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Lazy Media Gets “F” For Its Heat-Wave Coverage

The media’s nauseating and nonstop coverage of the (typical) summer heat forsakes more important stories, such as the Norway massacre.

Gary Kirkpatrick runs Ned’s Bar in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  If you stopped in for a cold one recently, Gary would have gladly given you the rundown of all things happening in that part of the Sooner State.  As home to the Cherokee nation, and sitting on the boundary of the wild and scenic Ozark Mountains, Tahlequah is never dull.  With so much going on around him, Gary had lots to say. 

But there was one thing he didn’t mention: the weather.  Which, come to think of it, was amazing.  Not just because he was one of the few who didn’t get sucked into the nauseating, 24/7 news coverage of the “nation’s heat wave,” but because, if anyone is entitled to blabber on about the summer temperatures, it’s folks like Gary Kirkpatrick.

You see, in Gary’s neck of the woods, it wasn’t 95 degrees for just a few days like on the East Coast, spiking past 100 for several hours (with the media hyping a “heat index” of 105, whatever the hell a heat index is).  It was a tad hotter.

As in, over 100 (real) degrees — for over 30 straight days.  That’s a solid month of topping the century mark.  And was there complaining?  Few and far between.

 Maybe that’s because many mid-westerners still exhibit the salt-of-the-earth, tough-as-nails pioneering spirit that built the nation.  And maybe it’s because East Coasters are getting increasingly soft.

But one thing is certain: the media vastly over-sensationalized the story, to the point where the heatwave was the only topic of conversation for millions of Americans. Their scare tactics petrified seniors, made parents of young children frantic, and otherwise consumed a nation, forsaking many other far more important stories.

The media’s abdication of all things related to doing its job has it fast approaching the esteem level held for lawyers, politicians  and the cockroach — with the cockroach being held in higher regard, of course.

*****

You could take any TV segment from a decade ago about summer heat and air it today — and no one would know the difference.  It is, quite literally, the exact same storyline with the exact same verbage.  The only thing different is that the hype factor has increased exponentially.

And it’s not just that the stories are mundane, but they’re produced in a way that would offend a third-grader’s intelligence. That’s not to suggest that they should appeal only to Ph.D’s, but come on… the American people are not that stupid.  They don’t require the media’s condescending, dumbed-down approach, but in fact deserve solid and relevant reporting.

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“Place the metal fittings of the seatbelt into the other, and tighten by pulling on the loose end of the strap.” “Pour shampoo into wet hair.  Lather. Rinse.” “When it’s hot, drink plenty of liquids, don’t exert yourself outside, and seek air conditioning.”

Really?

The airlines and shampoo companies have those ridiculous instructions for liability reasons, since trial lawyers (see “cockroach” category above) sue for every reason, even inconceivable ones.

So what’s the media’s excuse?  Let’s be honest.  If folks don’t know that they should avoid excessive heat, drink water, and not resurrect a jogging regimen after 20 years (and 80 pounds ago) when the mercury hits 95, then nothing the media tells them will make a bit of difference.  Idiots will be idiots.  But the vast majority of people have common sense, so the ridiculous stories airing nonstop serve no purpose.

And really, what do we expect? It’s July in America.  It gets hot.  Philadelphia, Washington, and New York routinely see temps in the mid to upper 90’s during this time.  How is that news?  The fact it breaks a one-day record from a whopping five years ago is newsworthy? And when it breaks 100, you’d think it was the end of the world.  Is there any real discernable difference between 96 and 100 anyway?  Or 93 with high humidity versus 100 without it?

So extensive was the media’s coverage that it took significant channel surfing to find any details on the horrific massacre in Norway. In fact, just a day after the shooting which left scores of children dead and a government building in shambles, a national network dedicated less than one minute to the story. And that was only after at least 12 minutes of coverage dedicated solely to the heat.

Is it any wonder why so many around the world view America disdainfully? Here we have a major terror attack against a close ally (Norway has a military contingent in Afghanistan, and has been threatened by al-Queda in the past), and the identity of the perpetrator(s) and possible connections to other terrorists had not been fully determined. 

Yet we give those tragic events nary any coverage, instead incessantly rolling the same tape on something that happens every year — a hot spell during a typical American summer.

Compare that to the outpouring of support from overseas and their in-depth coverage of hurricanes hitting America, the Alabama tornadoes, our flooding rivers— and terror attacks, including the Oklahoma City bombing, to which many experts likened the Norway attack.

