Philly Taxed City And Why Can’t We Save The SS United States?

Philly Taxed City And Why Can’t We Save The SS United States?

By Chris Freind Philly Taxed City

In 1979, Chicago’s streets weren’t adequately plowed after a snowstorm. As a result, Mayor Michael Bilandic lost his bid for re-election. After similar snowstorms in Philadelphia, where the streets were deplorable for days, almost 80 percent of voters said “job well done” to then-Mayor Michael Nutter, and rewarded him with another term.

That type of passive neglect has been pervasive in Philadelphia for decades, cementing the city’s reputation as one with virtually no promise of a renaissance-like turnaround. And the numbers bear that out.

A study by the Pew Charitable Trust found that many with the means to leave the city do, as almost 300,000 white residents (one-third of that population) have fled over the last 25 years. Another Pew study showed that, by a large margin, more families with children are leaving the city than coming in. Those who can’t flee get further crushed by an incompetent government.

This is Philadelphia, birthplace of America. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have to be this way.

An acquaintance from London recently arrived in Philadelphia for the first time. Like any good tour guide, this author whisked him off for cheesesteaks at both Pat’s and Geno’s in South Philadelphia. They did not disappoint.

But so much else did.

Since it’s human nature to gloss over that which has become all too familiar, it often takes someone else’s perspective to “see” what’s really there. And after driving around the city, what’s “there” was, on the whole, undesirable. Graffiti. Homelessness. Unkempt houses. A dearth of green space. Malfunctioning parking meters. Trash. Poverty. Incompetence. And trash.

It’s downright embarrassing. And quite frankly, people should be sick of it.

Try talking about how “great” Philadelphia is, and truth be told, it feels more like we’re convincing ourselves rather than impressing guests. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but one that has plagued us for years.

We should have boldly emerged from the shadow of our big brother to the north and the nation’s capital to the south to become a unique destination in our own right, not an also-ran town that serves merely as a pit stop on the way to “better” places.

We should be a world-class city. But we’re not.

Will things ever change? Can people jettison their inferiority complex born of perpetual malaise, and replace it with bona fide pride? Hopefully, but not likely, because Philadelphia has, for so long, been victimized by a toxic disease that destroys the very essence of its people: Impotent leadership.

Since London is in a class by itself, let’s look at Boston – another older, East Coast city – to see why it’s a thriving, vibrant metropolis, while Philly remains stagnant. And for the record, you know things are bad when you’re getting whipped by a city that happens to be in the most liberal state in the country.

Above all, Philadelphia kills itself by being the highest-taxed city in America (cumulatively), levying taxes on sales (2 percent higher than the rest of Pennsylvania), amusements, parking, business income and receipts, hotel rooms, cigarettes, liquor, use and occupancy, net profits, vehicle rental, outdoor advertising, trash, real estate, and, of course, the city wage tax. And let’s not forget the new soda tax. It’s already cost hundreds of jobs, with thousands more to follow, because people are now shopping outside the city – not just for soda, but for all their food needs, decimating the city’s mom-and-pop grocery stores.

Higher taxes result in fewer residents, businesses, and jobs, and, therefore, produce less revenue. In turn, that leads to diminished city services, including an underfunded fire department – which, we just learned, was the primary reason why a firefighter tragically died.

Philadelphia owns the highest or near-highest rates of poverty, homelessness, violence and murder; its education system produces abysmal results; its city pension is catastrophically underfunded; and opening a business is fraught with bureaucracy, and, some say, extortion – both “legal” and otherwise.

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

But rather than embarking on a course that would revive the city, Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council have done what the politicians always do: Put the screws to the residents who can’t afford to vote with their feet.

Compare that to Beantown. Sure, it has its share of taxes, but it educational product is significantly better, and its crime rate lower. Granted, it’s a smaller city, but comparatively, the rates are light years apart.

Boston has made huge strides in preserving green space and cleaning up pollution (such as the now-pristine Boston Harbor), with parks throughout the city. Its public transportation is top notch, and its infrastructure is being improved at an aggressive pace. And the entire downtown area is remarkably clean.

Knowing that quality of life is critical to maintaining a productive workforce, Boston has made its waterfronts safe meccas for entertainment, dining, shopping, and a host of outdoor activities. Contrast that to Fairmount Park, which while beautiful, is shady in many parts – and not from the trees. And for decades, we’ve heard nothing but empty promises from Philadelphia’s leaders about how both the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers – Penn’s Landing in particular – would be fully developed. The failure to do this has resulted in a colossal waste of prime space. And the bike/walking path that was finally constructed along a stretch of the Schuylkill? Plagued by muggings and violence.

So how is it that so many other cities successfully develop much smaller waterways, making them fantastic tourist magnets, such as in Cincinnati and San Antonio, yet Philadelphia, with not one but two major river systems, hasn’t done squat with either one?

Philadelphia obviously isn’t going to bulldoze skyscrapers to make way for green space and riverwalks. But in areas where its leaders could have exercised bold vision, they failed. One of their biggest blunders was ignoring the immensely successful model of “neighborhood” ballparks, where fans stream into local pubs and shops before and after games, creating a lucrative spinoff effect – such as Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and newer ones in Baltimore, Cincinnati and Denver. Instead, Philly’s leaders chose to build in the middle of nowhere. As a result, the majority of fans never spend a dime outside the ballpark. A new baseball stadium near 30th Street should have been the goose that laid the golden egg, but leaders were too chicken to do the right thing.

Same for the Navy Yard, which, with its vast acreage, could be developed into a world-class entertainment facility, connected to Center City by monorail or ferry. Yet it sits unused, just another dream floating away while the competition gets it right.

Another missed opportunity is the brimming-with-potential S.S. United States – once the fastest ocean liner in the world. Other cities’ leaders would have done whatever was necessary to make her a first-class attraction, such as the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif. She could be a mega casino hotel, or filled with museums, shops and restaurants. But instead, she rusts away on the Delaware, seemingly destined for the junkyard while political leaders do nothing.

It is beyond frustrating to visit other cities that have their act together, knowing that Philadelphia’s potential outranks damn near all of them. But potential doesn’t get the job done. Rolling up the sleeves and putting in the hard work does. Contrary to the fairy-tale fluff spewed at press conferences, Philadelphia is not on a path to prosperity. And because of its failed leadership – and a population that no longer demands greatness – more folks will leave, and Philadelphia will continue its sad decline.

Philadelphia is better than that, and Philadelphians deserve more. It’s time to demand backbone from our leaders so that Philly can be the world-class city it was born to be.

As Benjamin Franklin so presciently said: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Hey City Hall – anyone listening?

Philly Taxed City And Why Can’t We Save The SS United States?

Trump Syria Concerns Expressed

Trump Syria Concerns Expressed

By Chris Freind Trump Syria Concerns Expressed

Dear President Trump:

On behalf of many Americans, I am passing along my hope that you make America’s economy great again – really quickly. Otherwise, the Treasury will have to print trillions more in “funny money” to fund your surprising new interventionism – a “quantitative easing” for foreign policy.

After all, it appears that you, in direct contradiction of your crystal-clear campaign promise, are hell-bent on playing policeman to the world. Given what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just said – “We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world” – that’s going to be an expensive proposition, and an unprecedented political quagmire.

