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Freindly Fire’s Best…and Worst…Of Philly

 Who makes the best Bloody Mary in the city? Where is the best brunch?  Freindly Fire has no idea.  Thankfully, though, there are much smarter folks who know the best things in and around the nation’s fourth-largest market. For those gems, see the “Best of Philly” awards in this month’s Philadelphia Magazine.

There are, however, some other non-politically correct Best and Worst Awards that should be bestowed on very deserving winners…and losers.  Following is Freindly Fire’s List:

Best Of Philly

Best snowfall removal: Anywhere but Philadelphia. The streets were absolutely deplorable, with significant snow and ice on major city roads days after the storms, not to mention that many side streets were simply impassable. How did city residents react?  Almost 80 percent voted for Mayor Nutter in the May primary. In comparison, Chicagoans kicked out their Mayor for similar incompetence in 1979.   Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…just don’t complain when you can’t get to work. He’s your Mayor.

Best Political Comeback: IBEW 98 boss John Dougherty.  After losing a bid for the state senate and coming up short in clashes with Democratic party powerbroker Bob Brady, Doc came roaring back.  He garnered huge headlines by trying to reform the DRPA, but most significantly, orchestrated big wins in City Council races.  More than anyone, Johnny Doc has positioned himself to be kingmaker in deciding who the next Mayor of Philadelphia will be.

Best “It’s All About Me” Moment: City Council’s refusal to abolish the DROP retirement program for city employees — you know, the one that makes elected officials rich when they “retire” for a day after being re-elected.  So while the folks who actually foot the bill are struggling just to survive, city lawmakers keep cashing in at the public trough.  Often forgotten in the criticism, though, is Council’s stellar stewardship of Philadelphia. Its leadership has produced the highest rates of taxes, murder, violence, and poverty in the nation, an education system that, by all accounts, is a colossal failure, and a city that is perpetually ranked as one of the dirtiest.  But give ‘em a break.  We’re not Detroit. Yet.

Best “I Don’t Recall” Moment: No, it wasn’t a political corruption trial, but the just-revealed grand jury testimony of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua as he weaved his way around prosecutors’ pointed questioning regarding the ever- widening Church sex-scandal.  The Cardinal’s memory lapse was an oh-so-convenient backdoor for covering his own derriere and evading discussion about his role in the cover-up, leading the grand jury to label him as “untruthful” and “not forthright.” Church officials need to be reminded that sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission, and that ignoring the 8th Commandment is not a prudent way to go through life. So much for always standing behind the kids….

Best Sports Move: Bringing Cliff Lee back. The Phils have been transformed from an organization that made the playoffs only three times in 26 years (and that’s with the wild card), to being perennial contenders. But being “very good” wasn’t good enough, so they brought back pitching Lee.  With Lee rounding out one of the best rotations in baseball history, the Fightin’s are fully expected to win the World Series, and that has them hanging out in hallowed Yankees territory, at least for the present.  Like the Bronx Bombers, the Phillies are now in the elite world where a season that culminates in anything less than total victory will be viewed as a failure. Tough as it will be to swallow if the Phils aren’t World Champions again, that expectation of perfection is rarely seen in any sport, and was nonexistent in Philly. Tip of the hat to the best — and only— sports braintrust in the city that has shown the resolve to do whatever it takes to win.

Best Thing About Philadelphia: Its people. It’s a blue-collar town, through and through, and that makes it as real as it gets. People wear their emotions on their sleeves, and it’s rare to not know where someone stands. Politics? Rough and tumble —- sometimes literally.  Sports fans? The most dedicated, if not always educated, in the country. Run out every play, and you’ll be a Philly Hall of Famer, but cop a ‘tude,  pout, dog it (no Vick pun intended) or just plain suck, and you’ll be run out of town on a rail.  Everyday people? Not nearly as rude as we like to think we are.

That salt-of-the-Earth, you-know-what-you’re-getting character is innately Philly, and, while maddening at times, is beyond refreshing in an increasingly shallow world. Yo Philly, don’t ever change.

Worst Of Philly

Worst Way To Earn A Living: Dealing with the dead.  Not funeral directors, coroners, and grave diggers (although all have been quite busy with skyrocketing murders). They all earn an honest living.  We’re talking about Michael Meehan, the city GOP boss and lawyer extraordinaire who gives the famous movie line “I see dead people” some real-life meaning.

Seems that a dearly-departed soul — a year after dying — retained Meehan as legal counsel to challenge the petitions of people running for Committee posts — in his own Party. Meehan didn’t fare much better with the living, as many of his other “clients” signed affadavits stating that they never met or heard of Meehan, and that the signatures in Meehan’s possession were not theirs.