The media has reinforced what so many overseas already think: Americans are arrogant and self-absorbed, caring not about the troubles of others.  And that’s the biggest tragedy, because the reality is so very different.

The American people, as individuals, and their government (to a fault) comprise the most generous nation the world has ever known. Money, logistics, care packages, and yes, their prayers, are immediately sent around the globe whenever a crisis erupts, with no expectation of payback.  We do this not for calculated future gain, but, trite as it sounds, because it’s simply the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, the media overshadows the true American spirit by ignoring the gripping stories of the day in favor of recycled garbage that focuses on 1) things we already know, and 2) things we cannot change.

In the same way that we were treated to the Year of the Shark several summers ago (when shark attacks were actually down), this has become the Summer of Record Heat.  Both are codespeak for media laziness.

The biggest irony is that the media hasn’t changed its ways, content to sensationalize the mundane while ignoring the real stories (READ: the ones which require an honest day’s work), yet its ratings continue to plummet. Call me crazy, but there might be a correlation there.

Sounds like a great story.  Just don’t expect to see it on TV — or this column in many papers.

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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July 30, 2011 at 8:24 am Comments (0)

Economic Benefits of Fracking

From Americans for Tax Reform:

Marcellus Shale Economic Impact, Bigger Than We Thought

Study shows increase in jobs, revenue, and GDP

Penn State recently finished its third study documenting the development of the Marcellus Shale and its economic impacts on Pennsylvania and the United States. The report shows that the Keystone State is on track to be adequately prepared with enough natural gas to power everything from a home, to an office building, to consumers in other states. A summary of the report’s findings are as follows:

A Lucrative Investment – private companies are on track to continue investing billions of dollars in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus natural gas. According to the study, $5.3 billion was spent on drilling activities in 2009, an estimated $11.5 billion will be spent in 2010, and on pace to $12.7 billion in 2011.

Increases GDP, Jobs, and Revenue - $11.5 billion spent in 2010 generated $11.2 billion in additional value. The employment in the state jumps to +336,000 jobs for 2011-2012. And $2.6 billion generated in additional tax revenues during 2011-2012.

This dramatic increase in Marcellus drilling greatly surpasses conventional gas wells. Penn State found that natural gas production from the Pennsylvania Marcellus will average 3.5 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day during 2011 and will most likely surpass 6 BCF during 2012. When at the same time approximately 0.5 BCF per day of production is generated from conventional gas wells.

That’s not all. This study projects that Marcellus gas production could expand to over 17 BCF a day by 2020. Lastly, the study finds Marcellus Shale will greatly increase domestic energy production, and reduce government deficits.

Despite the good news, gas development costs in Pennsylvania are relatively higher than other regions due to more regulations. We all must do our part to make sure the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania lives up to the expectation s cited in this study. So, please contact Pennsylvania’s legislative leaders to let them know you support the production of Marcellus Shale and that overregulation is severely holding back an industry that matters to us all and that calls for a punitive tax on the industry need to be rejected.

Read more: http://www.atr.org/marcellus-shale-economic-impact-bigger-thought-a6369#ixzz1TVmsFD5x

 

July 29, 2011 at 12:18 pm Comments (4)

Dueling Banjos…I mean Press Conferences

Last night was the dueling press conferences on the debt ceiling debate.  I didn’t watch the actual press conferences, I watched the analysis. I skipped the actual press conferences for a few reasons – 1. I kind of figured what they were going to say.  2.  I don’t enjoy watching Obama speak – it’s rather painful for me.  3.  I didn’t feel like getting upset.

The analysis this morning was very revealing to me.  Good Morning America used about 2-3 minutes to cover the story.  They gave equal time to Obama and Boehner.  That’s not a good sign for Obama.  The highlight reel explains why – it showed Obama blaming House Republicans.  Wow, not good for Obama.

Maybe this is the full culmination of Obama’s campaign theme – Hope and Change.  Let me explain.  Obama is Hoping that the American people buy his rhetoric that it’s someone else’s fault yet again and that they he is innocent.  There’s Change coming alright – change in the way of a downgrading in America’s credit rating.

I’ve seen several articles written on Obama’s leadership style (or lack of one).  Someone wrote about Obama leading from behind.  I can’t fault Mr. Obama though, he’s not even on the first rung of the leadership ladder.  The first rung is self-love.  If you can’t love yourself, how are you supposed to love others.  It’s painfully obvious that Mr. Obama has serious self-love issues.  From my observation, he has self-loathing issues.  Above self-love is self-respect.  Above that is self-leadership and lastly, formal leadership.  We’ve got a long way to go with Mr. Obama on this ladder.  Aren’t we all fortunate enough to be a part of his (hopefully, only) four year therapy session?

