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No ID, No Vote…. Comprende?

Voter ID Bill Would End PA’s Banana Republic Election System

I am not wealthy, but have recently acquired twenty two domiciles throughout Philadelphia.  My real estate prowess has afforded me a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our citizens.

I can vote twenty two times.

You see, I have staked out prime locations, from a cardboard box under the Walt Whitman Bridge to a culvert on Cobbs Creek Parkway to a burnt out shell at 7th and Diamond.   Yes, technically, habitating at these locations makes me “homeless,” but I much prefer the term “voter-enfranchised.”  When you have such a love of democracy, how can anyone have a problem with people who want to vote multiple times, especially the homeless?  (Although, in fairness, dead people should only be able to vote once). 

Incredible as it seems, folks in Pennsylvania don’t have to show any voter identification whatsoever at the polls, with the exception of the first time, in which a non-photo ID, such as a utility bill, is all that is needed. And even that’s a stretch since some politicians ignore the law and permit people, who have never produced identification, to vote.  So in Philadelphia, among other places, voters whose “address” is a park bench or condemned house are regularly pulling the lever.

This system has made multiple-voting quite easy, and affords a vote not only to those who aren’t registered, but those not legally permitted to cast a ballot — the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants, since we aren’t checking citizenship status, either.

 *****

Because former Governor Ed Rendell vetoed legislation requiring voters to show proper identification, election fraud remains rampant.  By definition, allowing people to vote who are not properly registered is disenfranchising those who play by the rules and cast a ballot the right way.  Bottom line: every illegal vote nullifies one made by a law-abiding citizen.

And make no mistake. It has gotten so out-of-hand that illegal immigrants are voting in large numbers throughout the country.  Think about that — citizens from other countries are quite possibly deciding the outcomes of American elections

One only has to look to Florida in 2000 to see a real-world example.  President Bush won by a mere 537 votes out of 5.8 million cast.  As Governor of Texas, the Spanish-speaking Bush had always been popular with Hispanics, particularly Florida’s Cubans.  Given that Florida has a large illegal immigration population, it is not unrealistic to think that at least 537 illegals voted for Bush over Al Gore—the difference in determining the Presidency of the United States.  But since we have so many “sanctuary cities”—places where it is prohibited to ask one’s immigration/citizenship status— there is no way to determine who is an American citizen, let alone who is validly registered.

Rendell’s rationale for vetoing the bill was that it would have created voting problems for the homeless, the poor, displaced victims of natural disasters, and those without access to valid ID.  And now that another Voter ID bill is working its way through the legislature — this time with a solid shot at becoming law given Gov. Tom Corbett’s support— we are hearing the same old arguments.

Here’s a question.  How many natural disasters hit the Keystone State?  And even if one does, how does that obviate the need for an ID?

As far as access to an ID, it is really so excruciatingly difficult to produce a passport, driver’s license, or employee, government or student photo identification? Getting past the rhetoric, it has yet to be shown how a voter identification requirement negatively affects students, the disabled, and, as the ACLU puts it, “disproportionately impacts the elderly, the working poor, and racial minorities.”

Since identification requirements would apparently discourage people from voting, thereby “disenfranchising” them, here’s a solution: let’s have no rules at all.  That way, at least no one will be offended….well, except law-abiding Americans.  But hey, what do they matter, since they’re the only major constituency with no rights.

*****

Buzzwords like “voter disenfranchisement” aside, the Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act, sponsored by State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, is long overdue legislation with which an overwhelming number of voters agree. What could be easier and more common sense that simply documenting who you claim to be when participating in the most fundamental American right?

The true motivations of those opposed are painfully obvious: the vast majority of non-registered voters have Democratic leanings.  They have become an integral part of the Democratic base, and as such, their voting process must be obstacle-free if the Party is to grow.

Translation: when you can’t legitimately win at the ballot box, go to Plan B — steal the election.

Welcome to the Banana Republic of Pennsylvania.

*****

It’s a shame there hasn’t been a meaningful debate on this. But rather than discuss the Voter ID bill on its merits, the Left has chosen to throw out inflammatory accusations of “voter disenfranchisement.” 

At one point in our history, Americans were subjected to discriminatory treatment which truly disenfranchised them, such as being required to pay poll taxes and take literacy tests.  Thankfully, such practices have been rescinded, and comparing an ID bill to what our ancestors experienced is a downright insult to those who fought for the right to vote.