But before America’s global gun-slinging commences, I respectfully ask that you consider the following:

1. Where will you start? So you aren’t accused of “continent-bias,” I suggest simultaneously tackling Venezuela, Myanmar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Chad, Nigeria, Qatar, and Libya. France, too – just because it’s France.

And that’s just on Day One.

Given that around, oh … 80 percent of the world’s nations have people committing crimes against innocents – including not-so-insignificant China and Russia – the initial engagements against those abusers should be wrapped up by June. That’s the “easy” part. It’s American troops being stationed indefinitely “in-country” for nation-building and regime change where things get really complicated.

Caveat: I often implore people to “look in the mirror.” So, in truth, that list of offenders also applies to us. One look at our cities – Chicago, Philadelphia, even your hometowns of New York and Washington – shows the staggering number of innocents slaughtered daily in what are, without question, war zones. The atrocities, including the murder of babies and young children, continue unabated, leading to unimaginable suffering.

Tomahawks won’t work. However, Americans just voted for “regime change,” believing you to be the leader who instills order. Perhaps the president’s time would be better spent solving those escalating domestic problems, rather than creating more quandaries overseas.

2. We’ll have to build a lot more Tomahawk cruise missiles. But at nearly $2 million a pop, they get very expensive. Here’s something to consider: The Syrian attack was more than 1 percent of the cost to build your border wall, so your funding dilemma on that initiative will likely get even dicier.

But when the bombs don’t achieve the objective – actually, what is the objective? – we’ll send military “advisers” into Syria. And of course, troops to defend them. But it won’t end there, because it never does. Never. That’s not speculation, but hard fact. Then come bases, deployed troops, and air wings. (Even more concerning, what happens when we engage the Ruskies in a firefight, shoot down one of their aircraft, or vice versa?)

Mr. President, that strategy hasn’t worked too well for us. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting a different result.

Further intervention in the world’s most ignitable powder keg, where Mother Russia is firmly entrenched and standing opposed, is insanity.

3. After we further destabilize Syria, culminating in regime change by toppling President Bashar Assad (as some in your administration are advocating), is that when we “declare victory?” And what will that mean? If it’s anything like Iraq and Libya, when America deposed two secular dictators, only to see massive instability and new governments comprised of even worse people, there will be a lot of scratching our derrieres. Being clueless about next steps after creating a dangerous power vacuum is not the path to the presidential Hall of Fame. Just ask W.

4. When will we learn that interventionism and regime change, especially in the Middle East, always produces catastrophic results?

Saddam Hussein was no angel, but an iron-fisted secular leader. He kept extremists at bay; maintained a regional balance of power; was an American ally during the Iran-Iraq war; and, most noteworthy, was a bitter enemy of Osama bin Laden. But we took him out anyway.

Since ousting Hussein, there have been thousands of car bombs in Iraq; yet while he was leader, there were none. Deposing Hussein, the only man capable of maintaining order, was possibly the greatest blunder in a very long list of American mistakes in the Middle East.

Then America took out the non-fundamentalist Moammar Gadhafi, who had been working with U.S. intelligence against terrorists. Alarmingly, it didn’t dawn on us that the rebels we assisted were the same folks who comprised the largest foreign fighting force battling Americans in Iraq. Libya devolved into chaos (remember Benghazi?) after America’s handiwork allowed thugs to gain power.

And now, we are blindly supporting rebels in Syria. True, Assad is a ruthless dictator, but as an avowed secularist, he provided stability by keeping fundamentalists in check. His drawn-out battle with the rebels has provided a safe haven for terrorists in areas captured from the Syrian government. The biggest irony: ISIS fighters in Syria (and Iraq) are using American weapons.

The United States keeps trying to impose its will in the Middle East, and it keeps blowing up in our faces, literally.

5. Not to appear conspiratorial, but what do we really know about the chemical attack? Could a conventional bomb have hit a rebel chemical weapons factory? Definitely plausible. Was it your “Deep State” nemesis, where agents arranged for the attack as a way to drive a wedge between yourself and Vladimir Putin? Or was it Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation? Were chemical weapons loaded by accident?

Who knows? But clearly, the deliberate use of chemical weapons makes no sense from Assad’s perspective. Just days after the U.S. said it wouldn’t hold him accountable for war crimes, and that the Syrian people would determine their own fate, Assad is then going to gas people and incur the wrath of the world, with amplified calls for his ouster? Seems highly unlikely.

6. Not to insinuate that your military hierarchy and intelligence “experts” are off-target, but A) you have made criticizing them an art form, and B) their trustworthiness leave much to be desired. Many experts think that we actually sunk the USS Maine to spark hostilities with Spain (which in fact led to the Spanish-American War). The Gulf of Tonkin incident, the catalyst for our engagement in Vietnam, was faked. And more recently, the guaranteed claims of yellowcake uranium and WMDs in Iraq – our “justification” for invasion – were totally bogus.

The American people’s healthy skepticism of the intel community’s “findings” is well justified, especially since America has not won a war since 1945.

Minding our own business and not engaging in regime change is not isolationist. It’s common sense.

Americans don’t want another war. Sure, chemical weapons killing 70 are horrifying, but is that worse than conventional bombs killing thousands? Are we, already perceived as “crusaders,” really engaging yet another Middle Eastern country? And after the fact, just as in Iraq and Afghanistan, will we build state-of-the-art infrastructure for another country, while Americans continue to see their bridges collapse, roads crumble and water mains break?

Mr. President, it would be wise to heed the words of Sir Edmund Burke in formulating an exit strategy for Syria before ever entering it: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

Trump Syria Concerns Expressed

Fatties Must Bear Cost For Health Care Reform

Fatties Must Bear Cost For Health Care Reform

By Chris Freind Fatties Must Bear Cost

Three things about health care are universally true:

• It ranks near the top of “important” issues.

• It’s really expensive.

• Damn near no one understands it.

The combination of ignorance and health care’s ever-expanding complexities has resulted in a history of bad policy, where premiums have skyrocketed and coverage has declined. Obamacare, passed in 2009 and upheld by the Supreme Court, was supposed to change that by providing affordable care to every American.

It didn’t.

Despite promises to the contrary, many were unable to retain their preferred physician, experienced unacceptable wait times, and often did not receive the medical care to which they had been accustomed. And instead of physicians primarily focusing on patients – the very reason they chose the medical profession – too many were forced to deal with mountains of bureaucratic paperwork, decimating the personal doctor-patient relationship. Salt in the wound was watching premiums and deductibles continue to climb while health care became ever more labyrinthine.

Despite the broken system, Obamacare ruled the day and reform wasn’t an option. But all that changed with Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Now, repealing Obamacare is legitimately on the table. Or is it?

So as to not put this column’s readers to sleep more than normal, we won’t delve into the technical minutiae of health-care legislation, but instead look at the major areas where reform can, and must, be achieved.

But first, let’s address the white elephant that no one else is: There is no true solution to reforming health care so that it’s affordable for all Americans. None. There are many reasons for this, from our entitlement mentality to costs that simply cannot be controlled. But like our nation’s $20 trillion debt, it is a house of cards that will eventually implode. The best we can hope to achieve is slowing the inevitable and preparing a better system for when the current one collapses.

Two plus two always equals four – whether people choose to believe it. And the hard truth is that America simply cannot afford its astronomical health care costs. Most tragic is that, while everyone talks a great game about “protecting future generations,” so few walk the walk, preferring to “get theirs” as much as possible, to the detriment of our children and grandchildren.