I think recent events have shown that Mr. Obama has missed his true calling.  I don’t believe he was called to elected office, but something close to that – he’s in the right neighborhood, just at the wrong house.  I think he was called to be a campaign strategist, advisor, and consultant.  He knows how to campaign, I’ll give him that.  But he’s a crappy leader.

July 26, 2011 at 7:34 am Comments (0)

Debt Ceiling question

Can anyone answer me this question – If we don’t raise the debt ceiling, will that mean we default on our debt?  Or will it mean that we simply cannot borrow more money?

Is it true that the government has, as it’s first obligation, to make debt payments?  If this is the case, then we shouldn’t go into default.  Default is when we can’t make our debt payments. Default is not failure to pay entitlements, right?

So the question is this – if this is the case, then why is everyone talking about defaulting on our debt?  Why are our politicians rousing fear?

If I’m understanding this correctly, an accurate analogy would be to imagine you are a couple who makes $100,000 a year, have various debts that add up to $100,000 and you are debating if you should open up another credit card account.  Open another account would in essence be raising your own personal debt ceiling, wouldn’t it?  You’re still paying on the existing debt, you just don’t take any more debt on when you decide against opening another account.

Maybe I’m totally misunderstanding the situation, in which case, I would appreciate correction.

July 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm Comments (2)

As Space Shuttle Dies, So Does American Spirit

How this affects you: the lack of a manned American space program is a deathblow to the discovery of new technologies and life-saving bio-medical research — not to mention a national security threat, as the U.S. must now rely on foreign nations for human access into space.

Say what you want about Americans, but at least we’re consistent.  After all, we have willfully allowed the demise of our nation, not from outside invasion, but within. With our full approval, the greatest, most benevolent nation the world has known is being transformed into a shadow of its former self.  In many respects, it has become a second world nation with a first-world military, but even that dubious distinction may soon be a pipedream.

The biggest culprit for the decline?  Overseas outsourcing.  Consider what we have done:

– Incomprehensibly, we have outsourced our energy needs.  Rather than utilizing our mammoth domestic reserves, we find ourselves bent over a barrel, paying through the nose to nations who don’t put exactly put America on their Christmas card lists — such as Venezuela and the Middle East. This transfer of wealth, the largest in history, only continues to accelerate.

– We have outsourced virtually our entire manufacturing base to Mexico, Central America, India and China.  When a nation makes nothing, it is infinitely harder to rebound from a severe recession, so do the math.  Our economy will be in the tank for the long haul.

-Bowing to excessive self-imposed regulations, America now relies on other countries — especially China — to supply it with rare earth elements, without which the economy would come crashing down.  These materials are absolutely instrumental in everything necessary to keep commerce flowing and our nation safe: computers, cell phones, high-tech electronics — and yes, strategic military assets.

So now that our fleet of Space Shuttles has been retired from service, it should come as no surprise that we have done what was once unthinkable.  We have officially outsourced the mainstay of our space program — manned space flight.   Naturally, we have no replacement, since that would have required foresight and common sense, so now we are in the peculiar situation of having to rely on the very same folks who less than two decades ago were our archenemy — the Russians. 

Hey, it’s great that they’re a bit friendlier now, but let’s not get carried away.  They are still Ruskies, with quite a few Soviets still in the mix — folks who don’t exactly pop to mind when contemplating our bona fide allies.

There’s an old saying that it’s not how fast you start the race, but who crosses the finish line first.  So it’s not without irony that the biggest race that mattered to this country just a few decades ago — the Space Race — has now officially been won by our adversary.

Sure, they launched a Cosmonaut into space before we put Alan Shepard there, but after that, it was all America.  Skylab, multiple moon landings, deep space probes, communication and military satellites and yes, forking over huge chunks of cash to build the International Space Station (ISS).  And without Americans supplying the logistics to the ISS via the Shuttle program, it would have never gotten off the ground. Literally.

So let’s recap.  We foot most of the bill.  We supply the engineering knowledge and expertise.  We send the materials into space, and we build it.  And now, we have to beg permission from the Russians to access it.

How does a parent have that conversation with a starry-eyed child mesmerized by the lure of outer space?

“Dad, how do we get astronauts to the space station?” 