And as long as we’re on the subject of voting reforms, maybe an amendment to the Voter ID bill could be offered that would eliminate the option of single-lever voting. Pulling just one lever is far too easy, and takes the thinking out of voting — which is, obviously, never a good thing.

Americans have become far too complacent when it comes to voting and, as a result, we are reaping the consequences of our corrupted system.  Good policy should never come down to just a “Democrat” or “Republican” one-second pull of a lever.  Instead, making citizens vote for individual over Party may yet inspire them to take a more avid interest in who will be their representatives.

The American voting system isn’t perfect, and Voter ID laws (which have been ruled constitutional) will go a long way to restoring the integrity so crucial in the power to choose one’s own destiny.

Having no voter identification requirement is a disgraceful blow to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that Americans could enjoy free and fair elections. 

In a society where one must show ID to enter office buildings, airplanes, trains or even buy antihistamine at the pharmacy, it is time to give the same level of importance to voting.  The current practice — a truly disenfranchising one — must end in order to preserve our hard-earned freedom.

Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigativereporter 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 21, 2011 at 6:42 am Comments (0)

There. Is. No. Surplus.

The Assembly is set to pass a budget some time within the next two weeks.  As D-day approaches, the howls of indignation and the predictions of doom from the left’s special interest groups have gotten louder and louder.  Now it’s the social services crowd who are screaming bloody murder.

Obligingly, the Post-Gazette has given them whatever coverage they want.  Like this.

Cuts in social services protested as state surplus goes untapped

A group of about 70 social service advocates gathered Friday outside the Piatt Place building, home to Gov. Tom Corbett’s regional offices, to protest cuts to social services and to urge him to use an existing rainy-day fund to ensure that funding for social services remains level. 

Note the woman with the grimace and the thin lips.  You can tell she’s angry.  Outraged, in fact.  Grrr….

Anyhow, never to be constrained by the facts, the Post-Gazette misses one important detail.

There is no surplus.

Despite the additional $500 million in tax revenues that we collected in the first half of the year, our budget still very much in the red.  We still owe $4 billion to the federal government for unemployment compensation.  Our state pension fund is in the hole, too.  Add to that all the debt held by other agencies, authorities, etc., and the real debt number is about $127 billion.

Since $500 million is still way way less then $127 billion, I think we can dispense with the fantasy that we have a surplus.  Instead, when we have is “found money”.  It’s like when you get a bonus at work or when you win $50 on one of those scratch-off tickets.  No sane person would assume that just because he won $50 one week that he’d continue to win it every week after that.  It’s not recurring revenue, just like the $500 million is not recurring revenue.  Smart people take found money and do something productive with it.  Maybe they make a little more on the next car payment.  Maybe they save it for an emergency.  Maybe, if they’re the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they use it to plug a gaping $127 billion chasm in their budget.  Or, if they’re the Post-Gazette or their thin-lipped friend, they SPEEEEEEEEEND it! and let someone else worry about the red ink.

I don’t believe for a second that the teachers’ unions, the social service employees, or any other special interest group doesn’t understand the Commonwealth’s debt situation.  If they understand that we’re in the hole and that sooner or later we’ll have to pay our bills, why aren’t they part of the solution?  Where’s their plan to pay off the credit card?  When the bill comes due, we will pay, and the choice is between a little pain now or excruciating pain later.  The irony is that the very people for whom they claim to advocate will be the hardest hit.  If they care so much about the children, the poor, the indigent, etc., why are they putting all of those people at risk of such grave harm through their fiscal irresponsibility?

The short cynical answer is that they don’t really care, at least the ones out there protesting.  I do, in fact, believe that most teachers and civil servants do their best each day and that they take pride in their professions.  It’s the professionally aggrieved among them who are out in the streets with signs who are the exceptions.  But, unfortunately, those exceptions are the ones who control the debate.  Hopefully the adults among them will stand up and speak up.

But I’m not holding my breath.

June 19, 2011 at 9:57 am Comments (0)

City Council Needs To Fizzle Out Nutter Soda Tax

You have to give credit where it’s due.

Thanks to Mayor Nutter, folks have laughed more over the last two weeks than at any time in recent memory.  If laughing is good for the soul, Philadelphians are in great shape.

What was so funny?