For the last seven years, Republican leaders vowed, above all, to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” When the opportunity finally presented itself, the GOP found itself in complete disarray, with nothing to show but contentiousness within its ranks. Leaders somehow caught off-guard were forced to cobble together legislation that has unflatteringly been labeled “Obamacare-lite,” and which the Congressional Budget Office stated will cost significantly more than Obamacare.

One would have thought that, with so much time, the Republican Party’s best and brightest would have already crafted a bill of common-sense reforms that the whole caucus supported. But they didn’t, and, frankly, still don’t, as the current bill faces stiff opposition on several fronts. And it doesn’t help that President Trump is saddled with an approval rating of just 37 percent – a situation entirely of his own making. Squandering so much political capital in the first 60 days is not a recipe for success.

That said, here are several reforms that would inject market forces into the system to improve care and slow the meteoric rise in costs.

By far, the number one issue that must be on the table is addressing the obesity epidemic. And “epidemic” is exactly what it is, as 36 percent of Americans are obese, and an additional 34 percent are categorized as overweight. It is the largest factor in the spiraling costs that continue to devour ever larger slices of the health care pie. To get our arms around this, consider that more than $200 billion per year – yes, staggeringly, that’s per year – is spent on obesity-related, preventable chronic diseases. In other words, by the next presidential election, we will have spent a trillion dollars just on obesity costs alone. Chew the fat on that, because not even America’s economy can absorb such a monstrosity. And it will get considerably worse as more Baby Boomers – the most overweight generation on record – enters the period where health issues are most prevalent.

Obesity has already caused a massive upswing in cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, bone issues and arthritis, just to name a few. Vaccines are not as effective in the obese, which compounds health care costs and increases risk to the general population. And obesity results in not just high rates of job absenteeism, but “presenteeism” – lower work productivity when employees do show up. In just a decade, the cost for this decreased and lost productivity is estimated to be upwards of $500 billion annually.

There are a host of other negative effects costing billions more – wider seats and doors in stadiums, amusement parks, and public transportation; larger and stronger toilets in hospitals and buildings; airline lawsuits and countersuits over whether the obese should be required to purchase two seats; and yes, even costs associated with building larger coffins. Perhaps most startling, a study found that one billion gallons of fuel are wasted every year (1 percent of the nation’s total) just to haul Americans’ extra pounds. Given that the average American weighs 24 more pounds than in 1960, airlines are using roughly 175 million more gallons of jet fuel per year just to accommodate our mass. From creating more carbon emissions, which in turn causes more health problems, to increasing business costs, the price of obesity is simply unacceptable.

Taxing foods and sugary drinks is not the answer, as that hurts manufacturers, businesses and employees, while penalizing healthy consumers.

So how do we cut the fat from these massive obesity outlays? For starters, since obese individuals incur 42 percent more health care costs than healthier people, they should bear the bulk of those costs.

This author does not typically favor government mandates, since they often lead to a “government-knows-best” nanny state.

However, a mandate that insurers must screen every individual, every year, to gain health assessments and establish baselines, makes sense. With that information, premiums can be adjusted so that those with self-induced obesity conditions pay more. And that is only fair, since healthier Americans are now mandated to subsidize the unhealthy behavior of the obese. Without incentives to become healthier, the problem will continue to expand faster than America’s waistline.

Some will call this a bigoted “fat tax,” while accusing this author of fat shaming. Wrong.

The obese can have their cake and eat it, too. They’d just pay more to do so. In reality, this wouldn’t be a tax at all, but a reduction in the taxpayer subsidy that they currently receive. How is that any different from life insurers making smokers pay more? Or auto insurers charging young drivers higher rates? Higher risk behavior begets higher premiums.

Those who become healthier by hitting reasonable benchmarks would earn a premium decrease, while those who choose to continue an obese lifestyle would be forced to put more skin in the game. No one is mandating what they can and can’t do, but no longer would their lifestyle choices – notwithstanding the “99 percent” who claim it’s a “thyroid problem” – be swallowed by taxpayers hungry for health care premium relief.

Take a bite out of the trillion-dollar obesity epidemic, and the rest is gravy.

Fatties Must Bear Cost For Health Care Reform

Unity Good, Division Bad

Unity Good, Division Bad

By Chris Freind Unity Good, Division Bad

“Oh, that’s madness. The pusillanimity and vindictiveness know no limits. Shouldn’t bygones be bygones? Surely the sophistication of a society can be measured by its tolerance and ability to forgive.”

– Former King of England Edward VIII in “The Crown,” after being informed that, despite abdicating 17 years prior, his wife still would not be invited to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, purely out of spite.

Have we learned nothing over the years? Where are we, as a people, going? And not just any people, mind you, but Americans – the most benevolent and progressive (small “p”) people the world has ever known.

Yet we must ask if those accolades still apply. It seems inarguable that we deviated from our path of righteousness some time ago, willfully allowing that which sets us apart – civility and respect for the rule of law – to disappear from the American landscape. If we are to ever excise the cancerous cynicism now so pervasive, we must honestly ask ourselves, “Who are we?”

This author implores readers to avoid knee-jerk partisan responses that have become an ingrained part of our fabric, and instead pause to think. If we are sincere about self-reflection, we must seek answers in the one place that never lies: The mirror. Only then can we begin to figure out what we have become.

Lamentably, many Americans have become tolerant in name only, projecting an attitude of “sure, I’ll respect your opinion – so long as it’s mine.” Gone are the days when we would disagree civilly, and use that dissent not as a venue for antagonism, but as the building block to solutions.

And quite frankly, it’s never been this bad.

We arrived at our current state in many ways: Looking at the past through rose-colored glasses; playing the blame game; fearing a future where the gulf between haves and have-nots continues to grow; being afraid of change; and harboring an entitled attitude of “let me get mine.” Combine those proclivities with full-blown social media whipping the masses into a fury, where outright falsehoods are routinely claimed as irrefutable fact, and you have a powder keg ready to blow. Not since the Civil War has America seen citizen poised so stridently against fellow citizen.

The road to unity – not the trite sound bite so many mindlessly invoke, but true unity as one America – can only start when people step back and take stock of why we are so “valiantly” demonizing each other.

And yes, while that begins with the president, it certainly does not end with him, for we’ve been on this path long before Donald Trump came onto the scene. Failure to see that we are all at fault will only accelerate our decline as the world’s beacon of light. Consider:

• Longtime friendships have completely dissolved over the election, replaced by total silence or acrimonious battling. That’s insane. And we’re not just talking about amorphous Facebook friends, but people with whom we grew up — colleagues, neighbors, family members. What political disagreement can possibly be worth that price?

• Constructive dialogue has been replaced with nonstop protests, bans and boycotts. But to what end? Sure, those things are our right to do. But that doesn’t make them the “right” thing to do.

So Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. Maybe they did it because sales were declining. Or because its leaders don’t like Donald Trump. So what? If you like Ivanka’s brand, buy it somewhere else. If you want to “punish” Nordstrom, don’t shop there. But why the furious push to boycott? Don’t we have bigger problems to solve than worrying about a billionaire’s daughter? Has it become standard practice to protest and boycott everyone with whom we disagree? Why can’t we just move on with our lives to make America even greater?

Nope. Instead, many Trump supporters are calling for more boycotts, including Coca-Cola and Budweiser because of “diversity” content in their Super Bowl ads. Time to get a life.