The Philly GOP led by Meehan may be dead, but the criminal investigation into the matter by the District Attorney isn’t. And who said lawyers couldn’t get any lower?

Worst Sports Move: Yes, it was last year’s move, but it’s been so devastating that it bears repeating. Getting rid of Donovan McNabb.  Life is now so boring without Number 5 around.  Just look at all there is to miss: throwing up in the huddle during the Super Bowl, laughing jovially when his team was losing, not knowing the rules of overtime, making racially-charged comments where they had no place, and always connecting with his favorite receiver — the turf —when the game was on the line. Sports in Philly just aren’t the same anymore, especially with Michael Vick being so dog-gone….normal.  Without McNabb’s drama queen theatrics over which to obsess, Philadelphia is on the verge of becoming, dare we say it, a civilized sports city.  Bring him back!

Worst Empty Promise: Philly’s pension will be OK. Anytime a politician admits that something is bad, it’s always worse. So when the Mayor says the city’s pension fund is 45 percent funded (less than 50 percent is considered somewhat catastrophic), you know there just won’t be a happy ending. With no more state or federal money to bail out the virtually insolvent pension, and no possible way Nutter can keep his promise to write an $800 million check to the pension (to make up for several years of deferred payments), look for retirees to start getting pennies on the dollar in just a few short years. Think it can’t happen in America?  Given the fact that the nation came within hours of default — despite its magical power to print money out of thin air— can anyone seriously believe that?

Worst Thing About Philly: Its people. Or more accurately, the people’s complacency. What can you say about residents who, despite the knowledge that things are going the wrong way, time and again reelect the very same people who created the mess? Philadelphia has the potential to be a world-class city, with not one but two major rivers (neither developed). It is ideally situated within a day’s drive of more than half the country.  As a major gateway for overseas travelers, it should unquestionably be a destination rather than a layover stop.  And with major ports, railroads, airports and interstates, it be should a no-brainer for companies to locate their operations in Philadelphia. 

Philly’s stagnant position stems from a lack of leadership. It’s time for Philadelphians to wake up and demand that their city take its rightful place as one of very best. But that mantle simply can’t be claimed until the people show the will to make a change.

Given Mayor Nutter’s virtually guaranteed re-election, though, that may have to wait another four years.  How ‘bout them Phils?

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

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

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

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August 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm Comments (0)

Bankrupt Rangers’ Trade For Cliff Lee Should’ve Been A Strikeout

The cries should be loudest in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco — and Tampa Bay.

But they’re not.

Fans and baseball owners in those cities should be expressing outrage that their prospects of winning the World Series are seriously hampered by Cliff Lee.

Lee just happens to be one of the best post-season pitchers in baseball.

Last fall, he went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason games, including two wins against the Yankees in the World Series.  He was a major reason the Phillies were playing October baseball at all. 

And his performance in his three playoff wins this year has been remarkable.         

After being traded to Seattle, he was later sent to the Texas Rangers, bolstering a team that always faded in the second half of the season. 

Now, having advanced to the League Championship Series (the only MLB franchise that had never done so) — in which Lee had two of the three wins, including the decisive last game — the Rangers are a threat to go all the way.

There’s only one problem.  The Lee trade should never have happened. 

The fact that it did is a direct affront to every team owner, player and fan.

All except the Texas Rangers, that is.

Why?

Because the Rangers were in bankruptcy at the time of the trade.

Instead of getting their financial house in order — and paying their creditors —, Texas pulled out the most improbable victory of the season.

But unlike most games, where there is only one loser, the Rangers’ achievement came at the expense of the other 29 teams.

*****

How did a team in bankruptcy hit this home run?

That bastion of hypocrisy, Major League Baseball, came in as the relief pitcher.

Last year, it loaned the Rangers $18.5 million. And when the team’s ownership defaulted on its $525 million debt, MLB came through with another $21.5 million.

Let’s get this straight.

A team that can’t pay its bills or meet payroll receives a loan from the League — whose money comes from the teams themselves — and then uses that money to acquire arguably the best pitcher in the game.

Hmmm.  Something with that picture just isn’t right.

It’s similar to the U.S. government subsidizing companies, such as the GM bailout, while victimizing those who have done nothing wrong. 

For example, Honda gets punished for having efficient operations and fiscal responsibility, being forced to compete against the unlimited resources of the Government.

But here’s the difference. Honda still makes a superior product, so it will continue to rule the day, although its road to success will be bumpier.

Not so with the Rangers.  The “product” they acquired — with OTM (Other Teams’ Money) — is superior to virtually all others on the market.