Watching Nutter keep a straight face while proposing another ten percent hike in property taxes (which would be in addition to last year’s “temporary” ten percent increase and the 100 percent increase in the city portion of the state sales tax), higher parking fees, and yes, the resurrected sugary drink “soda” tax, which would  impose a two-cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks.

But Philadelphians’ collective rage at the Mayor’s ideas was downright priceless.

If it wasn’t so funny, it would be pathetic.

*****

The fact that there is any outrage or surprise is inexplicable. What did these people expect?

“These people” being  the 80 percent who just voted for Nutter in last month’s primary election.

No, that’s not a typo.  A whopping eight of ten Philadelphia voters ushered Nutter back into the Mayor’s office (a done deal, since he cannot lose in November), welcoming him back for a second term with open arms.

To those folks, a suggestion: stop doing drugs.  They make you hallucinate.

What part of The Nut’s sham did you buy?  That he would make the city’s business climate better so that it could attract more companies, thus creating more jobs?  Freindly Fire is no economist, but it knows that when you want less of something, you tax it.  That’s fact, not opinion.  So based on the crushing levies being proposed, how exactly the Mayor plans to incentivize companies to stay in the city, much less locate here, remains a mystery.

But how could anyone oppose the soda tax, since its objective is to combat obesity? Oh wait, that was last year’s pitch, which was so disingenuous that the proposal landed in the drink.

This time, the Mayor is taking a different tack, presciently pointing out that no businesses — even the beverage retailers — will really be harmed by the tax.

“These are individual business people who will make individual business decisions,” Nutter said.

Of course, the Mayor failed to explain how paying a mandated soda tax — a certifiable job-killer — would be an “individual business decision,”  since failure to comply would unleash the city’s Gestapo Tax Squad.

When asked if businesses would leave the city, he stated, “No, that’s laughable. I mean, that’s just a cruel joke… they’re trying to scare people with these tactics.”

Spoken like a career politician who has never held a private-sector job in his life, and has absolutely no clue how devastating the soda tax would be on the city’s businesses.

Here’s what the Mayor doesn’t want you to know: a soda tax, while a burden to all, would be especially harmful to the poor, who can least afford another tax. Remember, these people are already living in what is, cumulatively, one of the highest taxed cities in the nation.

More important, there’s no such thing as a “tax on soda.”  It’s a tax on people. Period.

Which is why the Mayor is dancing the Philadelphia Two-Step, doing everything in his power to distract the voters and avoid the real issues — such as taxpayer money going into the city’s coffers every time someone drinks a cold soda on a hot summer day.

Mayor Nutter incorrectly believes that government and “government money” creates jobs and wealth, when in reality, the exact opposite is true.

Government creates nothing, nor should it.  Rather, it’s free people in a competitive environment who are the engine of a thriving democratic society.   Government should be there to serve the people, not the other way around.  Nowhere is that more apparent than in once-great cities like Philadelphia, where the economic lights are on their last flicker.

Math doesn’t lie.  Two plus two will always equal four — whether one chooses to admit that or not.  Out-of-touch politicians like Michael Nutter can promise an empty bill of goods to our citizens. But just because he chooses not to acknowledge the real problems doesn’t mean they’re not there.

*****

The ball is now in City Council’s hands.  They have the sole power to approve or reject the Nutter tax proposals.  While conventional wisdom says the votes aren’t there for passage, nothing is certain, especially with so many retiring Council members with “nothing to lose” if they anger the voters.

Sure, the city is facing fiscal problems, but breaking the backs of citizens to fix problems not of their making is simply wrong.  Retiring or not, what politician really wants his or her only legacy to be a tax-raiser who presided over a violent, insolvent city with vastly deteriorated city services?

It is rare that a City Council vote holds so much importance.  In this instance, the significance is  not just whether a sugary drink tax is passed or defeated, but the message behind that vote:

Will Philadelphia continue its decline by engaging in more of the same failed policies?

Or will it finally turn the corner, firmly stating that it will no longer look to the state and federal governments for bailouts which only serve to pass the buck on accountability? And that, instead, it will pull itself up by its own bootstraps, embracing the spirit of its citizens rather than crushing it?

*****

Here’s the truth. Residents are leaving Philadelphia in droves— some to make purchases across county or state lines to avoid city taxes, and hundreds of thousands who are just leaving altogether.

If Philadelphia is to ever put the brakes on this exodus, and begin the long road back to respectability, it is mandatory for City Council to step up and resoundingly reject the Mayor’s sugary drink tax proposal.

