Monday, September 29, 2008

No Hijab on the-Job

The Philadelphia Police Department has a series of dozens of what are known as 'Directives' which govern nearly every facet of a police officer's work. From their uniforms to their firearms, from the proper procedures for obtaining warrants to the proper procedures for recording daily work assignments.

Every single person who signs up to become a Philadelphia police officer is aware of these directions, qualifications, and restrictions.

The uniform serves a couple of specific purposes. Not only does it identify each wearer as a police officer, but it also engenders respect.

It's formality let's those who come in contact with an officer know that they are dealing with someone who represents their municipality in an official capacity.

The uniformity shows that all those wearing the particular uniform are parts working together as one entity in carrying out their respective individual duties.

The Philadelphia Police Department is a para-military unit, which means that they are a group of civilians organized in a military fashion. Much of the uniformity, weaponry, and tactics of being a police officer are drawn from the military services.

Today, the uniform of the Philadelphia Police officer is under assault by a handful of special interest and religious groups. A female officer from North Philly's 35th District, publicly identified in the local media as officer Kim Webb, claims that she became a Muslim after being hired for the police job. Webb states that her faith requires her to wear a 'hijab' at all times in public, and so now wants to wear this garment along with the rest of her police uniform.

This article of clothing is completely religious in character, and has nothing to do with her police job, and is nowhere to be found on the list of proper uniform items in the PPD. Bottom line, P/O Webb is not allowed to wear the item while in uniform.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Church and the Death Penalty

It might seem to some that a topic as fraught with controversy as the death penalty might not be the best topic for this 'Sunday Sermon' series that I have going as a regular feature here at the website.

However, these are not normal times, and these times have resulted not only in my own personal re-evaluation of the issue, but also have resulted in my own increased research into the topic.

These 'times' that I am speaking about involve the murder of four on-duty uniformed Philadelphia police officers within the past calendar year, including last week's cold-blooded assassination of P/O Pat McDonald. This follows on the heels of another similar murder of P/O Gary Skerski just 2 1/2 years ago.

Gary was the only one of these recently murdered officers whom I knew personally. He was alternately gruff and gregarious, but if you knew him well enough to be taken into his inner confidences it was usually the humor that you were exposed to: Gary was quite simply a very funny guy.

He also was a man who cared a great deal about supporting his family, and although his career had taken him to a relatively safe position in community relations, he would go back onto the often hard streets, making overtime as a part of the 'Safe Streets' effort to lower the drug trade in Philadelphia. While working this detail one night, Gary was gunned down by an armed robber.

When Gary Skerski was murdered, I lost someone whom I had laughed with, ate meals with, even worked a few shifts on the same details and in the same vehicles with. For some reason though, throughout the entirety of my police career, even through most of these recent murders, I maintained my status as one of the few police officers who were not in support of the death penalty.

I believe that these are personal, individual decisions that each of us has to make, coming to peace with the decision in our own hearts and minds.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

