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Muslim Uprisings Matter Only Because Of America’s Oil Dependence

 

You don’t have to be a “prophet” to know the future will be worse

 

It’s bad enough British comedian Russell Brand is painfully unfunny and a horrendous actor. But he crossed the line when he caused emotional distress to American pop music goddess Katy Perry during their ill-fated marriage.

 

Therefore, in the spirit of nationalism, we should declare jihad against all things British, scale their embassy walls, rip down the Union Jack and replace it with a giant Katy Perry sign.

 

That’ll teach those limeys!

 

Don’t laugh. That mentality is exactly what our self-imposed Masters — the radical Islamists — do every time they are offended, declaring fatwas and engaging in jihad at the drop of a hat. And since rationality and civility are not in their vocabulary, their never-ending bitch-sessions are always accompanied by violence of the deadliest kind.

 

It’s no secret that Americans, more than anyone, are their favorite targets. For recent proof, just ask the American Ambassador to Libya. (Unfortunately, you can’t. They executed him.)

 

These Muslim fundamentalists are such wackjobs that American embassy personnel throughout the Middle East are now being forced to evacuate their diplomatic missions. And U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan are pulling back from the front lines not because they are losing to the Taliban, but because they are being routinely attacked — often with deadly consequences — by the very people they had worked with and trained. And do we need to mention how we are viewed in Iraq after “liberating” that nation?

 

So armed with that knowledge, what does America do to mitigate this ever-growing threat? Absolutely everything except the only thing that will free us from our bondage — become energy independent.

 

*****

 

 

Has it dawned on anyone —from either Party — that this latest episode of Middle Eastern Terror Theatre has been brought to us by the very people whom we have sworn allegiance to by prostrating ourselves at the altar of Islamic Crude Oil?

 

Let’s say it another way. Petroleum and natural gas are undoubtedly the most valuable substances on Earth, and the lack of either would send our teetering economy into complete collapse. Yet despite having the world’s largest reserves of both, America continues to ignore that Godsend, instead making the conscious choice to rely on — and pay top dollar to — the very same people who are rioting the world over because some low-budget spoof film doesn’t depict Mohammed in the best light.  A film, by the way, that 99 percent of them most certainly have never seen.

 

Ironically, these fundamentalists are funded by the United States, through both foreign aid and trillions of American petro dollars — the greatest transfer of wealth in all of human history.

 

About the only thing more infuriating is the total lack of awareness among our elected officials, both Presidential candidates, and the media’s clueless talking heads. Instead of solutions, 30-second sound bites rule the day, with Republicans blaming Obama, Democrats trying to save face, and media commentators missing the point entirely. What else is new?

 

More Americans will die trying to extinguish these fanatic-fanned flames —a temporary fix since they will ignite again — and the real issue will not be addressed, let alone solved. Here’s what can be done to avoid this conflagration in the future:

 

1) Can we all please just admit what is absolute fact? We are only involved in these firestorms because of our dependence on Middle Eastern oil barons to keep the crude spigots open. And since that flow of petroleum must be unimpeded, we are forced to maintain large diplomatic and military presences in that region, making us viewed as occupiers and swelling Islamic resentment toward America.

 

Here’s a novel idea.

 

If we drilled our own oil — are you ready for this — we wouldn’t be bent over the Middle East oil barrel, and therefore, wouldn’t be over there. Sure, we would still maintain embassies and feign concern about their humanitarian issues, but the truth (which no one wants to publicly admit) is that we wouldn’t give a damn about those countries or their people if we didn’t need their oil. Evidence? Where was America when millions were massacred in the 1994 Rwandan genocide? Not in Rwanda, because Rwanda has no oil. Ditto for most conflicts around the globe. End of story.

 

2) America has engaged in armed conflict in no less than 10 Muslim countries in the last fifteen years.  Until America’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil is eliminated, more Americans will die in foreign lands “protecting” oil interests, albeit under the false monikers of “freedom” and “democracy.” Those deaths are solely because America refuses to drill, and that is inexcusable.

 

3) You can bet your derriere that if the U.S. and its gutless Euro-allies had not deposed Muammar Gaddafi, the Ambassador would still be alive. Gaddafi was no angel, but out of self-preservation, he did everything America asked of him, so much so that he was praised by the Bush Administration. But the U.S. fought the European’s oil war and took out Muammar, bombing his country and arming the Eastern Libyans — who, we seem to forget, were the largest foreign fighting force in Iraq fighting…Americans.  Now they run Libya, and not even a year later, look what happens. And regarding those 20,000 surface-to-air missiles that Gaddafi had always secured, well, they are still missing. Any guesses as to who now possesses them?

 

4) Stop trying to “democratize” the Islamic world. It will not happen. Not now, and probably not ever. That’s ok. Not all people need to be “Americanized” and “democratized.” We have a tough enough time making democracy work here. Pushing that mentality so fervently, and thinking it can happen quickly, is not just insanity, but dangerous. How much more American blood and treasure have to be expended before this is realized?

 

*****

When the film The Last Temptation Of Christ was released, many Christians, and especially Catholics, were offended. While those critics would have been better off keeping quiet and not drawing additional publicity to the film, the protests were nonetheless peaceful and respectful.  Contrast that with the Muslim hordes who go bananas over a film that virtually no one will see, and which doesn’t even disrespect Allah, just the prophet. Is the film in bad taste? Sure. But is it worth indiscriminately killing any American in sight?

 

To the civilized, that question needs no answer. But the follow-up absolutely does. Why does America continue to endanger its citizens by dealing with lunatics when such action is wholly avoidable?

 

The answer is anything but partisan politics. It was Bush I who signed the moratorium on offshore drilling, and it took George W. Bush seven years to call for domestic drilling (way too late). So this is by no means just a Democratic problem. Both are equally complicit in jeopardizing America’s economic and national security.

 

Think about that the next time you fill up at $4/gallon, knowing your money is directly benefitting the very folks who, literally, have you in their crosshairs.

 

With energy independence nowhere in sight, you don’t have to be a prophet to see that America’s future is anything but a gas.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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September 21, 2012 at 9:17 am Comments (0)

Convert Oil Refineries To Process PA’s Marcellus Shale Natural Gas

 

Delta Airlines Buying Conoco Refinery Doesn’t Solve The Problem

 

Psst: Don’t tell anybody, but the worst-kept secret in  Pennsylvania is that the natural gas industry — the only economic salvation our dying state had— is leaving in droves, replaced by job loss, budget holes and despair.

 

Like most tragedies, this one was preventable. Only common sense and foresight were required. But those traits were pumped dry long ago, so instead of experiencing a booming economy rooted in the rebirth of American manufacturing, Pennsylvania is now witness to yet another long exodus of our best and brightest.  And the Commonwealth’s march toward permanent mediocrity is accelerating.

 

Natural Gas Industry Exiting PA

 

As with most things, our elected officials couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and now that the gas industry is packing up their mobile rigs and making for greener pastures, (or, more accurately, black pastures, as in Black Gold), the recently passed gas “impact” tax will be as impactful as Mitt Romney’s Position-du-jour.