Anything else will just be “sugar” coating a tragic situation — forcing residents to pour a drink much stronger than soda.

City Council, your fifteen minutes are upon you.

Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigativereporter 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 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm Comments (0)

Philly: Not as Dirty as New Orleans

Woo-hoo!

Whenever Philadelphia winds up on a best or worst list, it’s like catnip for the local media.

Travel + Leisure magazine is a year-round treasure trove for these lists, and this month a Web-only article reports that Philadelphia ranked No. 2 on its list of “America’s Dirtiest Cities.”

Number one? New Orleans. Remember how Ray Nagin, who was then New Orleans’ mayor, declared in 2007 that Philadelphia was dirtier than his hurricane-ravaged city?

Well, New Orleans is dirtier. We have proof, based on a poll of visitors to Travel + Leisure’s website. A poll taken last year.

Take that, Ray Nagin.

June 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm Comment (1)

“Dean Wormer’s” Spirit and Freind: Corbett Has A 0.0 GPA

Who can forget the classic scene in Animal House when the boys from Delta fraternity were summoned by Dean Wormer?  As he looked over their grade point averages, he menacingly barked the hard truth:

Wormer (to a drunk Flounder): “0.2… Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

“Daniel Simpson Day… HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete…”

And of course:

MR. BLUTARSKY… ZERO POINT ZERO.”

In the spirit of the legendary Dean, it’s now time to rate Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania House and Senate.  Since all are Republican (with large GOP majorities in the legislature and the Governor a ten-point winner in November), it’s a no-brainer that Pennsylvania should be back on track, given the people’s mandate last year.

But as Blutarsky could tell you, being responsible and fulfilling your requirements feels so much like… work! And where’s the fun in that? 

While politics has always been more style over substance, this time it seemed different.  This time people had the legitimate sense that things would turn around, and life would get better in Pennsylvania….that they could actually trust their leaders to practice what they preached.

But opportunity after opportunity has been needlessly squandered, and those hopes are being dashed.  Not because fighting the good fight has left our politicians spent and exhausted, but because these “leaders” have run state government, as Dean Wormer so eloquently said, in a fat, drunk and stupid way.

                                                                              *****

As a state agency, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) is funded by taxpayer dollars. While programs for the arts are certainly important, they are normally first on the budgetary chopping block, and for good reason.  Political leaders realize that when dollars are scarce, the funding of other initiatives with greater overall value is a better investment.

Even former Governor Ed Rendell understood this, as the budget for the PCA decreased 45 percent over the last several years, with additional money being allocated for education and infrastructure.

So it was quite a shock to many Republicans in the House last week when the Chair of the PCA, siding with Senate Democrats, criticized the GOP for its proposed cuts to the agency. “The arts budget is so small in comparison with the rest of the budget… I was disappointed to see House Republicans slash it by 70 percent,” she publicly said.

But it’s not the criticism of the cuts that has many in the GOP fuming.  It’s the fact that Governor Corbett has passed the buck, making them do the heavy lifting that he consistently promised to do, but on which he has failed to deliver.

How so?  In Corbett’s budget proposal, the PCA’s budget remains virtually unchanged, yet he wants to slash higher-ed spending by 52 percent. How is that remotely close to “everybody feels the pain?”  It’s not, which is why it’s an impossible sell.

Here’s the killer.  Not only does the Governor lose credibility for himself and his Party by not following through on his shared sacrifice mantra, but, specifically, guess why the PCA’s budget didn’t get cut?

Could it be that its Chair is none other than Sue Corbett, First Lady of Pennsylvania?  

So let’s get this straight. The Governor chose not to cut the budget of the agency his wife chairs — forcing the House GOP to do it.  And now, because the First Lady doesn’t like that, she chastises the Republicans who are actually exercising the fiscal restraint championed by the Governor (but seemingly only during the campaign), making the House R’s out to be the bad guys.

Not exactly a smart way to endear yourself to the very people who have to pass your budget.

This momentum-killing message is echoing across Pennsylvania: the Governor only wants shared sacrifice so long as his family, friends and pet projects are exempt.

Maybe that’s why he has signed no significant legislation (unlike his counterparts in Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey) and remains rudderless, weighted down by a 30 percent approval rating and unable to extricate himself from a political quagmire of his own making.