And then we have Under Armour models and spokesmen who took issue with the CEO’s statement that President Trump was a “real asset” for American business, leading to the CNN headline: “Under Armour tries to recover from Trump compliment.” Have we stooped so low that companies now have to “recover” from an innocuous comment? Since when do employees call the shots about what their boss can and cannot say?

Not to be outdone, anti-Trumpers felt compelled to burn their New Balance sneakers in a display of solidarity after an executive made a positive statement about the president. Let’s get this straight: Millions around the world have no shoes, but these protesters think it’s morally acceptable to burn shoes costing more than many families make in a year?

• Hillary Clinton called upon all Americans to respect the election results. Yet millions still refuse, setting the horrendous example to our children that we should only respect rules so long as they’re favorable to us.

No one is obligated to support the president, but as Americans, we should respect him and the office he holds – not shout obscenities and give him the middle finger. That is unacceptable. As is the action of the New England Patriots’ players refusing to attend the White House ceremony honoring the Super Bowl champs – because they don’t like Mr. Trump. Get over yourselves. He’s the president. Boycotting such an amazing opportunity shows their total lack of class.

• There is a movement to boycott and even cancel the annual White House Correspondents Dinner – a lighthearted affair dating back to 1921. To have such disregard for tradition, and to create animosity where there needn’t be, sets a horrible tone. How will children learn to interact together at school, play, work and on the ballfield when adults act so childishly? And that admonishment also applies to President Trump. He absolutely should attend.

• Our behavior has not been lost on our youth. They’ve become more emboldened to talk back to their elders and disrespect authority.

• And we are hearing talk about impeaching President Trump. So now, when we don’t like a president, we should call for impeachment, despite zero justification? Where did our common sense go, and why are we so hellbent on destroying ourselves and our children like this?

Our culture of disrespect is dividing us like never before. If our children are ever to have a peaceful and prosperous life, we must demand that civility and tolerance once again become the cornerstones of our society.

And that’s worth tweeting.

Unity Good, Division Bad

Trump Makes Missteps

Trump Makes Missteps

By Chris Freind Trump Makes Missteps

The heavy favorite sauntered in with a swagger that only comes from being on top. They had won the ultimate prize before, but this would be even better, as winning would shatter records and set new precedents. With the caliber of team the leader had assembled, victory seemed inevitable.

But a funny thing happened.

In a shock to the nation, the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide – national champions riding a whopping 26-game winning streak – fell to underdog Clemson at the very end, a stinging loss that no one saw coming. Sound familiar?

Sure, there were some questionable calls that hurt the favorite in the razor-thin contest. But that’s part of the game, so no excuses. Bottom line: On the only day that mattered, the Clemson Tigers were better.

Many disappointed Tide fans are still scratching their heads, wondering how their destiny was ripped away. But none is crying foul, nor are any protesting the outcome, since Clemson won fair and square. Doing so would be the sour grapes behavior of spoiled brats.

So how is it then, that if we can accept the results of a sporting event, we still have people rejecting the legitimacy of President Trump? And why all the protest marches now? The time to protest Donald Trump was Nov. 8, so it remains unclear what these people are protesting.

Since it’s been an unusually eventful inaugural week, here are some of the more interesting developments:

1. We’ll start with the administration. Self-inflicted errors, exacerbated by ego and inexperience, got the Trump team off on the wrong foot. The administration, already at war with the media, began by admonishing the press for its “incorrect” reporting of the inauguration crowd size – despite tweeting a photo that just happened to be from President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. How that mistake was made, if it was a mistake at all, is incomprehensible.

The president’s spokesman berated the press for not reporting that the inauguration was the most attended in history. Despite facts showing it was not (comparative photos, ridership on the Metro, etc.), the administration doubled down, and looked more foolish by the minute. The icing on the cake was when another spokesman stated that their position was based on “alternative facts.”

Too bad they haven’t yet realized that living in an alternative universe isn’t the best way to get a new administration rolling.

Most important, who cares how many people attended the inauguration? It is absolutely meaningless. OK, so fewer people attended this one than the last. Does that somehow make President Trump less of a president? Does that delegitimize his win, or at least knock it down a few pegs?

Maybe some didn’t attend because of weather, or watched on their smartphones, or just didn’t feel like going. Who cares?

Those making it an issue are grasping at straws, attempting to undermine the president’s credibility. Newsflash: It won’t work. People are concerned about their health care, Social Security and jobs – not crowd size.

That said, when will the president learn? Mr. Trump will never be the most popular figure, nor the world’s richest man. But he needs to understand that what he does have – and indeed, who he now is – trumps everything else. Donald Trump, as president of the United States, is the most powerful man on earth. Given the Republican Congress, he is poised to effect more change than perhaps any leader in American history. It is time, once and for all, for him to rise above the pettiness by not acknowledging irrelevant issues that can derail him.

For President Trump to be successful, he must start acting, well … presidential. Instead of worrying about crowd sizes or “Saturday Night Live” or any other extraneous topics, the president should heed the words of Martin Sheen’s character in “The American President:” “You fight the fights that need fighting.”

2. Since when did President Obama become the yardstick for everything? From the number of votes to inauguration crowd sizes to the pace of cabinet confirmations, the media seems obsessed with comparing the two men. Why? They, and the political environment in which they governed, are apples and oranges. No offense to President Obama, but it’s time to look ahead, not back.

3. Speaking of not looking back, it is astounding how many Republicans continue to blame President Obama and Hillary Clinton for so many things. Three points: A) President Obama accomplished virtually nothing over the last six years because the Republicans dominated Congress; therefore, much of that GOP blame is misallocated; 2. Republicans justifiably criticized President Obama for his near-constant blaming of George W. Bush; it is hypocritical for them to now do the same; and 3. the past is just that: The past. It is time to forge ahead with bold new ideas to jumpstart America. Those mired in the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

And, while admittedly a generalization, the only people who seem angrier than the Clinton losers are the Trump winners. As victims of discriminatory, double-standard policies, many have justifiable reasons to feel that way. However, they must understand that arguing with logic and compassion will always trump anger and vindictiveness. If the country is to ever unify, all sides need to grasp that lesson.

4. The fact that 66 congressmen boycotted the inauguration, social media backlash caused entertainer Jennifer Holliday to withdraw from festivities, and vile comments were directed toward a 16-year-old girl over her decision to sing the National Anthem at the inauguration, illustrates why our society is so divisive. Shame on them and their horrendous message that boycotts, threats and insults, even toward the young and innocent, are acceptable when things don’t go your way.

5. And then we have the protests. To quote former Eagles running back Ricky Watters: “For who? For what?”

From the anti-capitalists who smashed their way into a Starbucks (no doubt to grab a smoked butterscotch latte to fuel their violence), to the Women’s March organizers, none has yet provided clarity on what they were protesting. And when liberal feminist commentator Cokie Roberts agrees with that point, you know it’s bad.

Was it to protest the election result? Sorry, but that ship sailed, especially since many more of them could have voted, but didn’t. Was it rebelling against the electoral college and Hillary winning the popular vote? Ditto. How about Donald Trump’s sexist and insulting comments? Yeah, that was hashed out over the last 18 months in that thing called a presidential campaign. So, what then? Was it to send Mr. Trump a message that woman cannot be ignored? Try again, since many women were unwelcome on the march because they were pro-life. Inclusive, the march was not. Or was it the stagnant economy? Gee, that’s great. Blame the guy who’s been on the job for one day.