 

Why is the gas industry leaving? Simple. They are losing money hand over fist, as natural gas is sitting at a ten-year low due to lack of demand.  So let’s get this straight.  We ignore cheap, abundant and clean natural gas while continually getting hosed at the pump from record-setting oil prices. And as a direct result of soaring gasoline prices, inflation is rising unchecked and true economic growth is vaporizing before our eyes.

 

Only in America — literally.

 

No other country on the planet would permit this kind of self-destruction, willfully sending hard-earned money to overseas adversaries while doing everything in its power to bite the (domestic) hand that feeds it. And that paralyzing incompetence comes from being fat, dumb and lazy while aggressive competitors do whatever is necessary to gain an advantage.

 

Because of this choice, the U.S. remains dependent on others for its energy needs.  In addition to the obvious national security concerns (we wouldn’t be expending blood and treasure in the Middle East if we drilled domestically), we are willfully engaged in the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, as hundreds of billions go to China and Middle Eastern oil barons because we refuse to harness our limitless natural resources.

 

The way out of the recession — permanently — is to keep American petro dollars here.  And by the way, “here” doesn’t mean Canada, since it too is a foreign nation. So Republicans need to stop their grandstanding about the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved, would only re-direct American money to our Canuck friends.  By definition, that neither achieves energy independence nor creates large-scale American jobs. But never let the facts stand in the way of a good political gimmick.

 

America will never compete with Chinese labor costs, but the untold story is that we don’t have to.  We beat them by having the world’s cheapest energy costs, and that, along with reworked trade policies, would level the manufacturing playing field and get America making things again.

 

Just look at Proctor and Gamble’s manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania.  An energy bill in the tens of millions was virtually eliminated after the discovery of natural gas under the plant.  Saving that much money leads to company expansion, additional jobs, more service industries, and a larger tax base. 

 

But instead of embracing that kind of success, our leaders have punted the ball. Why haven’t all state buildings and vehicles been mandated to operate on natural gas? Why haven’t tax incentives been offered to private sector companies willing to invest in natural gas refueling stations? Why haven’t efforts been made to rescind job-killing and innovation-stifling regulations? Why weren’t the success stories of companies like Proctor and Gamble told and sold by our top political leaders? 

 

No vision, and no gameplan. And now it’s getting late in the fourth quarter.

 

Converting the refineries

 

But there is an opportunity that could provide the same type of boom on a much greater scale: convert the Sunoco and ConocoPhillips refineries in Philadelphia to process natural gas rather than the much more expensive crude oil.

 

(Note: While a Delta Airline’s subsidiary just bought the Conoco refinery to make its own jet fuel, we’ll see whether that high-altitude idea flies, since airlines have a hard enough time staying in the air financially.  An airline getting into the fuel business has the right idea, as lower fuel prices will make their bottom line take-off.  But given the industry’s track record, that type of diversification could send Delta into a tailspin, possibly ending in a crash-and-burn scenario. And that would occur for much the same reason that the oil companies themselves are divesting themselves of their refining operations — wild fluctuations in the price of oil and mindboggling regulations make it inherently unprofitable.)

 

However, if Delta really wanted to lower costs over the long-haul, it might consider retooling its refinery to convert abundant natural gas from 100 miles away to jet fuel —rather than relying on oil shipments in a volatile market from across the world.

 

Sure, converting a refinery to process natural gas rather than oil takes a significant investment, but it is one that would pay huge dividends given that America’s insatiable appetite for energy (and in Delta’s case, jet fuel) will only increase.  And that’s a good thing, because increased energy demand means companies are thriving, jobs are being created, people are traveling and the economy would be truly gaining strength (unlike the disingenuous “recovery” claims now made by government and the media).

 

How to do it? After the refinery conversion (and elimination of many energy-sector regulations that drive up costs), immense amounts of “dry” natural gas, primarily from northeastern Pennsylvania, would be piped down to the refinery, utilizing the right-of-way alongside the Northeast Extension of the Turnpike.

 

The dry natural gas would then be converted to gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel — at a consumer price point that may well be under $2 per gallon.  Fuel that inexpensive becomes an instant win-win: the rebirth of manufacturing, big job gains, fewer foreclosures, and the satisfaction of knowing that national security is bolstered every time you hit the pump.

 

In addition to Philadelphia’s refineries being in an ideal location for disbursement of those refined products, there is yet another opportunity for economic growth.  To meet what would surely be increased domestic and overseas demand, a pipeline could be constructed down the Delaware River, terminating offshore so that tankers could safely take on their loads out at sea.

 

(A liquefied natural gas tanker explosion, whether accidental or deliberate, would be akin to a small nuclear weapon. While extremely unlikely, that possibility would nonetheless present huge political challenges in allowing large LNG tankers in the Delaware River.)

 

Refine Our Way Of Thinking

 

Despite their good intentions trying to save the refineries, some politicians have missed the boat by only pushing the idea of exporting natural gas from Philadelphia.  That won’t create jobs, as we would merely be shipping the gas to be refined elsewhere.  How ironic that would be, watching Pennsylvania export its lifeblood in the shadow of three refineries, any and all of which could keep all of the economic benefits here, and none of which will likely be profitable refining oil as currently outfitted.

 

Failure to convert the refineries may well kill off the gas industry altogether, making us ever more dependent on foreigners for our vital energy needs while prices continue to soar.

 

But if we rekindle that slumbering can-do American spirit and put America first for a change, the possibilities would be limitless, and we would no longer be bent over a barrel.

 

And what a gas that would be.

 

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

 

 

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May 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm Comments (0)

Blame Impotent Congress – And Yourself – For Gas Prices

 Americans don’t have enough holidays.

 

Unlike our Euro brethren, who take off all of August to refresh themselves after their grueling 25-hour work weeks, those in the U.S. can’t catch a break.  Sure, we have Arbor Day and Wildflower Week, but we need to celebrate more.  So it’s only appropriate to propose a holiday to which we can all relate, one that stays with us for more than just a day.

 

National Colonic Month.

 

No, not the colonic used to flush the body of evil red meat. That would be pointless since, according to a new study, just looking at a hamburger increases the likelihood of death by 900 percent.

 

National Colonic Month would be the collective feeling of having a gas pump forcefully inserted where the sun doesn’t shine by the United States Congress each time we refuel our cars, buy groceries, heat our homes, lay people off, lose our jobs, pull out our hair and contemplate “crimes of opportunity” (aka siphoning your neighbor’s gas tank), all in the name of making Arab sheiks the world’s first trillionaires.

 

Since America has perfected its current position of being bent over a barrel, its posterior wide open and ready to receive whatever comes, what better time for a national colonic of Middle Eastern petroleum?  And here’s the best part.  Given America’s insatiable appetite, National Colonic Month would just roll from month to month. So whether gas is $4 now, $5 in the summer, or $9 when the Washington braintrust strikes Iran, we will never have to worry about a shortage of colonic activity.

