want by deferring at times to the party leadership.  This is the essence of the unwritten compact among Republicans.

Both legs of this platform have been thrown into serious question in the last few election cycles. The McCain and Romney campaigns epitomize the failures of the party, both technical and ideological.  Our last two standard bearers did not understand the philosophy underlying the conservative movement, and then when pressed had no chance of adequately conveying or defending it.  Steve Schmidt should have his proverbial license to campaign revoked.  There are many more examples than these, which are merely the most prominent.

The transactional leg of the compact is no less suspect.  Pennsylvania Republicans, despite controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, have been unable or unwilling to take even small steps toward privatizing our Soviet-style liquor stores, nor have they been able to mitigate the certain fiscal doom of the looming pension crisis.  Federally, Republican leadership recently capitulated on the debt ceiling hike without getting so much as the re-naming of a post office in return.  (Please note, I have argued for having fights on appropriation bills and continuing resolutions, not the debt ceiling.  Nevertheless, the swift and unconditional surrender was a little unsettling.)

The “establishment” relies on a model of the electorate that assumes voters (1) have consistent policy preferences that (2) are logically consistent and unidimensional and (3) that voters cast their votes according to which party or politician best satisfies these policy preferences.  It’s an interesting model, one that has served academics and political practitioners for decades.  But like all models — even the useful ones — it is wrong.  It also happens to be least applicable where practitioners would most like to apply it — with the “swing”/”centrist” voter. The major problem with this seductively simplistic model is the general and perpetual prescription of retreat on all substantive issues.

The base, understandably irritated with the strategy of perpetual retreat and burned by a few too many failures of the transactional leg of the compact, has become allergic to compromise on any issue. Simply, to the extent that the base ever trusted the establishment, the base doesn’t trust them any more at all.

It doesn’t help matters that the establishment has declared open war against the Tea Party.  To be fair, the feeling is often mutual, but party leaders “misunderestimate” the intensity and resolve of the base.  Attacking or delegitimizing certain elements of the base/Tea Party (-even deservedly-) does not make the party leadership any more attractive.  Democratic pollster Pat Caddell threw up a flag prior to the 2010 elections that America was in a “Pre-Revolutionary” state. Among Republican base voters, this feeling has not subsided.  Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners have seemingly scoffed at the state requirement to register their weapons.  (And why should they, when registration seems to lead to police abuse and eventual confiscation of weapons.)  Those Connecticut —Connecticut— gun owners are surely not all tea partiers.  And yet, they have shown a clear disregard for state control.  This is not how a healthy democracy functions.

The base, much to its detriment, seems not to comprehend that the electorate is against us.  Frankly, it is a little incomprehensible to me that Obama was re-elected, and yet here we are.  The general electorate was never particularly well-informed or sophisticated, but seems much less so in recent years. Correspondingly, there has been an increase in “liberal” political identification amidst the massive disruption and likely collapse of Obamacare, the biggest liberal project in several generations.

The common ground may be what the base wishes to do, but can’t seem to, and what the establishment may be somewhat better equipped to do, but won’t, and that is to fight the basic linguistic and cultural assumptions that have crept into the swing-voter’s mind.  Maybe once in a while somebody should explain the difference between “insurance” and pre-payment for service.  Or explain that “access” is not equivalent to “subsidy” (birth control), and lack of subsidy is not equivalent to a “ban” (embryonic stem cell research).  When debating Democrats, have our candidates ask, “and then what will happen?”, per Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics.  Explain that the Democrats would rather that the poor were poorer when it comes to “inequality”. And once in a blue moon, explain that the economy is not a zero sum game.

But as things stand now, there’s just no trust to be found for Republican leadership.  Until some modicum of trust can be re-established, hostilities will persist.

February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm Comments (0)

Ryan-Murray Budget: Outrage level 30%

Look, Ryan-Murray is not good. I’d probably vote against it if I were in Congress.

However, I have a hard time getting too incensed about it. One of the problems of our contemporary politics is the seeming inability to differentiate the merely bad from the atrocious. Ryan-Murray is merely bad. It is not the WORST THING EVER!

The bad parts are indeed bad. Perhaps Ryan was ignorant of this provision, but under the deal a tax increase can pass the Senate with a simple majority vote. Probably more importantly, the sequester has been weakened. It’s not quite right to say it’s “broken”, because much of it remains in place, but it’s not quite right to say that it’s still intact, because it isn’t. The precedent has been set that spending can be increased. If you get the impression that Ryan is willing to pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today, you’d be basically correct.