The real reason for the protests is what this column has frequently discussed: Protesting has become America’s new pastime. The “coddled generation,” which has been raised to believe it’s entitled to everything, sprang into action because it felt “offended” that Trump won, facts be damned.

Bingo.

Sure, protesting is the people’s right. So is stupidity. When the two go hand in hand, the result isn’t pretty.

If America is to move forward, it’s time for the grown-ups – on both sides, starting with the president himself – to take charge. Because as Michael Douglas’ presidential character says, also in “The American President:” “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.”

Time to get cracking. Together.

Trump Makes Missteps

Harambe Death Was Necessary

Harambe Death Was Necessary

By Chris Freind Harambe Death Was Necessary

Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if we ever discuss the issues that actually matter, such as skyrocketing college tuition, a broken health care system and illegal immigration.

But we don’t. Instead, we get sucked into vitriolic national debates on preposterous issues (i.e.: transgender bathrooms).

In that regard, the latest firestorm dominating headlines is animal rights extremists going ape because a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo was killed in order to rescue a human being.

After a 4-year old boy fell into the primate enclosure, Harambe, a 17-year old, 450-pound male silverback gorilla, hovered over the toddler – at times appearing threatening – and dragged him like a rag doll through the water-filled moat. Zoo Director Thane Maynard, fearing for the boy’s life, ordered the special response team to shoot the animal.

This should have been a one-day story about the heroic efforts of zoo officials, the tragic loss of Harambe notwithstanding. But since “rationality” and “animal rights extremists” are mutually-exclusive, the airwaves have been filled with loudmouths throwing a monkey wrench into what should have been a celebration of common sense.

Since we can’t let the loudest voice win, here is a sober look at the situation:

1. Above all, innocent human life comes first. Always. Humans clawed their way to the top of the animal kingdom, and deserve first priority. Is it sad that Harambe died? Absolutely. Is it doubly tragic that Western lowland silverbacks are highly endangered in the wild, and there are relatively few in captivity? No question. But when you cut through the fur, Harambe is still an animal. And when human is pitted against animal, there are no points for second place.

Caveat: the key word is “innocent” human life. If an adult decides to be a moron and voluntarily jumps into an animal exhibit, all bets are off. Sure, efforts should be made to save him, but killing the animal should be off the table. Actions have consequences, and animals should not be penalized for someone’s idiocy.

In the same vein, too many animals, from alligators to bears to mountain lions, are hunted and killed after attacking a human in the wild. No healthy animal should be killed in its natural domain for behaving as nature intended. Again, actions have consequences, and if people want to swim and hike in areas known to harbor dangerous animals, they should be willing to take the risks – or stay home.

2. Many extremists are busy protesting the killing, creating online petitions and memorializing Harambe. But what’s not clear is what they’re actually protesting.

For those outraged that the gorilla was shot, here’s a simple question: if officials didn’t act quickly by shooting Harambe, what was the alternative?

Should they have sung Kumbaya with him in the hope that he would join them and forget about the child? Strike one.

How about sending a team in to distract Harambe? Sorry, but that didn’t work. Officials used special calls to successfully remove other gorillas from the exhibit. But Harambe, who was “clearly disoriented” and “acting erratically,” according to Director Maynard, didn’t respond. Any attempt by humans to approach Harambe could have, and likely would have, been perceived as a threat by the behemoth, who, as a reaction, could have deliberately or inadvertently hurt or killed the boy. Remember, this is an animal so immensely strong that it can crush a coconut with one hand. Strike two.

Then why not tranquilize him? Because, as primate experts pointed out, A) it would have taken time to take effect – time zoo officials didn’t have, and B) because Harambe was already stimulated, any tranquilizer likely would have made him more agitated. Combined with the screams of onlookers, some of whom were on the wall seemingly ready to jump into the exhibit, a tranquilized gorilla may well have lashed out violently, killing the boy. Strike three.

So the question stands: if shooting the gorilla was wrong, then what was the viable alternative? Anyone?

Admittedly, there is one more option that was not utilized: tasering the gorilla. Likely, the taser operator would have had to get uncomfortably close for an effective shot, and in doing so, would have jeopardized the boy’s safety. Nonetheless, that is a question that deserves an answer.

Bottom line: We would all be a lot better off protesting the things that truly matter, such as the senseless violence wreaking havoc in our cities (more than 40 shootings occurred in President Obama’s hometown of Chicago over the holiday weekend).

The justified killing of an animal to save an innocent child is protested, but the silence is deafening when countless young Americans die on our streets. Go figure.

3. The mother should not face criminal charges, as many are demanding. What parents haven’t lost momentary sight of their child, especially when caring for several children? Four-year olds are naturally curious, and have no fear climbing barriers. That’s called “being four.” Is the mother ultimately responsible? Yes. But having almost lost her son right before her eyes is punishment enough. Criminal charges would solve nothing.

By the same token, she should not sue. The barrier was reportedly up to code, and met safety guidelines of both the federal government and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The mother’s mistake – one which could happen to anyone – nonetheless occurred on her watch; therefore, the zoo, and by extension its patrons, should not be penalized because of an individual’s momentary lack of responsibility.

On a related note, several media publications have detailed the father’s criminal past (even though it appears he has turned his life around). That’s disgraceful, since it has absolutely no relevance to the situation. Dragging someone through the mud illustrates why the media is regarded with such disdain.

4. Extremists are criticizing the zoo for not having a second barrier between people and gorillas. But under that rationale, why not have three or four? And while we’re at it, let’s keep all animals at least 500 feet from zoo-goers. Of course, if that happens, people will no longer go to the zoo, forcing closures.

And that’s precisely their goal, as they believe zoos to be evil incarnate.

Of course, the extremists conveniently duck the fact that zoos keep animals healthy; conduct valuable, lifesaving research; and actively breed, keeping bloodlines alive. The last thing officials would want is for one their family members, especially an endangered gorilla and star attraction, to be harmed.

Every year, someone falls from a stadium’s upper deck, almost always the result of irresponsibility. In the aftermath, there is a deluge of nonstop coverage about how stadium officials will reevaluate their railings to make them “safer.” But that’s the wrong answer, as we shouldn’t be changing things that work solely because of a freak accident or acts of monumental stupidity.

It’s the same with the Cincinnati Zoo. Its officials acted responsibly in an extremely rare situation, and saved a human life, for which they should be commended. So without further delay, let’s end this ridiculous debate, reopen the exhibit, get another gorilla in there, and keep alive the wonderment of seeing animals up close and personal.

After all, this isn’t Planet of the Apes. At least not yet.

Harambe Death Was Necessary

They Did Not Fight For Political Correctness

They Did Not Fight For Political Correctness

By Chris Freind They Did Not Fight For Political Correctness

I’m the ‘enemy’ because I like to think, I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech, freedom of choice. I’m the kind of guy who would sit in a greasy restaurant and wonder, ‘Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?’ I want high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, and butter, and buckets of cheese, OK? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in a non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green jello all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because maybe I feel the need to, OK?

– Denis Leary’s character in the movie ‘Demolition Man’

Another Memorial Day is here, and with it the requisite cookouts, flags, and all things red, white and blue. What’s not to love?

Two things, actually.