Freindly Fire rarely makes political predictions three years out, given that in politics, three months can be a lifetime.  But Tom Corbett has thus far blazed a course for the history books, possibly destined to do what no Pennsylvania governor has ever done: lose after just one term.  And don’t think for a second that State Treasurer Rob McCord — the Dem’s best shot — isn’t reading the tea leaves.

Oh, we’ve heard all the rationales:

“He’s a prosecutor.” Hey, that’s great — if you’re Attorney General.  But you are Governor, and timelines are not dictated by depositions and court dates.  They are initiated by the immediate need to correct the massive problems facing your constituents — problems that, if not soon fixed, will send the state over the cliff.

 “He’s just trying to get the budget done, and after that’s done, things will roll.” Wrong.  One doesn’t just flip a switch and begin governing.  Ask any insider on either side of the aisle and he will tell you that the Administration is marked by two things: there are no adults running the show, and no one knows who’s in charge.

                                                                                      *****

Rating the House is easy, as it has done the job it promised to do.  It passed the home defense Castle Doctrine; the EITC educational tax credit (giving more parents school choice); restrictions on abortion clinics (in the wake of the horrendous Dr. Kermit Gosnell story); the Fair Share Act (limiting a defendant’s liability in a lawsuit to only his share of blame), welfare reform bills, and a gaming bill that would transform the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement into its own police agency, free from the political influence by the Gaming Control Board.  And two bona fide school choice bills are being introduced by Rep. Curt Schroder. 

Not bad….even Dean Wormer would be impressed.  GRADE: B+

The Senate is just as easy to rate — with opposite results.  Their sole achievement has been sitting on House-passed legislation.  In fact, it has become known as the DOA chamber since its members have repeatedly stated that House bills are “dead on arrival.”  The EITC (sponsored by Rep. Tom Quigley), Fair Share Act (Rep. Schroder) and gaming bill (Rep. Mike Vereb) are just a few of the victims. Of the bills the House has passed, NOT ONE has seen the light of day in the Senate. 

One sad result? It was just announced that a Catholic school is closing in Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s Delaware County district. One has to wonder that if the Senate hadn’t played games with the EITC expansion bill — which passed the House 191-7, and would have enabled parents to receive privately-funded scholarships via participating businesses — maybe the school would still be open, and the taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for educating 100 more students in public schools.

And why was it held up?  So that Senate Bill 1, a low-income school choice bill with absolutely no chance of passing, could be kept alive in the Senate.  How Pileggi sells that to his constituents is anyone’s guess.

GRADE: F — kind of like Flounder’s 0.2 GPA.

                                                                            *****

But now we get to Tom Corbett — the Blutarsky of Pennsylvania.  Thus far, he receives a 0.0 GPA because it’s been one failure of leadership after another. 

Consider:

-          Like Rendell, he used The People’s Money to bail out the private Philadelphia Shipyard so that it could build ships — with no buyers!

-          Like Rendell, he decided to use $20 million of taxpayer money to renovate the Yankees’ minor league ballpark in Scranton — yes, the same Yanks organization that is the wealthiest franchise in America

-          Told the media, “I’ve been down in Philadelphia a lot – you just don’t know about it,” begging the question of whether he is, in fact, the nation’s first Spy-Governor

NOTE: the last time a governor held secret meetings regarding Philadelphia, it was Rendell’s effort to bail out the Inquirer and Daily News.  Coverts ops are better left to the CIA

-          Raised the salaries of his staff, who now average $13,000/year more than counterparts under Rendell

-          Wants to raise the Lt. Governor’s budget by nearly 50 percent

-          Put forth no solution on his mega-campaign promise to privatize the state liquor stores— providing huge momentum to the clerks’ union

-          Was perceived as untruthful concerning his state car. In responding to a media question, he  said he was still using Rendell’s former car, but failed to mention that he was taking delivery of four new SUV’s that same day— at a cost of $187,000

-          Took elimination of collective bargaining off the table — before negotiating with the state employee unions — without getting anything in return

-          Has not addressed the ballooning pension bomb threatening Pennsylvania’s solvency

-          Made no attempt to stop the 25 percent toll increase at the Delaware River Port Authority

-          Stacked the DRPA and PRPA with contributors, lawyers, lobbyists and political insiders

-          Was silent on the controversy involving his Secretary of Health— who didn’t like the eggs he was served at a longtime Harrisburg eatery — and never responded to the owner’s request for justice after the Secretary abused his power