In a half-hearted defense of Ryan, certain things should be pointed out. The headline number of spending increase/decrease is essentially negligible in the grand scheme of things. Defense spending gets some breathing room, without which there’s a chance we would have lost the votes of a bunch of GOP House members and gotten a worse deal. The Congress is reclaiming from the Executive some of the fiscal authority it had squandered. So, we get back to something approaching normal order, and in theory we have a firmer base from which to attempt to hold ground.

In theory.

It’s not quite a crap sandwich. It’s perhaps a sandwich with some crap-onnaise on it. At the very least it’s a sandwich upon which Harry Reid farted after having eaten quite a bit of Mexican food.

Given how little anything changes with this agreement, I’d say I’m outraged about a 3 on a 10-scale. I can’t give myself an aneurism about this deal. I’m not making this a personal “key vote”, but neither am I going to be very happy with those who vote for it.

December 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm Comments (0)

Teaching Chimps to Fly F-16s

You’ve done your required reading, right?

I could probably write ten thousand words about the pair of NYT articles I’ve begged people to read, but I’ll keep my response to a few select points.

Digital Divide

Overall I find little fault with the article’s take on this issue. One simple graph makes that apparent. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.


From what I can gather from various reports about the Romney strategy, there really was no messaging strategy. They decided to make one last go at the white-majority strategy, with catastrophic results. As pollster Kristen Anderson was quoted in the NYT piece, “Did you not see the census? Because there was one! And it had some pretty big news — like that America’s biggest growing population is the Latino community! Surprise, surprise! How have we not grasped that this is going to be really important?”

We’ve known about the diminishing white majority for some time. We didn’t just wake up one morning to a bunch of Latin-American immigrants and their children.

The excuse of the bad polling model not is a very good one. Not because it was impossible to have gotten that wrong, but because the strategy they decided to implement was a narrow, skin-of-your-teeth strategy that required every last thing to go right with no margin of error, even if they did manage to get the demographic weighting right, which they didn’t. There was no room in the Romney strategy for expansion. No room to persuade anybody, and the results show it.

Issues and Deal Breakers

Issues have some importance, though not all issues are created equal. The evidence that people really don’t vote exclusively on issues keeps piling up. I might even be persuaded to argue that issues are not even of primary importance. There are certain issues though –the deal-breakers– that deserve some attention.

In my opinion, abortion and the entirely fabricated birth control issue should not be deal breakers for most swing voters. (For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it at that.) Same-sex marriage may for some folks be a deal-breaker, though I can’t imagine it’s too terribly many since Obama ran in 2008 on a tepidly anti-SSM position. At the very least SSM combines with abortion and birth control to create a social super-issue. I really don’t have a good answer to this, though I would like to point out something that rubbed me the wrong way. The above-mentioned Kristen Anderson was said to identify herself as “socially tolerant” rather than “moderate”, as “moderate” is something like “Satanic” to base conservatives. I object to this supposedly improved designation on the grounds that everybody else must be “intolerant” if they object to gay marriage. I suggest reworking this, perhaps to “libertarian”.

Immigration reform is a deal-breaker for Hispanics. No, it is not going to mean Hispanics will suddenly wake up to Republicanism. It means we get an opportunity to make our case. And yes, as the article suggests, Rubio qua Rubio will not save us.

Nobody Ever Gets Fired

Eric Telford:

“I think there’s a very incestuous community of consultants who profit off certain tactics, and that creates bias and inhibits innovation.”

I’ve been complaining about this for a long time. If major changes don’t occur in the wake of 2012, the GOP should just pack up shop.

More than Tech – The Tin Ear problem

Of course, the problem is much greater than just the internet and social media. (I think most of the subjects interviewed in the article would agree to that general proposition.)

A major component of the techie complaint is that the Romney team ran an old-style TV and traditional media campaign. This is true, but I would also argue that even on traditional grounds the Romney camp exhibited a lackluster showing. They seem to have regressed from the Bush-era campaigns. “Applebee’s America” was published in 2006, so long ago that its antiquated title sells short the wisdom within its pages. Democratic campaign operations have taken this wisdom and expanded upon it. It seems to be a remedial reading recommendation for the Romney campaign.

Something the NYT article doesn’t directly address is what I’ll call the “tin ear” problem. Do Republicans not understand how they sound?

How many times lately have you heard the term “balanced approach”? How many times have you heard a Republican competently respond to that phrase? Even Deval Patrick and Harold Ford Jr recently talked about “economic growth” on Sunday morning talk shows. Most astonishing to me is the jujitsu reversal Obama has managed on closing tax loopholes. This is a Republican issue! Yet somehow Obama has made Congressional Republicans defenders of everything that is wrong with the tax code.

Do they not understand how badly they are being beaten? The more I see this pattern of behavior, the more I am convinced that they really don’t get it.

Forget “rapid response”, there’s not even a competent slow-response team.