 

Of course, as with any procedure, there are side effects.  In our case, it hurts a lot more as the price goes up, hemorrhaging can occur, and decay and disease may soon set in. And since we are the only doctor in town, yet remain impotent to solve, let alone diagnose, the problem, the prognosis for recovery isn’t good.

 

Kind of reminds you of Fletch’s most famous line, “Using the whole fist, Doc?” 

 

In America’s case, it’s a lot more than a fist.

 

*****

It’s really tough to figure out who is dumber: Congress or the people who elect them.

 

Are people up in arms about skyrocketing gas prices? You bet.  My answer? Shut up and take your colonic.  It’s no one’s fault but your own, so deal with it.

 

Oh sure, there are renewed calls for drilling now that gas is $4/gallon — just like in 2008 when it hit $4.50.  But then the economy tanked, oil prices collapsed, and gas returned to “normal” (under $3).  Result? Back to complacency.  The only thing that got drilled was the people, but they were too ignorant to know better.

 

Now that prices have spiked again, we are looking for a scapegoat.  Obama is a convenient target, and while he is partially responsible, so are his blamers, namely the Republicans. Consider:

 

1) It was George H.W. Bush who implemented the moratorium on offshore drilling.  And it was Junior Bush who, rather than being proactive by opening up ANWR and reversing Dad’s mistake while he had significant majorities in Congress (and let’s face it — after 9/11, he could have had anything he wanted in the name of security), waited until gas spiraled out of control to call for drilling.  Too late, as the Democrats slammed the door in his face.

 

2) A local Republican congressman told me during a 2010 interview that he couldn’t introduce a drilling bill while in the minority. Uhh, sorry, but Civics 101 says differently. The bill may not make it out of a Democratically-controlled committee, but it absolutely could have been introduced.  And, by the way, that would have been a coup, since Obama made offshore drilling and nuclear power a cornerstone of his 2010 State of the Union address.  But the GOP response? He didn’t really believe that. 

 

Remember, this is the same president who just green-lighted the first new nuclear power plants since 1978.  A Democrat doing that is akin to Ronald Reagan calling for a ban of all handguns.  But rather than work with the President on a (yes—Republican!) issue, the result was bitter, partisan attacks. Hence, no offshore drilling.

 

3) But Mr. Obama doesn’t get a free pass. He recently ridiculed those who advocate “drill, drill, drill” to lower energy prices. Well, not to be a stickler, but if you produce more of something, the price will, in fact, drop.  Yes, we should all be more energy-conscious. That’s common sense. And alternative energy resources should be developed so long as they are market-feasible. But let’s be real. Oil is the unrivaled king of the energy world. Since that will not change for decades, if ever, it’s time to remove our heads from the colonic area and do what we all know has to be done: drill domestically.

 

Obama delayed the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was a mistake.  But what damn near everybody is missing is that, save for a relatively small amount of product from North Dakota, the oil is all Canadian.  Granted, getting oil from our Canuck friends is certainly better than relying on Middle Eastern nations, but it misses the point entirely.  Why are we not responsibly drilling on our own turf, keeping the jobs and revenue stateside?

 

4) Natural gas just hit a ten year low, while oil (and gasoline) are soaring. Go figure. So the wells that should be tapping the unlimited, clean-burning natural resource literally beneath our feet are being capped, killing jobs and entire industries.  Well, except for colonics.

 

5) Most disturbing is that our local congressional representatives are spending their time holding hearings on the closings of the Sunoco and Conoco-Phillips refineries. No, that’s not a joke. Congressman Pat Meehan and Senator Bob Casey are looking for answers as to how the closings will affect oil prices and impact national security.  (This should be no surprise, as Congress routinely holds hearings on weighty matters such as how the College Football Bowl Championship should be decided).

 

Perhaps I could save a boatload of taxpayer cash by releasing the results of a poll conducted of a sixth-grade class I teach.  The closings will be bad. Very bad. Prices will continue to rise, since if there is less of something, its cost will increase. And we will be less secure. Next hearing?

 

When did we start prioritizing national security anyway? Congress cares infinitely more about the national security of Middle Eastern sheikdoms than it does America, despite some of those nations funding anti-American terrorist groups with our petro dollars.  And all for one reason: their oil.

 

Here’s the bottom line: as long as we refuse to domestically drill, American soldiers will continue to die in Muslim lands.  And no amount of hearings, protests, or political rhetoric will change that. And let’s be honest. Our men and women are not “fighting for our freedom,” nor are they “keeping the war over there.” They are simply doing the bidding of a Congress —and the people who elect them — who are too complacent, or worse, impotent — to do the responsible thing: protect America by harnessing our vast and unparalleled domestic energy resources.

 

And there’s no colonic to cleanse the soul from the blood we all have on our hands.

 

So to be crude, stick it in and fill ‘er up, Sheik.

 

 

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

 

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March 21, 2012 at 7:04 am Comments (2)

Rendell As Inquirer Owner? Might As Well Be Philly Enquirer

A Jerry Maguire-like treatise for how to resurrect the media’s credibility

 

Famed political strategist James Carville once referred to Pennsylvania as two major cities with Alabama in between.  What an insult to Alabama.

 

The folks in the nation’s fifth-largest state — all of them — are the backwards ones, the sad result of refusing to hold their leaders accountable for broken campaign promises and abject failures. All the while, their neighboring states — AKA “the competition” — continue to make gains at Pennsylvania’s expense.

 

Ohio and West Virginia are successfully courting natural gas and oil companies, which are beginning to exit Pennsylvania. Indiana is thriving after enacting comprehensive statewide school choice and becoming a Right To Work state, where compulsory unionism is no required as a condition of employment.

 

New Jersey (yes, Jersey!) can woo companies across the river because of faith that a real leader, Chris Christie, is righting the ship.  Everyone else on the planet can buy liquor easier and cheaper than Pennsylvanians.  And corruption, both criminal and institutionalized, remains rampant, killing optimism and trampling the hope that you can beat City Hall.

 

From Ed Rendell to Tom Corbett (is there a difference?), a lack of leadership has left Pennsylvania on the precipice, its citizens staring into the abyss of permanent mediocrity, paralyzed by fear to take the risks necessary to forge ahead. Such a malaise is anathema to employers looking for economic stability, a less hostile atmosphere and a better educational system.

 

While that lack of leadership is inexcusable, there is another, even more important factor as to why the state finds itself in such a precarious situation: a media that has sold its soul, forsaking its most basic mission of holding everyone accountable, with a “no sacred cows” approach. For far too long, stories that needed to be told were relegated to the dustbin. And unsavory politicians and business leaders counted on that. Without an aggressive press, it was, and remains, the Wild West where bad guys operate with impunity.

 

There is no better example of the media’s fall from grace than that of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Once a paper of national significance that took a bulldog approach to its reporting, it has since become a shell of its former self, an also-ran full of AP feeds and local fluff stories of virtually no interest.