-           Did not fill his cabinet for months, despite the 11 weeks of transition time after the election, putting a hard stop to policy initiatives

-          Did not hold a press conference for a similar amount of time, becoming known as “Governor MIA”

-          Killed Right to Work legislation when a top aide stated that it could never pass in Pennsylvania — infuriating GOP legislators who were circulating such legislation

-          Was absent on the school choice front, helping to throw that issue into complete disarray — to the delight of the teachers’ unions, who didn’t have to lift a finger in opposition

-          Made no attempt to bring business and labor together in calling for a reduction in the nation’s second-highest corporate income tax — a quantifiable job killer

-          Infuriated the press by locking them out of an event to which they were invited

-          Has made no attempt to increase demand for clean, low-cost natural gas to power state building and cars, instead establishing a “Blue Ribbon” commission to study the obvious.

In short, Tom Corbett has made former Governor Tom Ridge look like Chris Christie.  In refusing to use his office as a bully pulpit and barnstorm the state to sell his ideas, Corbett has allowed himself to be perceived as weak and disorganized.  And weakness invites aggression, nowhere more so than politics. So now he finds his agenda under attack not just by the Democrats, but his own Party.

As bleak as it is for the Governor, it’s not over yet. As Blutarsky said, “Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

It’s not too late for Tom Corbett to right his ship, though it will take massive political will from him to do so. But with every day that goes by without that leadership, his journey becomes that much more difficult. 

The fall usually sees a relatively light legislative calendar, so the window to push his vision will be narrow.  And forget 2012, as legislators are loathe to take up any controversial issue in an election year — especially one that will see the Democrats, in all likelihood, take back five or more seats, even with the GOP’s redistricting advantages.  

A wise man once said: If you’re afraid of getting a rotten apple, don’t go to the barrel. Get it off the tree. The voters thought they did just that. 

The open question is what kind of apple they really picked.

 Chris Freind 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 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm Comments (0)

Speaking Truth to Power: The Marcellus Edition

Check out this petulant little foot-stomping piece of trash from the PG.

How’s this for a package: a night in Pittsburgh with free airfare, free lodging and free food. All you need to do is spend two minutes telling the Department of Energy how much you love the natural gas industry.

That’s the deal struck up by Energy in Depth, a lobbying firm that’s paying for pro-drilling landowners to travel from northeastern Pennsylvania to Washington & Jefferson College on Monday night for a public meeting on the industry.

It’s all laid out in an email that was sent Thursday to gas industry supporters by Thomas Shepstone, a consultant for Energy in Depth, which represents independent oil and gas producers. The email offers all-expense-paid accommodations for landowners and industry supporters willing to travel to Washington County from Scranton and Williamsport to tell the federal board how natural gas drilling has improved their lives.

Energy in Depth will even have a bus pickup in Binghamton, N.Y., where legislators have issued a moratorium on the controversial hydraulic fracturing process under debate at Monday’s meeting in Washington.

The Department of Energy is looking to hear “directly from community members,” according to the event description.

About 25 people had expressed interest in traveling, said Mr. Shepstone, who on Friday afternoon was still trying to find flights out of the Binghamton airport. Most will travel the seven hours by bus, he said, but his email offers flights “for older folks, especially … and for heads of landowner groups.”

He refuted allegations that the perks were an attempt to choreograph an open public meeting.

The PG and their anti-Marcellus friends are just beside themselves over the fact that their narrative is being disrupted in their own back yard.  And who does this Shepstone guy think he is, busing supporters in to testify?  Only the SEIU is allowed to do that.  He is clearly one of the Koch brothers in disguise.

We all know what’s going on here. The Obama administration is opposed to developing any kind of energy resource in the US.  By “any kind of energy resource” I mean “any kind that will actually work”, so wind and solar don’t count.  Oil?  Can’t drill for it.  Nuclear?  We’ll all die from a meltdown.  Natural gas?  It kills birds, flowers, and sunshine.  Interestingly enough, he has no problem supporting other countries developing these resources and selling them to us.  Brazilian oil?  Awesome.  New Guinean natural gas?  Really A+.  Coincidentally, George Soros has interests in those kinds of ventures and also hearts Obama.  Obama, in turn, hearts George Soros’ campaign contributions.  Weird.