How many millions is a playoff appearance worth?  A League Pennant?  How about a World Series appearance, let alone a Championship?

For the other teams that missed the postseason because of Lee’s prowess, that’s millions down the drain — because of what should have been an illegitimate trade.

The Rangers’ competitors, albeit unwillingly, have given that team the rope — in this case money — to hang the rest of the League.

And should we even mention the riot potential in Philadelphia if the Phillies meet Texas in the World Series, only to lose Game 7 to Cliff Lee?

*****

Most disturbing, but least surprising, is the lack of on-the-record displeasure from the baseball executives.

Too many business leaders exhibit cowardice, instead of guts. And since baseball….

Read the rest at NewsMax:

http://www.newsmax.com/Freind/bankrupt-Texas-Rangers-Cliff/2010/10/18/id/374028

 

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 also serves as a weekly guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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October 19, 2010 at 6:02 am Comments (0)

Phils Fans Beware: Bankrupt Rangers’ Trade For Cliff Lee Should’ve Been A Strikeout

The cries are getting louder.                                   

Despite their sweep of the Reds before the All Star break, the Phillies are still in third place, 4 1/2 games behind the Braves, with the trade of Cliff Lee last year looking more dubious by the day.

The criticism of that decision continues to grow.

After all, Lee went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason games last fall, including winning two against the Yankees in the World Series.  He was also a major reason the Phils were playing October baseball at all. 

After the season, fans salivated at the prospect of having Lee and Roy Halladay as the team’s top two starters, an unbeatable combination that all but guaranteed another deep playoff run.

But it was not to be.  Instead, Lee went to Seattle. 

And last week, the big news was that he was traded to the first place Texas Rangers, bolstering a team that always seems to fade in the second half of the season.  Now, they’re a legitimate threat to go all the way.

There’s only one problem.  That was a trade that should never have happened. 

The fact that it did is a direct affront to every Major League team owner, every player and every fan.

All except the Texas Rangers, that is.

Why?

Because the Rangers are in bankruptcy.

So instead of getting their financial house in order and doing the right thing — paying the people to whom they owe money —, Texas just pulled out the most improbable victory of the season.

But unlike most games, when there is one winner and one loser, the Rangers’ achievement came at the expense of the other 29 teams.

*****

How did a team in bankruptcy hit this home run?

That bastion of corruption, Major League baseball, came in as the relief pitcher.

Last year, it loaned the Rangers $18.5 million. That wasn’t enough, however, as the company of the team owner defaulted on its $525 million debt.  So MLB came through again in May with another $21.5 million.

So let’s get this straight.

A team that can’t pay its bills or meet payroll receives a loan from the League — whose money comes from the teams themselves, directly and indirectly — and then uses that money to acquire arguably the best pitcher in the game.

Hmmm.  Something with that picture just doesn’t seem right.

The result is similar to what happens when the U.S. government subsidizes companies, such as the GM bailout, in that it victimizes those who have done nothing wrong.  In effect, companies like Honda are punished for their efficient operations, fiscal responsibility and turning a profit. Why should they now have to compete against the unlimited resources of the United States government?

But here’s the difference. GM still makes a vastly inferior product, so Honda will continue to rule the day, although its road to success will be substantially hampered.

Not the case with the Rangers.  The “product” they acquired — with OTM (Other Teams’ Money) — happens to be superior to virtually all others on the market. And that will lead to a tougher road for a number of other teams.

How many millions in additional revenue is a playoff appearance worth to a given team?  Win the League Pennant and it’s even more.  Throw in a World Series showing, let alone a Championship, and the number skyrockets.

So if the Los Angeles Angels, second in the division behind Texas, lose out on a Division Title because of Lee’s prowess, or if, say, Detroit misses the Wildcard slot for the same reason, that’s millions down the drain because of what amounts to an illegitimate trade.

Competitors have given the Rangers the rope — in this case money — to hang the rest of the League.

And should we even mention the riot potential in Philadelphia if the Phils meet Texas in the World Series, only to lose Game 7 to Cliff Lee?

*****

Perhaps the most disturbing, but least surprising, aspect of this debacle is the lack of on-the-record displeasure from the other baseball teams.

Unfortunately, too many business “leaders” in this country, if that’s what they can be called, exhibit more cowardice than guts. And since baseball is a business, team owners, presidents and general managers are no exception.

Two things are certain:

1)  Most, if not all, of the other owners are furious that the Lee trade was permitted to occur, especially those vying for playoff spots.

2)  You will not see any of them publicly voice their opinion — with attribution —on the matter.