Not to rain on the parade, but why does it seem that fewer and fewer Americans (especially the younger generations) have even the slightest clue as to what they are supposed to be celebrating? To them, Memorial Day is solely about going to the shore and living it up, to the point where “Memorial Day” are just words associated with partying.

They shouldn’t be.

Here’s a refresher: Memorial Day is the special observance where we honor those who fought to achieve – and later preserve – the unique freedoms that have made America the envy of the world for 250 years.

But even more disturbing is that America has turned into a nanny state at every level, an ever-restrictive society where we are voluntarily allowing our rights to be eroded.

And that is a stinging slap in the face to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of liberty. Translation: that’s not what people fought – and died – to protect.

Rather than embrace our pioneering heritage predicated on pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, with the innate understanding that we the people – not government – know best, we have morphed into a citizenry wholly accepting of being told what to do, and how and when to do it – or else. What’s not yet clear is if a majority agrees with nanny state orders, or if the silent masses oppose them, but are paralyzed to act due to complacency or fear of being labeled offensive, insensitive – or, God forbid, a Free Thinker.

Just look at where things stand:

• We can’t even get into our cars without being told what to do. Don’t buckle up, and you’re greeted with the non-stop beeping demanding you comply – or face insanity, as the alarm never stops. If you own a vehicle that doesn’t have a God complex, you still face significant fines if you choose not to wear your restraint. And ignorance isn’t an excuse, as we are threatened with punishment via multi-million dollar government-sponsored commercials – courtesy of the forgotten taxpayers.

Mandating seatbelts for children is one thing – they are too young to make an informed decision. Fine. But in the same way that not wearing a motorcycle helmet should be a rider’s choice, not buckling up should be the driver’s decision, as any adverse consequences will be limited to that person.

And no, we shouldn’t favor mandates under the false premise that they save on insurance premiums, as A) insurance companies can charge more for higher-risk behavior, and B) at the risk of appearing callous, unprotected driving leads to higher death rates, thereby reducing costly long-term medical care. Bottom line: adult drivers should be able to make their own decisions without Big Brother constantly looking over their shoulders.

• Helicopter parents have taken the nanny state mentality to a new level, corrupting our youth in the process. Instead of fostering an atmosphere of discovery, too many are hell-bent on hovering over their kids’ every action – and our children are losing their childhoods because of it.

The result? We have warped a generation, producing manic children conditioned to fear everything, from walking to the bus, to playing cops-and-robbers, to banning tag and kickball. Everything is so precisely orchestrated that creativity and curiosity has been erased, replaced with a structure so unnatural that social skills are nonexistent.

Worse, under the pretense of avoiding “hurt feelings,” nanny state coaches and league officials often don’t keep score, and standings are frequently taken off-line so as to not offend the lower-ranked teams. Instead, everyone gets a trophy because we have mandated a homogenous society, and individual achievement is all too often frowned upon.

Our attempt to whitewash all that is “bad and unfair” – things that often teach children about life – has produced a generation that naively floats through life believing everything must be guaranteed “safe,” labeling anything not to their liking “offensive.” The result? A sense of entitlement so warped that it may never be brought in line with reality.

• Banning smoking in public buildings is one thing. But when government bans people from engaging in a legal activity in private restaurants (if you don’t like the smoke, patronize another establishment) and in outdoor public places (Times Square, beaches, parks, etc.), it’s clear government is out of control. Many people don’t realize it, but these laws hurt everyone, because they are never rescinded, and almost always lead to more regulations – such as how many ounces of soda can be dispensed at restaurants. Once the nanny door is opened, it never shuts.

• Perhaps most unfathomable is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent edict that, should an employer or landlord not use preferred gender-neutral pronouns and titles – ze/hir instead of he/her, whatever that means – they can be fined $250,000. No, that’s not $250 bucks, but a quarter mil forked over to the city. Beyond the fact that this law absolutely incinerates freedom of speech, the practical aspects are sheer lunacy.

So if Caitlyn Jenner lives in the Big Apple, and someone addresses him/her with a non gender-neutral pronoun, they could be subject to a gargantuan fine, despite there being no way to verify what gender he/she is – and no way to know what identify is “preferred” on any given day. When is enough enough?

When did we go so astray of common sense? How did we devolve to such a low point that our national debates are about transgender bathrooms and “misgendering” people? What the hell is wrong with people who feel entitled to their “right” to do and say whatever they want – so long as it’s a one-way street?

Things have become so utterly exasperating that it’s all too easy to just give up. But in remembrance of those who battled for the “Land of the free and home of the brave,” we owe it to them to keep fighting the good fight so that the wings of liberty stop losing feathers.

They Did Not Fight For Political Correctness

Freind Bearish On The Donald

Freind Bearish On The Donald

Freind Bearish On The DonaldBy Chris Freind

In 2012, rank-and-file Republicans told party leaders, “Anyone but Romney.” Yet, to no one’s surprise, the hierarchy coronated Mitt Romney anyway, punting an election that should have been a slam-dunk.

The silver lining for 2016 was that, after four more years of President Obama, America seemed ready for a change. Even better for the GOP was that Hillary Clinton seemed certain to be the Democratic nominee.

Make the election a referendum on Hillary, and the White House would be theirs. After all, Hillary was unlikable, even within her own party (evidenced by her inability to put Bernie Sanders away); the consummate insider for a quarter century, she was the antithesis of the outsider whom voters were seeking; she was irrevocably linked to the president in a year many felt Obama-fatigued; and perhaps most damaging, she was the target of several investigations, facing possible indictment.

But then something unexpected happened: Donald Trump became the GOP nominee, and all bets were off. In an ironic twist, those in the Republican establishment became the ones pleading – “anyone but Trump” – but paybacks are hell. After years of ignoring their base, the party elites finally “got theirs.”

Intra-Party strife aside, the big question now is: “Does Trump have a path to victory?”

Consider:

1. The only person who could have shifted the referendum from Hillary to her opponent was Trump. And for good reason: despite Clinton’s high disapproval ratings, Trump’s are considerably worse. No candidate has insulted so many, so often, so offensively. And in the age of 24/7 news, those comments never go away.

The Clinton strategy is simple: Spend hundreds of millions to keep Trump’s negatives front-and-center. Combine that with the Democratic Party’s natural Electoral College advantage, and the path to a Trump victory, while possible, is extremely narrow.

2. National polls are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the Electoral College.

A winning candidate needs 270 votes. Hillary, as with any Democrat, starts off with a decisive advantage. Eighteen states are virtual “gimmes,” with Democrats having won every one over the last six elections, including the big prizes of California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. Add New England, Pennsylvania and the upper Midwest, and Clinton sits at 242. At that point, win Florida, and it’s over. But even if the Sunshine State rains on Clinton’s parade, there are many other combinations that would put her above the threshold.

For Republicans, the nation’s shifting demographics create a significant problem. Add the extremely controversial Trump to that electoral equation, and it gets even more difficult.

One of the constituencies Trump has most alienated is Hispanics, with a recent Gallup survey showing him with a staggering 77 point unfavorable rating. Trump is poised to lose them in record numbers. And that likely puts states with ever-increasing Hispanic populations out of reach, such as New Mexico (over 40 percent Hispanic), Nevada, Colorado, and even Florida (which, combined with Trump’s low-blow thrashing of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, could prove very difficult to win).