JRollin' Into the Playoffs

The 2007 National League Most Valuable Player had certainly not played up to that standard during the 2008 campaign. Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies multi-talented shortstop and that '07 MVP struggled with the bat through the majority of the first five months of the season. His numbers were nowhere near those of that magical season which he fashioned just a year ago. In 2007, Rollins led the Phils to their first division championship in 14 years with his .296 batting average, 30 homeruns, 94 rbi, 139 runs, 41 steals. This came on the heels of a 2006 year in which he had 25 homers, 83 rbi, 127 runs and 36 steals, and seemed to signal a progression that placed the player known as 'JRoll' among the elite at his position. At age 29, he seemed a regular strength that the Phils would be able to count on for at least the next few years. Instead, he pretty much crashed and burned statistically and production-wise in 2008, in which he would finish with just 11 homers, 59 rbi, and 76 runs scored, numbers that are completely unacceptable as the leadoff man in one of the most offensively solid lineups in baseball, playing his home games in a hitters paradise, and coming off an MVP year. But one thing that Jimmy Rollins never, ever let happen was that he did not take those offensive struggles out to the field with him. When JRoll took up his position at shortstop for the Phillies, he was again that Gold Glove Award winner. His range into the hole and up the middle, his mastery at turning the doubleplay with keystone partner Chase Utley, that rocket arm, his athleticism in going back on balls into the outfield or over by the 3rd base line, all of this remained. Jimmy Rollins bat might not have been much this season, but his defense at shortstop was a key reason that the Phillies went into this weekend in control of their own destiny, trying to clinch a 2nd straight division title. On Saturday afternoon it would all come together with a highlight reel play that will stand forever in the minds of the fans who witnessed it, either in person or on television. The Phils had a 4-2 lead and handed the ball to closer Brad Lidge for the 9th inning. Lidge was a perfect 40 for 40 in Save opportunities, and the Phils' NL East title seemed all but assured as he struck out the leadoff batter. But then things got hairy as a walk and a couple of dink hits allowed the Washington Nationals to creep within 4-3, with the bases loaded and just one out. An inning earlier the Nats had challenged again, cutting a 3-1 Phils lead down to 3-2, but Rollins had helped put out the fire with a sensational ranging play into No-Man's Land in centerfield. But he saved his best for this 9th inning drama. The Nats talented young leader, 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman, stepped in with those bases loaded, the tying run just 90 feet away with just one out. That close to Lidge losing his season-long perfection. Zimmerman got a pitch he liked and drilled a ground ball back up the middle that appeared for a second that it would roll into centerfield for a 2-run hit and a Nationals lead. But suddenly there was the speedy JRoll, slide-diving to snare the seeing-eye grounder. In the same motion that he speared the ball, he fed it to Utley at 2nd. Chase took the perfect feed for one out, turned, and fired a laser to 1st baseman Ryan Howard that beat the hustling Zimmerman by a couple steps for the game-winning double play. The Phils exploded onto the field to mob one another as the Citizen's Bank Park crowd, and fans watching everywhere, erupted for joy. The Phillies are National League East Division champions for the 2nd straight season, and will open the playoffs at home against the wildcard Milwaukee Brewers. And although he had a down season, they simply would not be there again without the efforts of Jimmy Rollins, both in that clinching game, and in the field all season. Thanks to the gifts of his glove, arm, range, and speed, the Phils are once again JRollin' into the playoffs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The One That Got Away

It was just after 1:00 AM in the freezing cold early morning hours of Friday, January 30th, 1970. To put in perspective how long ago it was, just three weeks earlier the Beatles had performed together in the studio for the final time, and it was just 3 weeks since a new soap opera 'All My Children' had made its debut on television.

The remnant of a previous snowfall still coated the ground as rookie Philadelphia police officer Fred Cione pushed his red patrol car around the corner and into the 1700 block of west Oxford Street in the city's 23rd district.

My wife, the former Debbie Marshall Howe, grew up just two doors from Fred's family on Huntingdon Street in the city's Kensington section. As a 14-year old budding adolescent at that time, she already recognized that Freddie, a single Vietnam vet, was 'really handsome' and 'built'.

As this handsome 25-year old rookie cop drove onto Oxford Street that night he came upon three men and found something suspicious about them, or their behavior, or just the fact of them being on the streets in that location on that kind of night.

What we do know for sure is that Freddie got out and approached the three, and that one of them opened fire on him with three gunshots, one of which went into this chest and another into his gut. The men ran off, and Freddie was left to die like a dog in a North Philly gutter. That was almost three full decades ago.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Point a Gun at a Cop, We Will Kill You