Oh, we’ll see anonymous quotes from owners and other executives deriding the decision, but none will dare cross the biggest hypocrite of all, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

(It was Selig, after all, who looked the other way during baseball’s Steroid Era, raking in billions while hallowed records fell, but feigned outrage when Barry Bonds broke the Big One — Hank Aaron’s home run record.  But hey, under Selig’s disgraceful reign, baseball finally —FINALLY — got around to outlawing steroids —in 2005, thirty-two years after the Olympics! Welcome to the party, Bud!)

Just look at Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels’ quote, as reported by the Associated Press, when asked if he anticipated any backlash from other clubs:

“I’d guess they’ll be some unnamed sources, but I don’t expect a lot of phone calls.”

Or another  “unnamed” baseball executive, as reported in the New York Times: “The Rangers are acting as if they can go out and spend money….They’re attempting to try and spend money they don’t have for players.”

How typical.  And pathetic. 

Not only does Selig know he won’t be opposed, he counts on it.  So the arrogance only grows.

Need proof?  Consider the following:

The Rangers filed for Chapter 11 protection in May, intending to pay creditors $75 million.  They would then sell the team to an investor group led by Hall of Fame pitcher and team President Nolan Ryan.  But after creditors’ objected to that plan, the Rangers agreed to an auction.

Here’s the part that defies comprehension:

According to the AP, the team’s auction proposal specified that “Major League Baseball would decide who was eligible to bid and set strict guidelines, including a $1.5 million deposit and an opening bid of more than $500 million. The league could have rejected the highest bidder and selected the runner-up instead.”

The motion also included paying a $15 million ‘break-up’ fee to the Ryan group if it was not chosen as the buyer.”

Disgusting as the thought is, Nolan Ryan being in bed with Bud Selig clearly has its advantages: bid on a Major League Baseball team, and if you’re not successful, you receive a $15 million payment anyway.

One could say that such a consolation prize smacks of insider-trading corruption.

Thankfully, though in no way due to owners, that auction plan is in limbo.  For now.

Bankruptcy experts think the MLB bidding suggestions were a “clever maneuver” to push the sale toward Ryan’s group. 

But let’s call a spade a spade. It’s business as usual.  And because it continues unchecked, all of baseball suffers.

Do we really think it’s a good idea to have a 2010 Texas Rangers’ World Series Championship blemished with an “asterisk” next to it?  That’s a definite possibility.

Asterisks in the baseball record books — delineating that a particular feat was flawed — are becoming commonplace. How many more will it take before the whole sport implodes?

For once, Baseball’s owners would be wise to come in from the cheap seats and step up to the plate.

The integrity — what’s left of it — of America’s favorite pastime depends on it.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist 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 also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes frequent television and other radio appearances.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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July 15, 2010 at 8:09 am Comments (0)

Phils Fans Beware: Bankrupt Rangers’ Trade For Cliff Lee Should’ve Been A Strikeout

The cries are getting louder.                                   

Despite their sweep of the Reds before the All Star break, the Phillies are still in third place, 4 1/2 games behind the Braves, with the trade of Cliff Lee last year looking more dubious by the day.

The criticism of that decision continues to grow.

After all, Lee went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason games last fall, including winning two against the Yankees in the World Series.  He was also a major reason the Phils were playing October baseball at all. 

After the season, fans salivated at the prospect of having Lee and Roy Halladay as the team’s top two starters, an unbeatable combination that all but guaranteed another deep playoff run.

But it was not to be.  Instead, Lee went to Seattle. 

And last week, the big news was that he was traded to the first place Texas Rangers, bolstering a team that always seems to fade in the second half of the season.  Now, they’re a legitimate threat to go all the way.

There’s only one problem.  That was a trade that should never have happened. 

The fact that it did is a direct affront to every Major League team owner, every player and every fan.

All except the Texas Rangers, that is.

Why?

Because the Rangers are in bankruptcy.

So instead of getting their financial house in order and doing the right thing — paying the people to whom they owe money —, Texas just pulled out the most improbable victory of the season.

But unlike most games, when there is one winner and one loser, the Rangers’ achievement came at the expense of the other 29 teams.

*****

How did a team in bankruptcy hit this home run?

That bastion of corruption, Major League baseball, came in as the relief pitcher.

Last year, it loaned the Rangers $18.5 million. That wasn’t enough, however, as the company of the team owner defaulted on its $525 million debt.  So MLB came through again in May with another $21.5 million.

So let’s get this straight.

A team that can’t pay its bills or meet payroll receives a loan from the League — whose money comes from the teams themselves, directly and indirectly — and then uses that money to acquire arguably the best pitcher in the game.