But I digress.  We’re seeing something new in the public debate that started with the Tea Parties and the Obamacare town halls and is continuing in the debate over the Marcellus.  People who support industry, liberty, and capitalism are not supposed to organize and speak out for the righteousness of their beliefs.  We aren’t supposed to throng auditoriums and denounce our Congressmen for supporting socialized medicine,  we’re not supposed to gather by the hundreds of thousands on the Washington Mall and demand that government get out of our lives, and we’re sure as hell not supposed to travel all the way from Binghamton, NY to Washington, PA, to talk about how capitalism has made our lives better.  The media and the left (but I repeat myself) have no idea what to do.  So they write whiny little pieces like this, use sneer quotes when they talk about “grass roots”, and point out that the people with the “right” opinions are car-pooling while those with the “wrong” ones are *gasp* flying.

We’re at a turning point in the war of ideas about what kind of a nation we want to be, and events like this are where the battles are fought.

June 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm Comments (0)

Rally To Fight Jobs

Mark Green

The “Rally to Fight Fracking” in Harrisburg, Pa., last week got the name wrong. “Rally to Fight Jobs” would have been a better title because stopping fracking – the endgame of the anti-fracking crowd – would cost Pennsylvania many thousands of jobs.

Without hydraulic fracturing technology – which essentially uses water pressure to create fissures in rock to allow natural gas and oil to come to the surface – Pennsylvania would not be able to develop more than a small fraction of its immense natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale formation that runs under much of the state.

This could mean stopping an energy renaissance that is already producing enormous economic benefits, including large numbers of high-wage jobs that are driving unemployment down and putting food on the table for many Pennsylvania families. But, as much as Pennsylvania needs these jobs, few people want them if the cost is significant environmental harm.

The good news is, despite what some may have said at the rally, we don’t have to make that choice. The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates that hydraulic fracturing is safe, and strong oversight by state regulators and promotion of best practices by the industry will keep it that way. We can have the jobs we need while preserving our land, rivers and forests.

Read it all.

June 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm Comments (0)

Reminder: The Saudis Export

What’s the big deal about exporting natural gas?

If the Marcellus formation is “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas”, shouldn’t we do as the Saudis do and export?  Isn’t that kinda the point?

What would happen if Canada decided it no longer wanted to sell oil to the United States, but instead keep its oil for cheaper domestic consumption? (Canada currently provides 20% of US imported oil.)  How much as the oil export industry meant to Canada? (Quite a bit.)

A big argument for converting from oil to natural gas usage is that gas is cheaper.  However, converting to gas would have a long-term effect of a price convergence — oil would become less expensive relative to gas, and gas more expensive relative to oil until they are in rough parity.  Exporting gas merely accelerates this convergence trend, and we won’t even have to go through the very expensive infrastructure conversion process.

June 13, 2011 at 11:06 am Comments (0)

Westboro Baptist Church Gets it’s “Come-Uppance”…

Thanks to a small group of bikers who traveled over 1000 miles just for the pleasure of messing with them!

Bikers? F— Yeah!

June 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm Comments (0)

Newsflash To Nutter: No One Cares About Philly’s Problems

In 1979, Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic didn’t effectively plow the streets after a snowstorm — and as a direct result, he lost his primary election several months later. After similar snowstorms in Philadelphia this past winter, the streets were in deplorable shape — and that’s being generous.

The result? Almost 80% of voters just told Mayor Nutter “job well done” in last month’s primary.

That’s the difference. Chicago is “the town that works.” Philadelphia is completely dysfunctional.

Apathy gets you what you deserve. That passive neglect by city residents has led to Philly’s very deserved reputation as a city of colossal failure, with virtually no promise of a renaissance-like turnaround.  And the numbers bear that out. 

A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust says it all: those who have the means to leave the city do so — as evidenced by 263,000 white residents (one-third of that population) who fled over the last 20 years.  Those who can’t flee get further crushed by an abusive and incompetent government.

Since voters keep sending leaders like Mayor Michael Nutter back to City Hall by overwhelming margins, the rest of the state — particularly non-city state legislators — have increasingly been sending a message to Philadelphia: “We don’t care about your problems any more. You’ve made your bed — now lie in it.”

It’s about time.

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Up until the 50’s, Philadelphia was the last major city to be run by Republicans.  The GOP had become wildly corrupt, and eventually lost power to the Democrats reformers, who have been calling the shots ever since.

The transformation can be summed up this way: Philadelphia went from competent but corrupt Republicans, to incompetent and corrupt Democrats, to what we have today: just incompetent Democrats.