 

The Inky really jumped the tracks was when it was “led” by Brian Tierney, who, along with investors, paid over half a billion for the paper (and the Daily News) in 2006.

Mired in debt, Tierney did the unthinkable — he approached then-Governor Rendell for a taxpayer-funded bailout to keep the papers afloat in 2009, a story that Freindly Fire broke ( http://freindlyfirezone.com/home/item/43-possible-inquirer-bailout-draws-ire ) and was picked up by the Wall Street Journal in its harshly-worded editorial “Bad News In Philadelphia — The Worst Bailout Idea So Far: Newspapers.”

 

WSJ Link

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123353263226537457.html

 

 

Predictably, Rendell was ready and willing to lend that helping hand.  But as negative fallout for the bailout plan grew, the deal fell apart and the papers filed for bankruptcy.

 

Despite what common sense unquestionably tells us — that a taxpayer-funded newspaper would in fact be an “adjunct of the state,” as the WSJ so adroitly described it — the players in that ill-fated bailout attempt saw nothing wrong with their actions.

 

Thankfully, Tierney is out of the picture, having lost the papers to an investor group who held much of the original debt.  But incomprehensibly, the situation has come full circle. Now the current owners want out, and it has been reported that none other than Ed Rendell has been approached to put together an investor group to possibly buy the papers.

 

Really?  Ed Rendell?  How is that even remotely possible?

 

Where is the journalistic integrity in working with the very man who stood cocked, ready to unleash millions in taxpayer funds to bail out an “independent” media entity?  It’s no secret that it has become increasingly difficult for papers to make a profit in the age of The New Media, but having Rendell as your “Go-To” man underscores just how desperate the situation has become.

 

Taking marching orders from elected officials destroys the very essence of being a journalist and jeopardizes the unique constitutional protections afforded to media members.  Sure, Ed Rendell is a private citizen now, but his mentality — how he sees the role of the government working hand-in-hand with the media — has undoubtedly not changed.

 

But the behavior of the Inquirer’s ownership should come as no surprise, given that it recently accepted a $2.9 million loan from the City of Philadelphia to assist the company move to a new headquarters. Yes, the same city, the same Mayor and the same City Council that the newspapers are supposed to be objectively covering.  Is nothing scared anymore?

 

The last thing the region needs is an investor group led by political insiders and ideologically-supercharged individuals with aggressive personal agendas.  As painful as it would be for the thousands of hard-working folks at the those newspapers, it would be better for the entire entity to close its doors than be associated with folks who may, at any given time, make a pitch for public financing.

 

And while past performance is not indicative of future results, it’s a damn good bet.

 

Better to have no paper at all than one that prostrates itself at the feet of the very people it purports to objectively cover.  And since the Philadelphia newspapers have been anything but a watchdog over the last six years, churning out less than a handful of quality investigations, the bad guys would see virtually no difference, since they’re not exactly sweating investigative reporters knocking on their doors.

 

 

Where The Media Went Wrong
The sad reality is that The Fourth Estate has abdicated its sacred responsibility of keeping American institutions honest and true. No longer respected as the entity which holds feet to the fire and follows investigations wherever they may lead, the American media has instead become part and parcel of the Establishment. Too many journalists play the “go-along, get-along” game — some because it’s easy, others because they want to be liked, still others who are afraid they will lose “access” if they ask the tough questions.

 

These people have forgotten that their profession does not lend itself to having “friends,” since nothing and no one should ever be off the table. The result of these close alliances is blatant conflicts of interest, both personal and professional.  Once that line is crossed, it is nearly impossible to return.

 

No medium is immune from this malady.  Those in television, radio, newspaper and internet are all complicit. As an entity, the media has fallen down on its most basic journalistic responsibilities, losing its integrity, and ultimately its credibility, along the way.

Consequently, the public’s view of the media is at an historic low.  And while complaints abound that the media is biased, which to a certain extent it is, this is but a symptom of a much greater illness.  A slant towards liberalism or conservatism is wrong, to be sure, but inherent laziness and, by extension, incompetence, are the first problems that must be rectified. Competence and vision will trump bias every time.

 

Resurrecting the media’s image is a Herculean task. And when the free press reaches the point where it is no longer believed, it stands on the edge of becoming completely irrelevant.

 

Whether it is nauseating nonstop coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral procession or feel-good fluff stories in our nation’s pre-eminent newspapers, the lack of hard-hitting investigative reporting and aggressive interviews with top national and international leaders is appalling. Producers and editors are constantly looking over their shoulders at the competition, choosing to push out content to be like “every other station,” passing on golden opportunities to be different, to be journalists to be leaders.

 

These people spend more time trying to keep their jobs than actually doing them.

 

There is a certain irony here. If media executives produced the quality work that the American people expect, their ratings would skyrocket, and advertisers would pay a premium.  The biggest myth being propagated about the bankruptcy of media companies is that they are victims of the economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

They are victims of their own ineptitude.

 

Americans still have an unquenchable thirst for the news, but they are increasingly tuning out the mainstream media because the content is utterly lacking of substance.

 

The solution is simple — it’s just not easy. Nothing and no one should be off the table.  Not politicians, government officials, businessmen, media personalities, sports stars, nor celebrities. With no agenda except the truth, the media should pursue stories with no boundaries and no restrictions.

 

*****

Americans don’t gravitate to question marks, but exclamation points.  It’s time to put the exclamation point back in the American press, not through new technologies and gimmicks, but by pursuing the only thing that matters: the truth.

 

As the voice in the classic baseball movie Field Of Dreams commanded, “Build it and they will come.” In the same way, if the media gets off its duff and starts producing content worthy of the world’s best press, readers and viewers will come — in unprecedented numbers.

 

Unfortunately, if Ed Rendell takes over Philadelphia’s newspapers, the ballpark will be empty before the new game even begins.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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February 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm Comments (2)

Freindly Fire’s Biggest Losers Of 2011

 

Although Freindly Fire has never been known for sarcasm and negativity, it feels compelled as a civic duty to point out this year’s biggest losers. 

So with very little pleasure (okay, maybe a little), here are some of 2011’s notable wankers: 

Philadelphia Phillies

A colossal failure. Period. End of story.

But this being Philadelphia, further explanation is, of course, warranted. Yes, they won the (ridiculously weak) National League East Division for the fifth time in a row. Yes, they set a franchise record for regular season wins. Yes, there was one World Series Championship three years ago. And yes, they will probably win the Division again in 2012. So what?  All meaningless. 

And for anyone who actually believes any of those achievements mean squat, well, you’re delirious from being an Eagles fan.  

The team — the only one in the nation’s top four markets which does not share its city with another franchise — was billed as having the best rotation in baseball history and a powerhouse lineup of battle-tested veterans.  But when you enter Yankee territory, as they claimed they did, anything short of a Championship must be viewed a total failure, as there are no points for second place.