Of the small handful of states in play, Trump faces an uphill battle in many more than Clinton. And the more red states Trump must defend, such as Arizona, North Carolina, and even Nebraska, the less time he has to campaign in other must-win places.

3. The existence of white, working-class, “Reagan Democrats” that Trump’s campaign claims to be wooing is largely a myth. In reality, those people left the Democratic Party decades ago. The number of Democrats still in that demographic, including union members, are likely not large enough to carry the day in the crucial Rust Belt states Trump needs to win.

4. Much has been made about a new poll showing Trump and Hillary statistically tied in the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. Newsflash: The pollsters missed April Fool’s Day.

These polls are sheer lunacy, good only to reinforce the insane notions of those who believe Trump will garner 370 electoral votes in a landslide — the same “experts,” incidentally, who guaranteed a Romney landslide, including Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Dick Morris and George Will.

How is it possible for Trump to be tied when he is viewed unfavorably by two-thirds of Americans, and three-quarters of women? And how is it remotely plausible that Pennsylvania, which voted against non-offensive “nice” guys John McCain, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush (back when demographics were more favorable to the GOP), will do an about-face and vote Trump? Factor in that Philadelphia suburbanites will vote overwhelmingly for the first woman candidate (irrelevant of Trump), and one can plainly see that polls showing the Keystone State in play are utter fantasy.

5. Another dark cloud over Trump is the fractured GOP, with numerous leaders (all the Bushes, McCain, Romney) withholding their support.

Given that endorsements are the least transferrable commodity in politics, does any of that really matter?

Yes. Big time.

If even 3 percent of Ted Cruz supporters, and 3 percent of the Romney/Bush faction stay home, Trump cannot win, because there’s simply no way to make up that margin, no matter how many Independents he garners.

Think disgruntled Republicans will come around because “Hillary will be worse?” Think again. Millions stayed home four years ago, despite the-sky-will-fall predictions if Obama won a second term.

And let’s be honest: Is there really a single Democrat who voted for Obama the second time, who will now vote for Trump?

There seem to be just three paths for a Trump presidency:

Millions of Democrats stay home, despite knowing they could hand the White House to someone they see as the devil incarnate (very unlikely).

Bernie Sanders or Michael Bloomberg runs third party, splitting the Democratic vote (unlikely).

Hillary Clinton gets indicted (possible but increasingly unlikely).

He won’t do it, but for Donald Trump to possibly be successful, he needs to look in the mirror, blame himself for the obstacles he faces, and do a genuine mea culpa. Most tragic is that his negatives are entirely self-inflicted – and completely avoidable. But because of them, the Republican Party is on track to lose not just the election, but quite possibly control of Congress – not to mention a possible civil war within the GOP. And all because Donald Trump couldn’t respect the two issues that still matter most in American politics: Character and civility.

If that prediction holds true, the message to the Grand Old Party will be the same as the Ringling Brothers Circus: Will the last “elephant” to leave please turn out the lights?

Freind Bearish On The Donald

Donald Trump Defied Expectations

Donald Trump Defied Expectations

By Chris Freind Donald Trump Defied Expectations

It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings. So while Rosie O’Donnell – a favorite target of Donald Trump – would love nothing more than to belt out a tune signaling the end of Trump’s presidential run, it would be premature.

If we’ve learned nothing else during this cantankerous election season, The Donald knows how to defy expectations.

First, Trump was written off as simply a novelty, providing entertainment during the slow summer news cycle. Yet his poll numbers stated to climb. Then he was viewed – and dismissed – as a one-man reality TV act, sure to fade once the debates commenced. But his poll numbers continued climbing. In a “sure-fire” way to knock him out, he was labeled “bully” and “bigot” by his opponents and the media. And yet they went up some more.

Next, he was dubbed a spoiler for the “anointed” candidates. And his numbers increased again. Soon, his opponents were dropping like flies, and Donald Trump went from cocktail party joke to bona fide contender. And now, against all odds, he is indisputably something else: The Republican nominee for president. In his rise to the top, Trump neutralized – or was it neutered? – 16 opponents, and now stands tantalizingly close to winning the White House. Love him or hate him, he deserves credit for one thing — continually proving the “experts” wrong.

But accolades and party nominations don’t win general elections, especially when the baggage Trump carries is the highest of any candidate in history. Here’s a look at the real reasons behind Trump’s victory, and the obstacles he faces:

1. In winning millions of votes, Trump successfully tapped into a massive vein of discontent. But labeling Donald a brilliant political strategist, as some have, is going overboard.

There are three primary factors as to why Trump was effective: A. he told a disgruntled conservative base, in blunt, politically incorrect language, what it wanted to hear, B. he was the only candidate, past or present, to do so, and C. the competition was weak.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Trump’s ascension is the unapologetic about-face executed by many conservatives. In point of fact, the GOP base, comprised mostly of conservative voters (conservative-labeled candidates have routinely won more than 70 percent of the primary vote this year), jettisoned its normal “purity” litmus test to support someone who talked the talk, but had absolutely no history of walking the walk.

For decades, the conservative wing held candidates to such stringent standards that a bipartisan vote cast 20 years prior on a meaningless bill was more than enough to disqualify the “offender,” earning him condemnation as a moderate.

Yet, due to voter anger, that all went out the window, with Trump earning an unprecedented free pass from conservatives, with many looking the other way on Trump’s personal life, insults, prior liberal positions, and his past support of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. In fact, some of his supporters were so blindly loyal that when Trump inadvertently insulted them – “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose voters” – it was taken as a badge of honor.

In reality, Trump had virtually no “conservative credentials,” so the $64,000 question is whether he has “evolved” into a true conservative, or is simply an opportunist who utilized his TV skills to whip an angry GOP base into a frenzy. Time will tell, though if it’s any indication, Trump’s tack to the Left on numerous issues, including minimum wage and taxing the rich, is an ominous harbinger for true conservatives.

If his move to the center continues, will those who gave him the nomination feel betrayed – and abandon him? “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” may become the mantra of disaffected conservatives who took a chance on The Donald and got burned.

And let’s be honest about the other reason for Trump’s victory: He got lucky by competing in a very weak field (a problem for the GOP going back decades). Granted, it wasn’t easy winning the nomination, but if not Trump, then who? Who was the bona fide standout contender that could have carried the GOP mantle? There was none.

The lower tier, from Rick Santorum to Mike Huckabee to Jim Gilmore (wait … who?), ran to make a point. The next level had name recognition, but no base (Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie). Others ran to bolster their comedic resume (Rick Perry, Ben Carson).

And the “frontrunners?” Marco Rubio imploded, showing the country that with his lack of gravitas, he wasn’t ready for prime time. Jeb Bush, the establishment’s $100 million “sure bet,” saw his coronation go up in flames even before Trump got going. Ted Cruz was arguably the most unlikable candidate in modern political history (was he born with that scowl?). And John Kasich, who, despite standing the best chance of beating Hillary, was doomed by the perception of being a moderate in a conservative-dominated primary.

It was reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s 1992 primary when he found himself in hot water over the Gennifer Flowers affair. The pundits declared him dead, but who was capable of stepping up as a legitimate frontrunner? Paul Tsongas, an ex-senator from Massachusetts? (Fellow Bay Stater Michael Dukakis getting crushed four years earlier didn’t help). Crazy Californian Jerry Brown? Ex-Sen. Eugene McCarthy? Since none was viable, the charismatic Clinton, despite his difficulties, was a shoe-in because the competition was so weak.