Sure, there is still corruption, but, to be fair, Nutter seems to be cleaner than some of his predecessors.

That’s simply not good enough.  Truth be told, it’s probably a safe bet that the majority of residents would rather have corruption and competence than just plain incompetence.

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Nothing works in the city.  Services are poor and unpredictable, despite the staggering costs that residents and businesses pay for them.  Opening a business is fraught with bureaucracy, red tape, and, many privately say, extortion— both “legal” and otherwise.

The education system not only is in the hole $600 million, despite 70,000 vacancies in the School District’s capacity, but violence is commonplace, making it a deathtrap for many students.  Year after year, its “product” is so bad that a huge number drop out of school, and the rest have virtually no skills to perform even the most menial jobs after graduation.  Only about one-third of its 11th graders are proficient in math, and slightly more than 40 percent proficient in reading, according to standardized tests.  Yet those dismal figures were “earned” despite massive educational spending and smaller class size.  The truth is, the percentages are significantly lower, since the dropouts are not included in the scores.

The pension is catastrophically underfunded, so much that the Nutter has deferred payments for two years, promising to make it up by stroking a check — after his reelection — for $800 million.  There is simply no money for that, so, sooner than later, it is a mathematical certainty that pensioners will begin to receive reduced payments, and, possibly, no payments at all.

Crime is still rampant, yet the Mayor acceded to the Police Commissioner’s implied threat to leave, giving him a $60,000 raise — making him the highest-paid employee in the city.

But rather than embark on a course that would clean up the city and reduce the tax and regulatory burden so that businesses and families would actually want to locate in Philadelphia — thus increasing tax revenue — the Mayor and City Council have done what they always do: put the screws to the residents who can’t afford to vote with their feet.

Philadelphia is, cumulatively, one of the highest-taxed cities in the nation.  From the job-killing wage tax to the 100 percent increase in the city portion of the state sales tax, and from the (“temporary”) ten percent hike in property taxes to the business gross receipts tax, taking more of the residents’ money is the only solution known to Philadelphia’s leaders.

And yet, it’s still not enough.  So Nutter has gone back to the tax well yet again, this time resurrecting his soda tax proposal and pushing for big fee increases in parking rates. Oh, and he’s lobbying for another ten percent property tax increase.  Remember, that would be in addition to the ten percent increase passed last year.

Good move.  That’s sure to bring in new businesses. 

Mayor Nutter’s governing strategy is predicated upon only one thing: handouts from the federal and state government. In fact, he admitted that the city would have been unable to pay its bills last year without federal stimulus dollars.

Up until now, his feeding at the public trough has paid off, as the state always came to the rescue with big bucks.  But the game has changed, as neither the state nor the feds have any money left to give. And now that those welfare checks to the city have dried up, the Mayor doesn’t have a clue how to govern.

This should come as no surprise, though, as he has virtually no experience in the private sector.  How often has he ever had to meet a payroll, or navigate the bureaucratic minefield when trying to open or expand a business? When was the last time he stayed up at night, worrying about covering his employees’ health care costs? And has he ever had to look someone in the face while handing him a pink slip — because the city tax burden was simply too great to keep that valued employee on board?

Career politicians who sit in their ivory towers, insulated from reality, govern from the only “experience” they know: academic theory. And as the exodus of Philadelphians shows, that simply doesn’t cut it.

Philadelphia doesn’t have the luxury of being Washington or New York, where being downtown is a necessity.  Very few businesses have to be in the city, so the margin of error for Philly’s leaders is extremely small. And for those empty nesters and white-collar types who enjoy living in Center City, they are one mugging away from packing it up and moving back to the suburbs.

The lesson is simple: a government that overreaches yet remains incompetent results in a vastly reduced tax base — which in turn leads to a death spiral.  It’s a concept any high schooler could grasp, but tragically, is completely lost on this deer-in-the-headlights Mayor.

After years of misguided policies, there are no easy answers, but the future is easy to predict because there is absolutely no political will to affect real change.  Contrary to the fairy-tale fluff spewed forth at nauseating press conferences, nothing will improve, more folks will leave, Philadelphia will continue its sad decline — and the Mayor will retire on an enviably-large pension.

Perhaps only then will he finally reap the whirlwind of his disastrous policies — when his own pension check bounces. 

What a legacy.

Chris Freind 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 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm Comments (0)

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