Today's online editions, and I understand the print edition as well, of the Philadelphia Daily Liberal Rag, er, Daily News quotes a 'nearby resident' in the area where police officer Pat McDonald was gunned down as saying "Cops are always using unnecessary force instead of trying to defuse the situation. That is someone's son that is lying dead there. We aren't ever told anything. All we know is that another young black man is dead and another cop is dead, too. They want us to give the cops respect, but the cops don't respect us." If I were the intrepid reporter interviewing this particular enabler my next question would be: "Who is us?" Who is it that the cops don't respect, first of all, and secondly, why should cops, or anyone for that matter, respect you? The fact is that from the families that raise them, or should I say frequently don't bother to raise them, to the neighbors who turn a blind eye, to the politicians that paint them as victims and perform the ultimate act of enabling, there is an entire community of people both in this city and around the nation whose off-spring are turning into animals. Not "someone's son", but someone's spawn. A 'son' is defined by Webster's as "a human male offspring, especially of human beings." The word to define Daniel Giddings, as well as Danyea Phillips who shot two undercover Philly Cops back in 2007, John Lewis who killed P/O Chuck Cassidy, Eric Floyd who was one of the killers of Sgt. Steve Liczbinski, Solomon Montgomery who killed P/O Gary Skerski, and many more including the young one who stole a car and smashed into P/O Isabel Nazario, killing her instantly, is simply 'animal'. These animals have an obvious common denominator that was covered in my November 1st, 2007 piece titled "Black Males Are Killing Us", but they are not the only big problem in and of themselves. The interviewee of the DN article today who attempted to pass off some of the blame on Philly Cops is a huge part of the problem. Also perhaps playing an even bigger role is the family, who showed up in the aftermath, many in muslim garb, as one person wailed "He was a muslim! They killed him!". My response to that individual would be "So what?" Who cares if the murdering animal named Daniel Giddings was a muslim, or a worshiper of the sun god Rah? What does that matter in any way? The guy is a lifetime cancer in the community. He has repeatedly committed numerous felonies, including while in prison. He was a menace to society who clearly practiced the anarchy that those around him preached. The 'us' likes to cry that the problem is with 'the Man', even though the real problem lies with the community itself. Well here is my answer to anyone else who chooses to draw a weapon on Philadelphia police officers. Just as responding P/O Rich Bowes deservedly did to Giddings in an outstanding example of police work, so shall we do to the rest of you: we will kill you. You might get lucky and either get the drop or ambush one of us, but you cannot escape us all. You aren't big enough to take us all, we have folks bigger and badder than the baddest you have to offer. Your gang isn't big or strong enough. Ours has over 6,000 members in just the local chapter alone, we wear and bleed blue, and we all legally carry guns and other weapons on us, as well as being all linked by high-tech radio systems. You can't run far enough if you do happen to initially slither away. There has only been one murder of a Philly Cop in our history who went without capture, and that one was well over three decades ago. We practice with our weapons regulary, the state mandates it. Our department guides us and trains us in how and when to use our guns as well. But one thing that is certain: if you point a gun at a Philadelphia police officer, you are pointing it at the entire city. And now, after a number of us have had to pay the ultimate price for the work that your family and neighbors and community were unwilling to do in your formative years, we will no longer hesitate. Many cops who are killed are ambushed by cowards like those listed here. But there have also been cops in the past who have hesitated to pull their guns and shoot. Some feared the simple act itself. Some feared the ramifications of desk duty, and ACLU or media or community protests and negative reporting. Some feared unfair treatment at the hands of overzealous and two-faced politicians who want to talk the 'tough cookie' talk, but never back up those of us who have walked the tough walk on a daily and nightly basis. But today there is no one who is in fear of using their weapon. We will use them within guidelines, but make no mistake about it, we will use them. You see, we want to return home to our family tonight. We want to go home and watch the Phillies pennant race, or the Eagles game. We want to make that class to obtain our college degree. We want to see our kids dance recital or ball game. Unlike these animals and most of their enablers, we care about our communities, our families, and our lives. We will not allow you to take them from us, or us from them, any longer. If you point a gun at a Philly Cop, plain and simple, we will kill you. If any politician or other 'leader' thinks that is harsh, then maybe you need to take our guns away from us. Because otherwise, we not only will use them to defend ourselves and the public-at-large, but we are required to use them for those purposes. We do not need to wait until a bullet is screaming on it's way towards our body before we pull the trigger. We do not need to 'wait until they get one off' first. We do not need to put our lives in mortal danger when someone pulls a gun and begins to point it at us. What we need to do is what we now will do, which is what we are trained to do with our guns: we will kill you. We are not trained to 'wing' anyone. We are trained to aim for center mass as best as possible. That is often a kill shot. That message needs not be sanitized. Instead, it needs to get out there in the community and reach the ears of the drug dealers, terrorists, lifetime felons, and other neighborhood cancers who would do us harm. Point a gun at a cop, and we will kill you. Plain and simple.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

$700 Billion Dollar Roller Coaster Quick-Fix

Our government is considering, and is at this moment negotiating, a $700 billion dollar package to 'rescue' the economy from what is being sold to us as certain ruin.

This 'ruin', of course, was completely and totally self-inflicted. Interest rates at historic lows combined with a loosening of lending policies, especially by mortgage companies, resulted in a number of bad loans to poor credit risks that was inevitably going to come crashing down around many people and companies.

Those who bet on an ever-expanding economy were right in the long run, because the fact is that over time the economy will likely expand, assets will increase in value, and investments will rise.

But some people also forgot that the economy takes ups and downs, much like a roller coaster, on the way to the ultimate thrill of an ending. Some people are going to get caught in a 'down', they are going to lose in the market. That is the risk involved in the ride, that every once in awhile one is going to run off the tracks and crash.