The blame should be laid at the feet of the players, several of whom refused to hustle and play fundamental baseball, and more importantly, the coaches who didn’t address those problems.

So while the Phils are still a dangerous team, their window of opportunity is closing fast. Time to lose the ‘tude and play ball the way Little Leaguers and consistent World Series Champs do. Otherwise, Charlie Manual will become the city’s next Andy Reid. (Alright, that’s a stretch. Andy’s in a class by himself.) 

NBA

Speaking of sports, shame on the NBA for ending the lockout.  If they really cared about Fan Appreciation, they would have continued the impasse for the next decade. It was leaps and bounds more exciting than anything the 12 people watching a typical NBA game will see.

Jerry Sandusky, His Wife Dottie, Penn State, Tom Corbett, Joe Paterno, and Mike McQueary

At the very least, all failed the test of moral leadership, permitting small, defenseless children to live a nightmare from which they may never awaken — because no one would help. How could Happy Valley seem more like Yemen, where child sex trafficking and molestation is an accepted fact of life?  Even if Penn State turns into the State Pen for those who may have done wrong, it will be little solace to the victims.

And all the folks on this list, whether directly or indirectly, have blood on their hands. For shame.

Mitt Romney

Is Romney the most intelligent candidate running for President? Probably. Is he a successful businessman? Undoubtedly.  But what does it tell you when, after campaigning for five years and spending hundreds of millions, Romney still can’t even muster 30 percent of the GOP base? In other words, seven of ten Republicans simply don’t like him.

And it’s not rooted in his issue positions (though his Romneycare law in Massachusetts doesn’t help), but that he has no core convictions on…anything.  The man is the very embodiment of an articulate politician without a soul, one who will say whatever it takes to get elected.   So prevalent is his flip-flopping that he couldn’t even decide whether to campaign in Iowa. Contrast that to Congressman Ron Paul, whose support is surging for the opposite reason — because he has been steadfastly consistent throughout his entire political career.

It’s a lesson totally lost on Mitt.  He’s so out of touch that he doesn’t understand the peoples’ yearning for a leader who stands for something and sticks to his guns.  Instead, Romney’s “be all things to all people” approach has him foundering, and will make him an inviting target for Obama should he win the GOP nomination.

Romney is the best Christmas present the GOP could give the Democrats. 

Hollywood Movie Studios

Fewer Americans went to the movies this year than at any point in the last 16 years. Sure, the economy is in the toilet, tickets are expensive, and you need to take out a second mortgage to buy Raisenets, but they are all symptoms of a much greater illness: Hollywood’s product continues to decline.

Most flicks are flat-out horrible, but Hollywood execs don’t care. Their formula of hiring a star and throwing in some special effects is enough to dupe Americans into opening their wallets.  And despite the dismal box office numbers, don’t look for that to change anytime soon.  As long as they can make enough money to get near breakeven in North America, they’re still be laughing all the way to the bank because the foreign box office is providing the big haul. In fact, it was a record year for overseas profits. Which means that folks in Indonesia who are still starstruck will ensure more of Hollywood’s mediocrity for the foreseeable future.

Or here’s an idea: maybe Hollywood could stop looking for the easy way out of making remakes of remakes and using the same musical score ad nauseam —just listen to Pirates of the Carribean (2003), Gladiator (2000), and The Rock (1996) — and reinvent itself.  Sure, it takes effort to be creative, but that’s what made Hollywood the most powerful force in the world.

Most people couldn’t name one U.S. Senator, nor do they care.  But when Hollywood produces a creative, classic movie, it touches the soul, inspires, motivates, and enlightens (Remember the Titans meets all that criteria and then some).  It makes people think in a way they normally wouldn’t, and more often than not, produces a smile.  When was the last time Congress did that?

The slogan of the G4 network is playing “Movies That Don’t Suck.” Since that list is growing thin, let’s hope Hollywood regains its footing and returns to its glory days by putting blood, sweat and tears ahead of the easy buck.

 Jim Matthews, Joe Hoeffel, and Montco Residents

Even in its most creative mode, Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this soap opera. Four years ago, the GOP won control of the County Commissioners, but Jim Matthews forsaked loyalty for power and sided with Democrat Joe Hoeffel, giving the Chairmanship to himself and power, effectively, to the Democrats. Top vote getter Bruce Castor was left out in the cold.

So (in)effective was the dynamic duo of Matthews-Hoeffel that both got the boot from their respective Parties and were forced into retirement.  And for the first time ever, the Democrats took control of Montgomery County.  So once again, Castor will be the only voice of reason as the Dems will most certainly raise taxes and get cozy with the unions.

But in a most fascinating twist, Matthews was recently arrested on perjury and false swearing charges for allegedly lying to a Grand Jury about his relationships with county vendors.  The Grand Jury found that “Matthews lied with such ease and frequency, that he acted as though, as Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, he is above the law.”

When you’re arrogance knows no bounds, what goes around comes around. And for Jim Matthews, the red and green colors of the season may well turn to jumpsuit orange.  So in the spirit of giving, Freindly Fire will send Jim a belated Christmas present, just to be safe: Soap-On-A-Rope. 

Pennsylvanians

Maintaining the status quo simply isn’t good enough when the state has an effective unemployment rate above ten percent. So to solve that problem, what did Republican Governor Tom Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature achieve? Pretty much zilch.

Sure, the budget wasn’t increased, but that wasn’t due to political courage but the fact that the federal stimulus funds had evaporated. And yet, despite many good programs going on the chopping block, the “fiscally conservative” Republicans still spent money on a lavish union deal, the Yankees’ AAA stadium, a bailout of the Philadelphia Shipyard to build ships with no buyers, and —while not ultimately spent — a grant to Jerry Sandusky’s Second Mile Foundation.

What of the signature issues that will be ignored in the upcoming election year? School Choice? Dead as Marley’s Ghost. Liquor privatization? Forget it. Reducing the second highest corporate tax in the nation — a certified job killer? Not going to happen.

And how about the virtually limitless cheap natural gas under Pennsylvania? It still hasn’t dawned on the Governor to mandate that state buildings and vehicles utilize that gift — which would be an economically and environmentally sound policy.

So because the demand for natural gas remains so low, the industry will cap their wells and move out of state, and we won’t have them to use as a convenient punching bag anymore. Brilliant.

So Pennsylvanians will suffer as more opportunities to bring the state into the 21st century are squandered.  The politicians change, but the dismal results stay the same.

Happy New Year!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm Comments (0)

Marcellus Shale Protestors = Lobbyists For Middle East Oil Barons

And there they were, in all their glory, basking in the attention gained from protesting Marcellus Shale drilling.

Sure, those who were angrily denouncing the gas industry during the Marcellus Shale Coalition Conference in Philadelphia got the attention of the local media. But by far, their biggest cheering section, the folks who were happily paying the closest attention, weren’t even in Pennsylvania.

They’re in the Middle East.