Hmmm.  Something with that picture just doesn’t seem right.

The result is similar to what happens when the U.S. government subsidizes companies, such as the GM bailout, in that it victimizes those who have done nothing wrong.  In effect, companies like Honda are punished for their efficient operations, fiscal responsibility and turning a profit. Why should they now have to compete against the unlimited resources of the United States government?

But here’s the difference. GM still makes a vastly inferior product, so Honda will continue to rule the day, although its road to success will be substantially hampered.

Not the case with the Rangers.  The “product” they acquired — with OTM (Other Teams’ Money) — happens to be superior to virtually all others on the market. And that will lead to a tougher road for a number of other teams.

How many millions in additional revenue is a playoff appearance worth to a given team?  Win the League Pennant and it’s even more.  Throw in a World Series showing, let alone a Championship, and the number skyrockets.

So if the Los Angeles Angels, second in the division behind Texas, lose out on a Division Title because of Lee’s prowess, or if, say, Detroit misses the Wildcard slot for the same reason, that’s millions down the drain because of what amounts to an illegitimate trade.

Competitors have given the Rangers the rope — in this case money — to hang the rest of the League.

And should we even mention the riot potential in Philadelphia if the Phils meet Texas in the World Series, only to lose Game 7 to Cliff Lee?

*****

Perhaps the most disturbing, but least surprising, aspect of this debacle is the lack of on-the-record displeasure from the other baseball teams.

Unfortunately, too many business “leaders” in this country, if that’s what they can be called, exhibit more cowardice than guts. And since baseball is a business, team owners, presidents and general managers are no exception.

Two things are certain:

1)  Most, if not all, of the other owners are furious that the Lee trade was permitted to occur, especially those vying for playoff spots.

2)  You will not see any of them publicly voice their opinion — with attribution —on the matter.

Oh, we’ll see anonymous quotes from owners and other executives deriding the decision, but none will dare cross the biggest hypocrite of all, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

(It was Selig, after all, who looked the other way during baseball’s Steroid Era, raking in billions while hallowed records fell, but feigned outrage when Barry Bonds broke the Big One — Hank Aaron’s home run record.  But hey, under Selig’s disgraceful reign, baseball finally —FINALLY — got around to outlawing steroids —in 2005, thirty-two years after the Olympics! Welcome to the party, Bud!)

Just look at Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels’ quote, as reported by the Associated Press, when asked if he anticipated any backlash from other clubs:

“I’d guess they’ll be some unnamed sources, but I don’t expect a lot of phone calls.”

Or another  “unnamed” baseball executive, as reported in the New York Times: “The Rangers are acting as if they can go out and spend money….They’re attempting to try and spend money they don’t have for players.”

How typical.  And pathetic. 

Not only does Selig know he won’t be opposed, he counts on it.  So the arrogance only grows.

Need proof?  Consider the following:

The Rangers filed for Chapter 11 protection in May, intending to pay creditors $75 million.  They would then sell the team to an investor group led by Hall of Fame pitcher and team President Nolan Ryan.  But after creditors’ objected to that plan, the Rangers agreed to an auction.

Here’s the part that defies comprehension:

According to the AP, the team’s auction proposal specified that “Major League Baseball would decide who was eligible to bid and set strict guidelines, including a $1.5 million deposit and an opening bid of more than $500 million. The league could have rejected the highest bidder and selected the runner-up instead.”

The motion also included paying a $15 million ‘break-up’ fee to the Ryan group if it was not chosen as the buyer.”

Disgusting as the thought is, Nolan Ryan being in bed with Bud Selig clearly has its advantages: bid on a Major League Baseball team, and if you’re not successful, you receive a $15 million payment anyway.

One could say that such a consolation prize smacks of insider-trading corruption.

Thankfully, though in no way due to owners, that auction plan is in limbo.  For now.

Bankruptcy experts think the MLB bidding suggestions were a “clever maneuver” to push the sale toward Ryan’s group. 

But let’s call a spade a spade. It’s business as usual.  And because it continues unchecked, all of baseball suffers.

Do we really think it’s a good idea to have a 2010 Texas Rangers’ World Series Championship blemished with an “asterisk” next to it?  That’s a definite possibility.

Asterisks in the baseball record books — delineating that a particular feat was flawed — are becoming commonplace. How many more will it take before the whole sport implodes?

For once, Baseball’s owners would be wise to come in from the cheap seats and step up to the plate.

The integrity — what’s left of it — of America’s favorite pastime depends on it.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist 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 also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes frequent television and other radio appearances.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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July 15, 2010 at 7:50 am Comments (0)