“Well, uhhh… since we put all of our space ships into museums and don’t have any new ones, we now have to hitch a ride with the Russians.  But there’s good news.  They used to be our enemy, but now they’re run by the Mob.”

If America’s space situation doesn’t lend itself to the euphemism of a deep space probe getting stuck in Uranus, I don’t know what does.

                                                                                                             *****

By no means was the Shuttle program without flaws.  True, it was the base of operations for cutting edge experiments and bio-medical research, and it placed the incomparable Hubble telescope into orbit, opening our eyes to unprecedented views of the universe.

To many, though, the Shuttle was nothing more than a very expensive bus that flew around the Earth, dropped off construction equipment, and returned home.  And while the original plans called for launches on a regular basis, the Shuttle flew only a fraction of the envisioned missions.

Shuttle’s value aside, it is indisputable that America’s original vision for space exploration got sidetracked, with numerous Administrations forsaking that which inspired generations of Americans to literally reach for the stars.

Despite the once-unimaginable walk on the Moon occurring a mere 66 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, we haven’t been back in nearly four decades.  Dark side of the Moon?  Still unexplored.  Manned missions to Mars, let alone Jupiter’s moons, which hold the promise of life more than anywhere else in our solar system?  Off the table. (And it’s not for lack of money, as we spend trillions on everything else under the sun — no pun intended — but that’s another column).

The resulting loss of innovation and invention has been significant.  Even in a program as basic as Shuttle, the technology that emerged was phenomenal, from materials to microprocessors that revolutionized every aspect of our lives.  Now imagine those types of advancements on steroids.  Such is the sky-is-the-limit creativity that would emerge if America stopped wallowing in mediocrity and once again forged ahead, as only it can.

And it’s not just the tangible advances that come about from a dedicated space program, but something infinitely more important.  There is an unbridled sense of nationalism, a pride that emanates from every citizen that, in no uncertain terms, shouts to the world that the American pioneering spirit can never be stopped, that nothing is impossible. For proof, look no further than the spectacular rescue of Apollo 13.

Ask anyone alive in the 50’s and 60’s, and they will mistily recount how America was completely united when it was launching its boys into the great unknown.  Were there political disagreements? Of course, but reaching for the stars made folks realize that they could rise above petty arguments, and that yes, some things were even bigger than themselves. 

Pushing the limits of human ability and venturing into what was literally a dream for 50,000 years’ worth of humankind gave Americans the justifiable patriotic pride that they were indeed special — that they weren’t just traveling through history, but making it.

Conquering gravity and making science fiction come true didn’t start in Russia, and most certainly didn’t originate in China.  The space race isn’t a sprint, but a marathon, yet the United States doesn’t even have a runner on the track.

So will America ever come out of its self-imposed eclipse and once again claim the space leadership mantle that it not just owned, but invented?

Hard to tell, but a hybrid quote from astronaut James Lovell and the comic strip character Pogo keep coming to mind:

“Houston, we have a problem —- and it is us.”

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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July 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm Comments (0)

Debt Ceiling? Who Cares? Ballgame’s Over

Water is wet.  The sky is blue.  The United States is insolvent.

These are all true and indisputable statements, and none will change anytime soon.

Yet as The Great Debt Ceiling Debate continues, it is fascinating to watch both sides spin their rhetoric while missing the big picture entirely.  The Left, led by President Obama, says the U.S. must raise its debt limit or the government will default, throwing world markets into chaos. Particularly ironic was Obama chastising the Republican debt negotiators for allowing the country to come this close to the brink of default, apparently forgetting that he and his Party have spent incomprehensible amounts of money (with no value or return-on-investment) to put us at that brink.

Many on the Right, including some Tea Parties, seem content to play the blame game, arguing that Obama and the Democrats are solely to blame for America being on the edge of the abyss, conveniently forgetting that George W. Bush (who inherited a budget surplus) and his Republican Congress more than doubled the national debt during their watch.

As the debt deadline looms, markets are finally getting jittery because for the first time, there is a sense that, just maybe, the “they’ll get it done” confidence may not apply. And no one really knows for sure how things will shake out if the government cannot pay its bills.

Relax.  Of course the politicians will “get it done.”  They’ll do for one major reason, and it’s not an altruistic sense of doing what’s best for the country.  It’s called self-preservation; they don’t want to lose re-election next year because a government default further tanks the already dismal economy.

So they will play with the numbers, cook the books, and come up with a sound-bite worthy agreement that allows both sides to save face but in reality seals Americ’s fate.  Welcome to the Washington Two-Step.