The leaders of those oil nations could not be more thrilled to have such a passionate cadre of protestors, who do everything in their power to ensure the United States remains bent over the foreign oil barrel.  And as an added bonus, American petro dollars are used to fund extremist anti-American programs in those very same Middle Eastern nations, resulting in a new generation of well-funded terrorists.

About the only thing missing is the Middle Eastern oil barons not paying the protestors to be their registered lobbyists, because that’s exactly what they are.

*****

We are witnessing the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind as America needlessly sends trillions to China and the Middle East.  The standard of living in those countries continues to rise, as does their global power, while the United States slowly devolves into a second-world nation with — at least for now — a first-world military.

And here’s the part no one wants to admit but is unequivocally true: it will never again be the way it was, and the American way of life simply cannot improve until the people remove their heads from their derrieres and demand that we utilize our own domestic energy resources.

Absent that, the demise is unstoppable.

A look at any port tells the story: tankers and freighters come to America fully laden, but leave U.S. shores virtually empty. And the reason is simple. We make nothing.  No nation can survive, let alone prosper, if it abandons its manufacturing base. But that is exactly what we did.

Of course, we will never be able to compete with the lowest labor costs in the world. So the only way to offset that is to have the lowest energy costs in the world.  And more than any nation on Earth, America can do that.  How? By utilizing the greatest concentration of energy resources on the planet — a level which dwarfs that of any other nation.

There are vast — almost immeasurable — yet untapped oil reserves off both coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico, in Alaska (especially in the ANWR), under the Rocky Mountains, and in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota.

And that’s just for starters.

America has also been blessed with an overabundance of natural gas, including the Marcellus Shale, which just happens to be the second largest gas deposit in the world. Ironically, many of the gas protestors who describe themselves as “environmentalists” (whatever that means) are opposing the cleanest fuel available.

Natural gas produces virtually no emissions, which not only is good for the environment, but its low price and limitless supply are lessening use of more emission–producing fossil fuels.  It’s a no-brainer.

And since it is less than half the price of gasoline, the wider utilization of natural gas can power the economy in an unprecedented way.  As companies like UPS have realized, lower fuel costs give them a competitive edge, and that means greater commerce and more jobs.

And speaking of jobs, take a look at just one glowing example right here in Pennsylvania of how natural gas can get the economy moving again.  Proctor and Gamble has a substantial manufacturing plant in the state, and as with any such facility, energy costs are always one of the priciest budget items.

Upon discovering natural gas under the plant, the company invested in several gas wells on the property — money that was quickly recouped since their energy bill is now dramatically less.  Businesses in that situation can now take the millions in savings and expand operations, hire more workers at good salaries, and keep its manufacturing doors open in America.

But that’s just the beginning.  It’s all the ancillary effects that result from gas that can jumpstart the economy: homes are built and bought (driving down foreclosures), restaurants thrive, many small businesses no longer face closure, and untold new businesses spring to life.  Estimates are that 100,000 jobs have already been created because of Pennsylvania’s (fledgling) gas industry, and billions in tax revenue have filled municipal and state coffers.

And that is but a mere preview of what’s to come.

Yet the protestors would rather kill all that off, content to keep the status quo of $4 gasoline, rising inflation, and a stagnant economy. Oh, and one more thing: their actions jeopardize the safety of every American by keeping the nation in a state of begging, totally reliant on foreign oil. To say our national security is weakened would be a gross understatement.

Here’s the bottom line. Two plus two always equals four, whether or not one chooses to believe that.  Likewise, black gold and natural gas are the lifeblood of every economy, and that unequivocally will not change for scores of decades, if ever.  Those countries with petroleum resources thrive, while those reliant on rival nations for their energy needs are always at a substantial disadvantage.  It is survival of the fittest, and no amount of fairy-tale fluff will change that fact.

The most ignorant aspect of Shale protestors is that they only harp on the “horrors” of natural gas and oil (most of which are easily debunked myths, but that’s another column), yet offer no alternatives — at least none grounded in the real world.  If they ever do, they will be taken seriously.  But until then, they will be laughed off as extremists trying to achieve a relevance that is simply unattainable.

Solar? Wind? Hydro? Love them all.  And we should continue to utilize them so long as they are cost efficient.  But they do not make even the smallest dent in meeting America’s energy needs. Attempts to argue the contrary are folly.

Nuclear is a different ballgame, and we should be doubling our plants, but in the wake of Japan’s (avoidable) crisis, combined with zero political leadership from either Party in Washington, that’s a pipe dream.

Which brings us back to gas. If not gas and oil, then what?  More reliance from hostile foreign nations while out global competitors gain yet another foothold on America? That’s not a solution. It’s a death sentence.

Natural gas, and the industry itself, are not perfect, but they are most certainly the best option we have to keep our communities safe and prosperous, and our people’s dignity intact.  Criticism for the sake of criticism — with no viable solutions — is simply irresponsible.

Of course, so is cooking one’s meal with propane stoves while protesting a natural gas conference — as some hypocritical protestors actually did.  And that says it all.

It’s high-time the United States of America stops using Chinese as its official language and asking permission from Middle Eastern oil barons.

So come up with something better and get your fracking facts straight, or go pass gas somewhere else. 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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September 8, 2011 at 10:42 am Comment (1)

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)

Damn Yankees! Corbett Spends $20 Million On Yanks’ AAA Stadium

There’s good news and bad news for the New York Yankees.

The bad news is that their payroll — always the biggest in baseball — hasn’t produced.  Hey, they haven’t won a World Series in over a year.  Remember, these are the Yankees — the most well-known, most loved (by some), most hated (by many), and wealthiest sports franchise in America. They are the only team on the planet whose season is a complete failure if they don’t win a world championship.

Maybe the recession is finally taking such a toll that even the Yanks are too cash-strapped to bring in new talent. But that’s where the good news comes in.  Turns out they will have extra money to spend after all, now that they won’t be shelling out big bucks to renovate the stadium of their AAA minor league team in Scranton/Wilkes Barre. 

It is not without irony, though, that the Bronx Bombers’ financial home run comes at the expense of Phillies fans.

Literally.

You see, the Yanks’ windfall is courtesy of Pennsylvania taxpayers, who are on the hook for $20 million to upgrade the stadium. And who authorized such an expenditure at a time when the state is facing a $4.2 billion deficit?

Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

The same person who, during his campaign last year. championed fiscal restraint and the need for government to return to its core functions.

And the same person, who, a day after announcing the deal, talked about why the state is in such a fiscal mess:

“(Ed Rendell) said yes, yes, yes,” Corbett said of his predecessor, “and that’s why we are where we are…. in the times we are in we have to be able to say no.”

Come again?

He just spent money on something taxpayers shouldn’t be funding in good times, let alone in a recession when the state’s finances are in really bad shape.

So Corbett’s curveball will keep his approval rating at 30 percent — a great percentage for a hitter but not so good for a politician — and a far cry from the 55 percent he received just six months ago.