Sometimes I think our problem is so enormous it would be easier to teach chimpanzees to fly F-16s.

March 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm Comments (0)

Required Reading

From, of all sources, the New York Times.

Yes, I know.  But they’re good.

Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?
Behind the Cover Story: Robert Draper on Why the G.O.P. Is So Slow to Adapt to the Digital World

I plan on eventually commenting on these as I don’t quite agree with everything, and think a few things were overlooked.

And yes, these are absolutely required readings.  There will be a quiz afterward.

February 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm 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:


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




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

re: Perspective

Of course the constructive thing to do is take a deep breath and soldier on, … swinging pendulum or whatever.  The darker part of my psyche thinks that with this election we’re going to start seeing some of those irreparable consequences folks have been talking about, and that even if things swing back our way in four years there might not be much left for us to work with.

As for learning our lessons, I’m not holding my breath.  You’d have thought we would have learned something from Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, but no.  And that’s not to pick on the Tea Party, because the Establishment ran losers too (-most notably, Mitt Romney).  Candidate quality is of utmost importance.

Since every other pundit in the universe has spun this election to fit his or her own pet Theory of Everything, I might as well too….

The winning formula that I have discussed at great length is to find a high quality conservative candidate who knows how to translate conservative ideas to non-ideological/moderate/middle voters.  We had pretty much the opposite of that in Mitt Romney, a mediocre candidate with a wobbly conservative history who had no chance of conveying conservative thoughts to moderate voters because he really didn’t understand them himself.  (This would be why I was for Pawlenty, self-professed “Sam’s Club Republican”.)

Agreed, Fred, we should entirely reject the notion that we must become Democrat-lite and either abandon or moderate every conservative position under the sun.  Everybody say it with me now — swing voters don’t vote on ideology.

The one policy exception I see is immigration.  I don’t like to play this card too often, but I’ll BLAME BUSH for screwing up the immigration issue.  The “comprehensive piece of sh*t” he cooked up was so bad that even notable immigration softie Bill Kristol didn’t like the bill.  That fight brought out the worst of people on both sides of the argument, and the real loser was the GOP –even after we nominated John McCain, king of comprehensive immigration reform.  Now Obama will get to be the guy who claims credit for delivering immigration reform — ironically after avoiding the issue in his first term, and while following a bizarre gun policy wherein a key element was that there would be a bunch of dead Mexicans.

Going forward, I’ll try to be as positive as possible.  Just understand that privately I’ll be shopping for miscellaneous firearms and lingering at Cabela’s.  And I am definitely interested in Fredistan.

November 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm Comments (0)


I don’t know if you’ve read any commentary about the 2012 elections recently–heaven knows it’s hard to find–but from what I can tell, the only chance that Republicans have of ever winning another election for anything anywhere is to immediately run to the left of Debbie Wasserman Schultz on everything.

Let’s all just take some Nyquil and listen.

Conservatives are textbook manic depressives. Remember on November 5 when we were going to win everything–White House, Senate–everything? Then November 7 came and we, reassured by all the pundits on the left and right, became convinced that, conservatism and the Republican Party were so discredited that all elected Republicans should just give up their seats to the nearest Democrat?

Apart from just being insane, that kind of thinking betrays a complete lack of perspective. In 2001, Karl Rove talked about a permanent Republican majority. In 2004 George Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in the US. In 2006 and 2008 we had back-to-back Democrat waves which supposedly irrevocably altered American politics. That lasted until 2010 when Republicans picked up 63 seats in the US House and finished election night with 30 governorships. That has all happened in the last 11 years of the 236-year history of the Republic.

Politics is a constant state of ebb and flow. We need to learn our lessons from 2012 (e.g., don’t nominate idiots for the US Senate, even in red states), correct the mistakes we can (e.g., if you nominate an idiot for the US Senate, make him drop out at the soonest possible opportunity using whatever shameless and/or barely-ethical tactics are necessary), and get ready for 2014. Everything else is just navel-gazing, and it’s not productive.

Case in point: if you’re not familiar with Morton Blackwell, he’s a guy you should get to know. He’s been involved in conservative politics longer than many of us have been alive, and he has this to say about the election of 2012.

I had a very exciting time at the Republican National Convention. My conservative allies and I all worked very hard in the presidential election.

When I woke up the day after the election, everything I had worked for appeared to be in ruins. An extreme leftist had been reelected president of the United States.

Some liberal Republicans immediately began to blame newly activated conservatives for the presidential defeat. I knew they were wrong. It was clear to me that these newly active conservatives would be the key to major future victories for conservative principles.

The day was Wednesday, November 4, 1964.


Read the whole thing.

November 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm Comments (0)

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