In all likelihood, the debt ceiling will be raised somewhere north of $17 trillion (good for Obama), with promises of big “deficit reductions” and spending cuts over the next 10 years (red meat for the GOP base). 

Common sense begs a question, though.  In the spirit of Lightning McQueen in Cars, when he is told to “turn right to go left,” why is it necessary to spend more (increasing the debt) in order to cut spending (deficit reductions).  Kind of seems counterproductive. 

Even though we are told things are “much more complicated” in Washington than they seem to common folk (codespeak for don’t rock the boat), here’s an idea: since we knew this day was coming for quite some time, wouldn’t it have just been easier to tighten the nation’s belt by cutting spending and reducing the exorbitant waste, and therefore not having to raise the (already unsustainable) debt level?

While that works efficiently in the private sector, it is anathema to politicians, because, for the vast majority of lawmakers, it’s not about doing the right thing for country or constituents, but themselves.  That’s why Congress has historically passed workplace rules that Americans were mandated to follow, but which exempted Congressmen. And both Parties are equally complicit.

Which is why it doesn’t matter what happens with the debt ceiling. The beast has become so large that it is impossible to kill.  The ballgame is over, and United States will never be the same. Most tragically, it is a quagmire of our own doing.  We the people made our bed, and now we must lie in it.

Let’s be honest.  There is no possibility left to fix the problem. It has become pointless to discuss the “solutions” to America’s fiscal situation, because they simply do not exist.  This author included, there have been many who have outlined realistic, common sense steps that, while painful, would turn the ship around, thus avoiding the massive iceberg. But that won’t happen, because there is no political, or public, will to make them a reality. None.

Americans have been feeding at the public trough, in one form or another, for so long that everyone thinks they are “entitled” to damn near everything.  And despite the imminent financial collapse caused by that “let me get mine” mentality, the people still don’t want to give up the keys to the Treasury.  There remains a naïve belief that America is too big to fail.  How wrong.

Many mistakenly believe that the high standard of living enjoyed in America is a result of having the largest economy in the world.  It is not.  Because we have deliberately outsourced virtually our entire manufacturing base and refuse to become energy independent, the economy is built on a house of cards.  And the underlying foundation?  Debt.

Like their government, Americans have an unquenchable thirst for things they cannot afford.  Three year-old car not new enough anymore?  Buy a new one — with debt.  Want a 4,000 square foot house with flat screen TV’s in every room? Take out a massive mortgage.   Want to tell all your Facebook friends your exciting status of eating out every night?  Buy a smart phone you can’t afford.

So while certainly not defending the actions of Congress, it is really only reflecting the will of the people.

Which is why the debt deal, like most everything in Washington, will be smoke and mirrors.  They’ll increase our ability to borrow and spend more, but what they won’t tell you is that any future agreements to cut the deficit will be null and void in a year, as future Congresses will be under no obligation to follow any deficit reduction measures this legislature passes. It will continue to be Business As Usual.

The United States’ debt is now equal to our  annual Gross Domestic Product, a debt so high that we wouldn’t even meet European Union standards for admission. And anytime Europe has one up on you, you’ve got problems.

The economy won’t implode in a firestorm today or tomorrow, as some predict, but will be a slow, painful burn as entitlement programs eventually run out of money, government services dry up, interest rates rise, and inflation goes through the roof. 

This is no longer conjecture, but a mathematical certainty. Americans will have to reap what they have sown, and the diseased crop is quickly coming to harvest.

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The big question is whether Americans are ready and willing to admit their hypocrisy when it comes to spending.  Just as most sports fans feigned disgust during baseball’s Steroid Era, while secretly loving every minute of the enhanced level of play, so too are many criticizing mammoth spending while deep down hoping their pet projects don’t get slashed.

Baseball finally cleaned up its act, banning steroids (in 2005), and you know what? The offensive numbers are down across the board, and it’s not nearly as exciting as it was, but people still enjoy the game as players are playing within their natural abilities.

In much the same way, Americans will, at some point, have to learn to once again live within their means and realize that entitlements aren’t free and government money is actually their own. But it may take a default on the largest debt the world has ever known for that to sink in. And with that will come necessary, but extremely painful, sacrifices that will be the building blocks of The New America.

Will we finally learn the lesson to live within our means?  Hopefully, because if not, get used to living in the United States of China.