Here’s a look at why the stadium giveaway is such bad policy — and bad politics:

1)      People are “stadium fatigued,” having put up money to construct arenas across the state, including facilities for the Eagles, Phillies, Steelers, Pirates and soccer franchise Philadelphia Union.  All told, $1 billion in taxpayer money was used to finance stadium construction since 1999.  And here’s the kicker: the real amount will be almost three times that, because the money usually comes from bonds, which, like mortgages, are paid back over time (20 or 30 years) with interest. Millionaire owners increasing their fortunes on the backs of taxpayers just isn’t right.

Corbett gets the worst of both worlds.  Not only is he viewed as hypocritical for spending money on a stadium, but he loses the game by doing it for the benefit of the richest of the rich, and the victor over the Phillies in the 2009 World Series (not to mention 1950). Don’t underestimate that sentiment come election time.

2)      Blaming Rendell for the state’s fiscal mess is certainly on target, as spending under his eight year watch skyrocketed.  But Corbett’s message increasingly rings hollow since his rhetoric doesn’t meet his actions.

Rendell attempted to bail out the Philadelphia Shipyard (a private entity) so that it could build ships with no buyers, but left office before completing the deal.  Corbett bailed it out anyway. So much for fiscal restraint and getting government out of the private sector.

And it was Rendell who initially wanted to fund the Yankees’ stadium, but again, it was Corbett who came in from the bullpen to get the taxpayer-funded “win.”

Corbett continues to pursue a policy perceived as “spending cuts for you, but not me.” He raised the salaries of his executive staff (who now average $13,000 per year more than their counterparts under Rendell), and increased the budget of the Lt. Governor’s office by 46 percent.

Cuts are inherently unpopular, but people will support a leader who leads by example and mandates that “everybody feels the pain — no exceptions.” That hasn’t happened in Pennsylvania.  Hence the basement-dwelling approval rating.

3)      The stadium funds, which local officials say could actually end up being $25 million, come from a bond used to fund building projects.  In a state as large as Pennsylvania, there are an infinite number of possibilities that would provide a better return to the state and its taxpayers.

Pre-eminent among them would be building natural gas fueling stations for the state fleet of vehicles that will — hopefully — soon be powered by that fuel. (The management of these stations could then be leased to private companies to maximize private-sector efficiencies). Additionally, state buildings should be converted to run on natural gas (with gas being mandated in all new construction), since Pennsylvania is sitting atop the Marcellus Shale — second-largest gas field in the world.  It is clean (virtually no emissions); extremely cost effective (currently one-seventh the cost of gasoline); limitless; creates jobs; and sets the national model for how to achieve energy independence (bolstering national security).

And here’s an added bonus: it can solve a looming problem no one wants to discuss: keeping the gas industry in Pennsylvania.  Despite all the advantages of natural gas, demand is so low that gas companies are finding it extremely difficult to be profitable.  It’s to the point that companies may start capping their wells and rolling out of state to pursue other interests (as it is a very mobile industry).  Such a situation would be catastrophic to all Pennsylvanians.

Bottom line: Tom Corbett is giving Democrats all the ammunition they need to wage effective campaigns against Republican legislators next year. The Governor’s increasing lack of credibility could potentially endanger the GOP majorities in both chambers, particularly in a presidential election year which always generates a significant Democratic turnout.

Core, common sense and consistency are the hallmarks of effective leadership, and all have been in short supply from the Governor’s office.

Just this week, the Governor underwent successful back surgery. We wish him well in that regard, but now it’s time to get his head in the game.

 

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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May 20, 2011 at 3:54 am Comments (0)

Why Is Corbett Punting On Privatizing Booze?

Last November, Pennsylvanians elected Tom Corbett to solve the state’s problems. But instead of leadership, they’ve received task forces and blue ribbon panels.  In just three months, commissions have been formed to deal with Marcellus Shale natural gas (with a whopping 31 members), explore the core functions of government, and figure out how to privatize liquor.

Sorry, but isn’t that why people elect politicians?  Isn’t it their job to solve these problems? 

Commissions and task forces are simply code-speak for passing the buck and kicking the can down the road.  We might as well just hang a sign that reads, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, Blue Ribbon State.”  And if GOP leaders don’t start following through on campaign promises, the only “Red” they’ll see is voter anger when the state turns Democratic Blue.

*****

Since privatizing liquor is one of the only issues which enjoys a large consensus, and would provide billions to balance the ballooning budget deficit, it’s baffling why Corbett would punt away such political capital when he needs it most. Delaying the privatization initiative by instituting yet another study commission was a move that left many observers scratching their heads — and state store union employees punch-drunk with elation.

Even more perplexing is that Corbett has a solid ally in House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who had been spearheading privatization legislation for years. Turzai had a right to expect that, with strong GOP majorities in both Houses, the Governor would come charging out of the gate on an issue that was a cornerstone of his campaign. Instead, Corbett felt compelled to reach into the “Business As Usual” drawer and pull out another meaningless commission, which looks increasingly like a bad political calculation.

*****

Sometimes you have to walk out your door to realize that the grass really is greener somewhere else. For Pennsylvanians, that “green” is all the money saved by consumers in other states because they aren’t gouged when purchasing alcohol. 

For the uninitiated, following is a primer for how the Pennsylvania alcohol monopoly works:

Pennsylvania is the largest purchaser of booze in the world.  The state government, through the Liquor Control Board (LCB), controls the purchase, distribution and sale of all wine and liquor.  You might think that with such immense purchasing clout, its citizens would have outstanding selection and competitive pricing.  But as any Pennsylvanian knows, that’s clearly not the case.

Interestingly, the LCB is charged with two distinct, and inherently contradictory, roles.  While it is responsible for raising revenue through the sale of wine and liquor, it is also charged with controlling the sale of booze throughout the state.  By definition, if the LCB is succeeding at one, it must be failing at the other.

Every bottle of liquor bought in the state comes with an added bonus: an 18% “temporary” tax, which is in addition to the 6% sales tax.  So a $10 bottle jumps to $11.80 before the sales tax is calculated, culminating in a whopping $12.50.  In all fairness, the 18% tax was well intentioned — it was passed by the legislature to rebuild Johnstown after a devastating flood that destroyed the town.

 In 1936.  So much for “temporary” taxes.  

Anyone who has traveled outside Pennsylvania knows how refreshing it is to enter a grocery store, and, remembering that you need a bottle of wine for dinner, walk two aisles over to the plethora of vino at your fingertips. Since others accomplish this with little difficulty, it’s incomprehensible that the nation’s sixth largest state can’t — or, more correctly, won’t — do the same.

It is infinitely more efficient when a private company, responsive to the needs of the free market (instead of bureaucrats), stocks its shelves with items that consumers want, at a fair market price.  It is the core principle on which America was founded.

But Pennsylvania remains stuck in the Dark Ages, and what makes the sin mortal is that it chooses to remain there. It hasn’t dawned on the politicos in Harrisburg that they are losing untold revenue because of their Draconian system, with millions of residents crossing state lines to fill their liquor cabinets.  (No offense to Governor Christie, but anytime New Jersey offers a better alternative, you know you have major problems). 