Combine that with the fact that Trump dominated news coverage because of his bombastic style and insults (via an all-too-willing media), and excelled at throwing red meat to the base, and you had the recipe for the perfect political storm.

2. The two people most responsible for Trump’s ascendancy are former House Speaker John Boehner and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

For years, rank-and-file Republicans asked, begged and eventually demanded that their leaders do their job: Promote the GOP agenda. From tackling illegal immigration to passing a balanced budget to coming up with a viable alternative to Obamacare, the base had a reasonable expectation, especially with Republican majorities in Congress, that these issues would be addressed.

But they weren’t. Instead, lip service and impotence ruled the day.

The mounting perception was that Boehner and McConnell, as the consummate Beltway insiders, were conflict-averse, entirely too comfortable in their positions to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. Instead, they endlessly complained about their conservative members, criticized without acting, and, worst of all, made “deals with the devil,” giving in to the president and Harry Reid without a fight, despite holding the cards.

The result? After years of saying “do something – or else,” the shoe finally dropped. The “or else” manifested itself as the establishment’s worst nightmare: Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee.

All of which places the fractured GOP in unprecedented territory, as numerous leaders have publicly stated their intention not to support Trump.

How ironic that those not willing to do anything for fear of losing an election, are now the same ones willing to throw away an election. Whether Trump can capitalize on that hypocrisy remains to be seen.

Donald Trump Defied Expectations

Sad Celebrities Get No Sympathy

Sad Celebrities Get No Sympathy

Sad Celebrities Get No SympathyBy Chris Freind

Given the huge implications of the recent presidential primaries, this column could easily have been about the newly shaped presidential race.

Instead, it’s about something more important: The need to call out arrogant celebrities whose sense of entitlement is perversely affecting our children. Rather than living up to their responsibility as role models, these “stars” are teaching all the wrong lessons about how we should conduct ourselves when things don’t go as planned.

And let’s be honest: in our 24/7 social media culture, people – especially kids – emulate pop culture icons substantially more than they do the president of the United States, sad as that may be.

Granted, it’s the nature of the business for celebrities to exhibit a certain level of conceit, born from big fan bases and the ever-present sycophants. But the level of pretentiousness is out of control. And that expectation of privilege, with accompanying tantrums, will only grow if we don’t stop excusing their reprehensible behavior. Since 99.9 percent of our children won’t have multi-million dollar paychecks on which to fall back when they storm out of a situation not to their liking, we better get ready to reap the whirlwind.
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Consider these recent gems:

–“Live” talk show host Kelly Ripa reportedly threw a fit and stormed out of the studio after discovering that co-host Michael Strahan would be departing to take a full-time position with Good Morning America. She left the show (for which she is paid $20 million annually) and was unable to be reached, leaving network execs scrambling to find replacements for the four days she was MIA. And why her diva antics? Ostensibly because she wasn’t informed of the Strahan decision earlier.

ABC’s reaction? A free pass, with a nice cover story that she was on a “previously-scheduled vacation.” Sure she was.

Outside of a few criticisms from anonymous sources (the height of cowardice), there was no pushback from the network. Instead, she’s back to work and continues to rake in the dough. Since she didn’t apologize, Ripa must think she did no wrong, and was fully entitled to act in such an unprofessional way.

Sure, Ripa has a fan base, and exudes some, albeit not much, charisma. But no one is irreplaceable, especially when the hardest job requirement is reading a monitor – for 20 mil, no less. The network’s coddling effectively condones Ripa’s prima donna attitude, making her actions seem not only justifiable, but admirable to many young people.

–Last month, Chicago White Sox player Adam LaRoche walked away from a guaranteed $13 million (for what amounts to a six-month work year) because the team simply asked that his 14-year old son Drake not spend so much time in the clubhouse. Not only was Drake with him (and the team) virtually every day, but he even had his own locker.

So because the organization (and some players) expressed concern that the locker room should be, first and foremost, for the privacy of the players, and was not always an appropriate place for a child, LaRoche decided to quit, walking out on his team in the process.

Sure, sharing part of a dream job with a family member is admirable, and many players do – now and then. But every day? LaRoche took advantage of a generous situation afforded him by team officials and fellow players, and exploited it past all bounds of common sense.

Far from carrying the mantle of “most committed parent,” LaRoche instead became the poster boy for the “you-offended-me, so-I’m-quitting” movement. He sent the message to every young ball player that if your coach (or leader, teacher, or parent) asks you to do something you don’t like, it’s OK to walk out on your teammates, friends, and family, with no regard for anything but your “hurt feelings.”

What’s next? Should an office worker be allowed to bring his child to work every day? And at what age? Eighteen months? Fourteen years? Newsflash: that’s why God made daycare and school. In the real world, such an action would never be considered by a rational person because of the sheer ludicrousness of it.

As a coddled celebrity, LaRoche obviously thought he was entitled to do as he pleased, and upon not getting his way, he quit like a petulant child. But what happens when people follow LaRoche’s example in a real world job, without the cushion of millions to make such a decision possible?

— Perhaps worst of all, we have Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford. Just two months after signing a $36 million dollar contract (with $22 million guaranteed), he’s demanding a trade and telling the organization he won’t be attending the “voluntary” workout camps.

Why the outrage? Was he relegated to third string? Placed on the practice squad?

No. Much worse: The Eagles decided to select a quarterback in the NFL Draft.

Yep. That’s it. Despite assurances from the Eagles that he would, in fact, be their starting QB – and one would hope so, given the eyebrow-raising contract he was just given – Bradford threw a fit, causing needless disruption amongst his players.

Bradford is no Joe Montana, as evidenced by his underwhelming 7-7 performance last season. And his health has always been an issue, evidenced by this being the first spring since 2013 where he is able to practice at 100 percent. Bottom line: The Eagles made a sound business decision. (And since when is a little competition a bad thing?)

It didn’t matter to Sam that the Eagles are acting in the best interest of the team (and Sam) by preparing for all contingencies. Nor did it matter to Sam that his childish antics have been detrimental to team cohesion, with players wondering whether he will stay and be their leader, or is just buying time until he gets shipped off. Uncertainty leads to turmoil, which leads to toxicity. And toxicity always – always – kills any chance for a serious playoff run.

And just like that, the cautious optimism in the post-Chip Kelly era has been replaced by a wholly avoidable cancer. But instead of calling Bradford out for being a rich brat, and telling him to get his derriere in gear, the Eagles, unsurprisingly, are responding with fluff, and likely entertaining offers to trade him. And if that’s true, why sign him to such a lucrative contract in the first place?

All appeasement does is lower the bar for the next disgruntled mega-millionaire athlete to disregard contracts and jettison loyalty in favor of even more outrageous “it’s all about me” demands.

Pouting over things that are “unfair” (things that, incidentally, often teach children about life) is imbued in the young generation. They have been coddled by their parents so much that they don’t know how to fail. And since they haven’t learned how to fall, they can’t pick themselves up to try again. Instead, they are growing up in an artificial world of absolutes where everything must be to their liking – or they sulk away.

If we are to ever break the harmful cocoon into which we are placing our children, their role models must be called out when they act like privileged jackasses.

Otherwise, we might as well just punt because it will soon be game over.

Sad Celebrities Get No Sympathy