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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July 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm Comment (1)

Patriot-News Misunderstands Conservatism in Scaringi Profile

Robert Vickers profiled US Senate candidate Marc Scaringi in Sunday’s Patriot-News, describing his positions as “disjointed”. The profile betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of various schools of thought within the broader umbrellas of conservatism and Republican politics. Having spoken with Mr. Scarinigi on a few occasions, I can tell you that his positions –some of which I do not share– are all intellectually consistent and are well within the boundaries of conventional conservative philosophy.

Vickers:

The reasons why Harrisburg attorney Marc Scaringi believes he’s better suited for the U.S. Senate than incumbent Democrat Bob Casey Jr. are a bit disjointed.

No matter. They make sense to him.

Scaringi says the GOP professes conservative principles it rarely lives up to — but he’s running as a Republican.

He is staunchly free market — but wants congressional term limits for a free-market electorate.

He wants to see a massive reduction in activist U.S. foreign policy — but bristles at being called isolationist.

And he believes in the will of the people — but only to choose a senator who will legislate as he or she sees fit. If elected, “I’m not going to lecture or dictate to the voters,” he said. “But I don’t do anybody’s bidding.”

For someone who speaks glowingly of his time as an aide to former Sen. Rick Santorum, a self-professed social conservative, Scaringi has no social issues in his campaign platform.

I’ll take these one at a time, starting with term limits.

There’s nothing inherently anti-free market about term limits. None other than free-market economist Milton Friedman defended term limits, saying to the libertarian Cato Institute, “A six-year term limit for representatives would not change their basic nature, but it would change drastically the kinds of people who would seek election to Congress and the incentives under which they would operate. I believe that those of us who are interested in trying to reverse the allocation of our resources, to shift more and more to the private markets and less and less to the government market, must disabuse ourselves of the notion that all we need to do is elect the right people. At one point we thought electing the right president would do it. We did and it didn’t. We have to turn our attention to changing the incentives under which people operate.”

That sounds pretty pro-market to me.

Scaringi’s also not an isolationist.  At the risk of putting words in his mouth, I understand his position to be that he would be willing to engage in military action in order to protect vital US interests.  (I got the impression that this didn’t just mean keeping those sneaky Canadians above the 45th parallel.)  He certainly has a narrower view of those interests than I do, or than some others do, but the isolationist label does not fit.  Marc Scaringi is not Pat Buchanan.

(Would somebody care to explain what the vital US interest is in the ethnically tinged civil war in Libya?  Maybe I’d come aboard… if anybody in the Obama administration would ever attempt to explain it to the American people.)

As to the nature of political representation, the conflict described in the P-N article is as old as representative government itself.  Are representatives sent to exercise their own best judgement, or to blindly vote what they believe to be the will of the electorate at any given moment, irrespective of the consequences?  This is an intractable problem of representative government, and is hardly unique to Marc Scaringi.  (In the light of the ObamaCare vote, Casey has little room to criticize anybody else for substituting his own judgement for that of the electorate.)

On social issues, Scaringi may not have any positions listed on his website, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them.  Scaringi is pro life.  So is the incumbent, at least ostensibly.  Voters who care enough to learn the differences between Scaringi and Casey on social issues will do so.  At present, I think it’s fair to say that the primary animating political factors are economic and fiscal in nature.  Scaringi hasn’t abandoned social conservatism, he’s merely focusing on the same issues the swing-voter electorate cares about.  That’s just smart politics in my book.

Regarding Scaringi’s fit in the Republican party, many tea partiers and other reform-minded conservatives have faced the same question, and most have come to a similar conclusion.  Like it or not, our first-past-the-post electoral system has a tendency to produce a two-party system.  Despite its faults, the Republican party is the best vehicle for implementing a conservative vision.  That doesn’t make the Republican party an ideal institution, and it doesn’t inoculate the party from criticism.  Ronald Reagan criticized the Republican party once upon a time, and today we are better for it.  There’s nothing “disjointed” about criticizing a political party to which one belongs.

The underlying weakness in the Patriot-News profile is the inability to recognize the diversity of thought within conservative and Republican politics.  It was only in 2004 that Pat Toomey nearly defeated Arlen Specter in the Senate primary contest.  (Is seven years such a long time?)  It is astonishing to me that a person could live through the rise of the Tea Party within  Republican ranks and fail to comprehend that the GOP is not monolithic in nature.

July 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm Comments (0)

Running on Empty

Americans for Prosperity is holding their Running on Empty rally tomorrow, July 15, at Point State Park in Pittsburgh from 12:00 to 1:30.  Here’s the blurb:

If you haven’t heard already, the Running On Empty Tour, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and co-sponsored by several local grassroots organizations, is coming to Pittsburgh on July 15th! They’ll be pulling into Point State Park at noon!