And despite the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, if you are caught bringing alcohol into Pennsylvania, it’s a criminal offense.  In fact, such “criminals” used to have their cars confiscated for doing so.

To be fair, today’s LCB has made substantial progress in its operations and “customer service.” Not too long ago, all of its locations were “counter” stores, meaning that customers had to know exactly what they wanted before placing their order, since browsing was not permitted.  The clerk would then disappear into the bowels of the store, only to return five or ten minutes later, more often than not stating that they were “out of stock” and asking for a second choice.  Now imagine this scene playing out at Christmas time, with twenty five people in line.

But that’s not all.

Nothing in the store was chilled. No ancillary items such as tonic water were sold. No employees were permitted to offer advice.  And no LCB stores accepted credit cards.  

And all this because former Governor Gifford Pinchot, who as a young man became violently sick while imbibing in Germany, became bound and determined to make alcohol as difficult as possible to obtain. 

But the LCB’s improvements amount to being valedictorian of summer school.  The whole system has to be scrapped.

The ultimate irony is that the Keystone State, birthplace of American democracy and cradle of liberty, continues down the path of state control and government regulation, to the detriment of its twelve million citizens. 

And what are liquor privatization’s chances?  Dead for the spring session, possible in the fall, and virtually nonexistent for 2012. With the make-up of the legislature sure to change next year, the time to take a “shot” is undoubtedly now.

The people have awakened from their stupor, demanding change.  Instead, all they get is a (Pabst) “Blue Ribbon” commission.

Time for another drink.

 

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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April 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm Comment (1)

Libya Is All About Oil — Time To Drill

Recently on Good Morning America, Congresswoman and presidential contender Michele Bachmann was asked, “What is America’s number one vital interest in the Middle East.”

She answered, “…our safety and security of people in the United States is always number one.”

Not only was Bachmann’s response a non-descript talking-point, but it didn’t even answer the question.  Unfortunately, Bachmann missed a softball that she could have, and should have, knocked out of the park, one that would have separated herself from her colleagues.

Here’s the correct answer:

America’s vital interest in the Middle East can be summed up in three words: oil, oil and oil.  That’s it.  If that region wasn’t sitting on such huge reserves, America wouldn’t give it a second thought, with the exception of its security guarantee to Israel.

As a Republican and Tea Party leader, Bachmann should have instinctively talked of America’s unholy reliance on foreign oil, much of it from hostile nations in the Middle East, and aggressively pushed for energy-independence. 

She could have talked about how the largest natural gas deposits in the world remain virtually untapped (the Marcellus and Utica Shale); the vast oil reserves in Alaska that are closed to drilling; the Bakken Formation in North Dakota that holds over 4 billion barrels; the petroleum reserves under the Rockies that could well be the largest on the planet; the fact that we’re not drilling offshore , and that production has not yet resumed in the Gulf.

She could have then explained that, if we focused on these domestic sources, we wouldn’t be paying $4/gallon and watching inflation rise, nor would we be fretting about the Middle Eastern uprisings, and who we should be supporting. 

But she didn’t.  And that’s too bad, because otherwise, Bachmann’s voice on the national stage is an important one.

The fact is that if a leader doesn’t understand, or can’t articulate, solutions to the single-biggest problem facing America — being bent over a barrel because of our energy dependence — then their effectiveness is extremely limited.

And because neither Party, nor current and past Administrations, has done anything to achieve energy independence, America is now involved in yet another Middle Eastern conflict with no clear objectives.  The only things being accomplished are creating more uncertainty in world markets and placing American military personnel in danger. And for what?

Several points to consider:

1)      There is no question why the U.S. is involved.  It’s not about stopping a brutal dictator, nor is it about civilian deaths.  And it’s not about democracy and freedom for the Libyans.  It’s simply because Libya produces a lot of oil.  If it was really about any of the aforementioned reasons, we’d be forcefully engaged in most countries around the globe, since democracies are the exception.  Just look at the Rwandan conflict: 20 percent of the population was slaughtered, but it had no oil.  Result: no intervention.  A little truth for why we are in Libya would go a long way.

2)      So much for Obama’s campaign pledges of “no more wars of choice,” and “no blood for oil.”

3)      Gaddafi, while certainly no angel, has not been the thorn in America’s side he once was.  He admitted complicity in the Pan Am 103 bombing and paid reparations, dismantled his nuclear weapons program and, understanding the new world order after the 9/11 attacks, stopped harboring terrorists.  As a result, Libya was taken off the U.S. government’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list by the Bush Administration, with then- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stating Libya was being rewarded for its “renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation Libya has provided to the United States” in the war on terror. And the flow of Libyan oil has been unimpeded. So much for the brutal dictator theory.

4)      Who exactly are the rebels we are supporting by bombing the country and establishing the No Fly Zone?  Are they all James Madison-types looking to establish a democratic Republic? Or are they the Muslim Brotherhood— or worse?  Given many Middle Easterners’ track record of viewing the United States as the Great Satan, the odds probably aren’t favorable that we’ll be singing Kumbaya with them a few months from now — especially since reports now state that eastern Libya (home of the rebels) sent more fighters to engage the U.S. in Iraq than anywhere else.

5)      A No-Fly Zone does not make a democracy.  Okay, we are preventing Gaddafi from using his aircraft.  But what happens when he starts whipping the rebels anyway?  Do we bomb his troops and tanks?  Do we send in Special Forces?  What happens when a pilot is shot down— as just happened?  More important, what happens when a similar situation arises in Saudi Arabia, and civilians get mowed down — as they will, since the King isn’t going quietly.  Do we establish a No Fly Zone over The Kingdom?  Do we bomb them, too?  Not a chance in the world.

Despite all the questions, there are no answers, and the coalition, if you can call it that, has already begun splitting apart.

6)      We lose no matter how you slice it.  The majority of Libyan oil is sold to Italy and France, yet America has been roped in to do their heavy lifting.  Why?  And as more Libyans die from allied airstrikes, America will get blamed on the Arab Street.  Gaddafi’s claim of another “Crusade ” against a Muslim nation will hit home to millions of Muslims across the world, vastly undermining any goodwill that may have been generated over the last several years and bolstering terrorist recruitment.  And the support of the worthless Arab League, whose officials are already back-tracking, means nothing.  It’s not their planes doing the bombing, but ours.  We get all the negatives and none of the positives while the Arab League gets the best of both worlds.

The United States’ involvement in Libya, a nation that in no manner attacked America or caused it harm, sets an extremely dangerous precedent. Ironically, this effort, executed with no foresight and one that has absolutely no endgame, further endangers our national security.   Playing into the mentality of millions of Muslims that the U.S. seeks to dominate their countries will only enflame anti-American feelings.

George Washington could not have been more right when he advised against foreign entanglements and intervening in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. That wisdom is proof that modern advances will never be a substitute for old-fashioned common sense.

 

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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March 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm Comments (0)

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