Why are we suffering when there are solutions? That’s the question and American’s for Prosperity Foundation is traveling the country to drive home the answer.  The development of American energy will make a far-reaching difference in reducing the cost of your grocery bill, cooling your house, and your commute to work.

Americans are truly running on empty and something’s got to give. Families are hurting. Budgets are stretched beyond the limit. Prices for gas, food, and energy continue to skyrocket and Pennsylvanians are being forced to do more with less.

Washington has failed to mirror our level of responsibility. In fact, since President Obama took office, gas prices have nearly doubled!

Join us at NOON on July 15 at Point State Park to learn what the administration could be doing to make it easier on you and your family, and how you can help convince them to make it happen.

Lots of good speakers, a great venue, and it’s free.  It’s also co-sponsored by Pawatercooler which makes it that much more awesome.

See you there.

July 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm Comments (0)

Texas Grows On Pennsylvania’s Woes

In what amounted to a complete non-surprise, Pennsylvania was just ranked near the economic bottom of the nation. Forty-third, to be exact.

Why the dismal showing for what was once the major industrial powerhouse, not just of the country, but the world?

More than anything else, crushing taxes and a hostile business climate.

Shackled with the nation’s second-highest corporate income tax, it is also 15th in personal income tax, 30th in property tax burden, and number one in estate and inheritance tax.  Those figures are bleak enough in their own right, but because Pennsylvania rolls over to organized labor and trial lawyers, it comes in dead-last last in labor competitiveness.

The result?  A mass exodus.  Businesses, and the Pennsylvanians who work for them, flee the state for the greener pastures of employer-friendly states.

And as our children and grandchildren — indeed our future — leave, so too does our political clout.

In the latest census, Pennsylvania has lost yet another electoral vote, giving it just 20. But again, this is nothing new, as the state has seen at least two electoral votes disappear in every census since 1960.

Pennsylvania is not alone in its demise.  Neighboring states such as Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey and Illinois are in the same boat, with millions voting with their feet to escape ever-escalating taxes and an overbearing government.

While some businesses are outsourced overseas, many relocate to states that believe in welcoming rather than hindering. It is no coincidence that the recipients of Pennsylvania’s brain drain are primarily located in the south and west, states that are free of entrenched, business-as-usual politicians who would rather fall on the sword than make the effort to change the system.

And no state more so than Texas exemplifies the fruits of the strategy to attract the best and brightest. 

Despite America experiencing one of the worst recessions in its history, the Lone Star state is booming. Huge numbers of people seeking opportunity are migrating to Texas, so much so that it just gained a whopping four seats in the Electoral College, bringing its total to 38 — second only to California’s 55.  In stark comparison to its rust belt competitors, Texas has experienced a period of nonstop growth, gaining at least one electoral vote in every census since 1930. (It is interesting to note that California’s economy shrank faster than all but three states over the last ten years; for the first time since 1920, it failed to pick up an electoral vote).

A look at the numbers tells the story:

–         The Texas economy, nearly $1.3 trillion in output, ranks 13thin the world. Some analysts see it eventually eclipsing California in that category.

–         Texas leads the nation in overseas exports, its railroads are ranked at the top, it has more miles of highway than any other state, and has state-of-the-art shipping ports and cargo airports.

–         In Forbes Magazine’s “Best Cities for Jobs” list, Texas cities topped the lists for best big, mid-size and small cities.

–         Nearly 40 percent of all jobs created in the current “recovery” are in Texas, and it is one of only three states have more jobs now than when the recession began in December 2007. The others are North Dakota, Alaska — all, not coincidentally, big energy states.

–         Texas leads the nation with six cities on the top 20 Overall Strongest-Performing Metro Areas, according to the Brookings Institute’s “MetroMonitor” quarterly report.

Texas innately understands that fostering a business-friendly atmosphere pays big dividends.  So it has paved the way for achieving that goal: it is a Right To Work state (where it is not compulsory to join a union as a condition of employment), has no state income tax, and ranks 8th best for business tax climate. And its regulatory environment is not nearly as onerous to business as in many other states.

It has also aggressively passed legal reform measures (reducing litigation costs to historic lows), which is credited as a major factor in the unparalleled job growth Texas is experiencing.

Industries in Texas are quite diversified, from energy and mining, to timber, health care, bio-medical and tourism — industries that parallel those in Pennsylvania.

So why then does the Keystone State, despite its many similarities to Texas, continue to stagnate, seemingly content to limp along while its competitors are thriving?

Because the people, through the politicians they keep electing, are satisfied with mediocrity. Rhetoric aside about wanting to make the state great again, nothing of significance changes in Pennsylvania, no matter what Party controls the Governorship and Legislature.

Tax rates? Among the highest in the nation, especially for businesses, with reductions almost nonexistent. Legal reforms? Few and far between, with no attempt made to pass what is desperately needed: caps on runaway jury awards.  (While the Fair Share Act was just signed into law, limiting liability to one’s responsible share in a lawsuit, it took nine years just to revisit the issue after it passed in 2002 but was thrown out on a technicality).

Regulations? More burdensome than ever.  Educational achievement for the future workforce?  Nearly half of all public school 11th graders cannot pass basic proficiency tests in reading and math.

And of course, Pennsylvania has made absolutely no attempt to rein in the out-of-control public sector unions.

Year after year, teachers’ unions strike more than in all other states combined, with children becoming the victims in the unions’ never-satiated appetite for more taxpayer largesse.  The mere discussion of eliminating collective bargaining was taken off the table by Gov. Corbett prior to entering into negotiations with the state workers’ unions — while getting nothing in return.  And in an era where private sector employees are lucky to keep their jobs, with raises out of the question for most, Corbett just gave the public sector workers an 11 percent raise over four years with lavish benefits and no furloughs.

As far as becoming a Right To Work state, that possibility ended with the Corbett Administration stated it could never pass in Pennsylvania.  Which was true — with Ed Rendell as Governor and a Democratic House.  But with Corbett as leader and major GOP majorities in both chambers, a strong push could well have made that economic godsend a reality.  But it died before it even began.  (And for the naysayers who say it couldn’t pass, just look to Wisconsin for what can be achieved with real leadership.  In arguably one of the most liberal state in the country, collective bargaining was recently eliminated).

The saving grace for Pennsylvania is that it’s sitting atop the second largest natural gas deposit in the world.  Just as energy leads the way it Texas, it could also do so in the Keystone State, as responsible drilling of the Marcellus Shale could pave the way for an unprecedented economic boom.

But given Pennsylvania’s history of chasing away business, the natural gas industry is still (wisely) hedging, waiting to see what the ground rules (no pun intended) will be.  Corbett is right not to impose an extraction tax, as that only would serve to drive a nail into the coffin, but there are many other issues that need to be addressed.  And if the highly-mobile industry does decide to pack it up either because of a hostile business climate or low demand, Pennsylvania, unlike Texas, has no fallback position, pushing it that much closer to the abyss.

Perhaps the most telling difference between the states is not a statistical one, but an intangible.  When in Texas, there is an unbridled sense of pride, a feeling that the American pioneering spirit is thriving, and that nothing is unattainable.

And you see the symbol of that pride everywhere: the Lone Star is embedded in concrete pillars of the modern infrastructure, in buildings, on car bumpers, and even in airport restaurants.  That vibrancy, which is downright palpable, is not just because of Texas’ rich history, but comes from the security that only a booming economy can generate.

Sadly, that feeling has been nonexistent to most Pennsylvanians for decades. Whether we ever regain it will be decided over the next four years.

*****

To Texans, everything they do is not just bigger, but better.  That may seem arrogant to folks in the other 49 states, but as the old adage says, “arrogance ain’t arrogance if you can back it up.”

And looking at the Lone Star State’s success story, it most certainly backs it up.

 

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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July 14, 2011 at 7:16 am Comments (0)

The Bell Tolls for the State Stores

Finally.

Lawmakers are expected to begin debating in earnest whether to sell state liquor stores next week, when House Majority Leader Mike Turzai expects to file legislation ending Pennsylvania’s monopoly.Turzai’s bill would scrap Pennsylvania’s 644 state-owned liquor stores and its wholesale operation. The bill would overhaul state taxes on liquor. It is expected to expand the number of outlets and offer them at auction.

Thank you God and thank you Mike Turzai.
And really, spare me the crying about how this will increase underage drinking, destroy our communities, etc.  There are 49 states with privatized liquor, and they are not dens of sin.  Somehow, I think we’ll survive.  Also spare me any whining about how this will eliminate jobs.  Good.  They’re government jobs and they need to be eliminated.  In fact, maybe the really good employees can get a job at one of the new privatized liquor stores and the ones who stink can do something else.
July 7, 2011 at 7:34 pm Comments (0)

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