The ride is often a true thrill, because you have great highs where you soar, where your investments rise and you feel invincible as your account balances inflate. However, you also have to suffer the anxiety of the downturns.

The economy will adjust from time to time, weed out the bad, and hit that roller coaster dropoff. Your stomach may rise into your throat at this point, and you may even scream out of sudden fear for your safety, the safety of your assets in this case.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cheesesteak Heaven

Every year, Philadelphia magazine comes out with a special edition highlighting the "Best of Philly" in which they rate the top local eateries, businesses, celebrities, watering holes, get-aways, etc.

One of the most hotly debated categories each year here in the City of Brotherly Love is the 'Best Cheesesteak".

You see, the cheesesteak is Philly's signature food.

This delicacy of thinly sliced or chopped steak, normally covered with your choice of cheeses, smothered in whatever condiments you like, all served on a fresh, soft long roll is as much a part of our culture as the Mummers, the Big Five, left-wing newspapers, and entrenched politicians.

The only problem with Philly magazine's picks is that they are far too politically correct. They spread the "Best Cheesesteak" title around among the leading contenders every year. Once in awhile they may toss in a surprise.

But for me, the fact is that year-in and year-out there are a handful of locations that simply offer the true best cheesesteak consistently.

Now the term 'best' when judging a cheesesteak is a tough one, even for a connoisser such as myself. The fact is that the basic sandwiches served in some of the top spots are slightly, but significantly, different from one another.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

I was born and raised in the Two Street section of South Philadelphia, and during the late 1960's and into the mid-1970's my parents sent my brother and I to school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a Catholic elementary school.

The home parish church for that school was located directly across from our little South Philly rowhouse. It was a matter of feet from our front door to the side entrance of the church itself.

OLMC provided me with a tremendous education, and my experiences there were some of the most memorable and valuable of my life. I'll get to some of them in a future post.

But one thing that I can say for sure is that never during the entire eight years that I spent at what was known to us simply as 'Mount Carmel' do I recall being told just who or what was our namesake.

So it's well past time to take a little trip to the web libraries and find out just what and whom the namesake of my original and still thriving parish is all about.

Per Wikipedia, Mount Carmel is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel and the West Bank, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. It is characterized by a 'richly fertile hillside', thus its name which means 'plantation of high quality trees' and its tradition of being known as 'the vineyards of God.' Israel's 3rd largest city of Haifa is located in its northern slopes.

What is regarded as 'one of the most important human fossils every found' was located in one of Mount Carmel's caves during excavations there in the early part of the 20th century, in the form of the skeleton of a female neanderthal now named Tabun I.

These excavations were able to trace human developments passage from hunter-gatherer groups to more complex agrigultural societies over what has been estimated as a span of roughly one million years of human evolution.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Phillies on a Pennant Push

For a baseball fan like myself, it's always a great summer when your home team is involved in a pennant race. My hometown Philadelphia Phillies have found themselves in the race for most of the past half dozen summers, finally reaching the playoffs a year ago when they won the National League East Division pennant on the final afternoon of the season. The Phils chased down the New York Mets last season, edging them by a single game after trailing by 7 1/2 games with just 17 left to play. This year the Phils are not in such desperate shape heading into the final week of the season. In fact, the club is firmly in control of it's own playoff destiny. By winning their last 7 straight games, they have taken a lead over the Mets by a half game in the NL East, and the New Yorkers have lost their closer, Billy Wagner, for the remainder. Better still, the Phils are two games up on the Milwaukee Brewers, the nearest pursuers to the Mets for the NL Wildcard berth, and the Brewers may have just lost their 2nd best starting pitcher, Ben Sheets, for the remainder. So the Phils enter the next-to-last weekend in first place, and with a firm grasp on a playoff spot. They probably need finish only 5-4 to get the playoff berth, though will perhaps have to do better than that to nail down the divisional title. The Phils offense began the season being led by a red-hot Chase Utley, who bolted out of the gate on fire for the first two months, and Pat Burrell, who was picking up where he left off last season with big hits. Utley and Burrell's fire was needed, as both Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino spent significant time on the Disabled List early on, and Ryan Howard was ice cold the first two months. Just when Utley and Burrell began to cool, Howard heated up significantly, and was joined by outfielder Jayson Werth in leading the offense. Victorino returned and also got hot, and as September began even J-Roll began to get his game together and started producing. Howard has remained hot since June, and is a leading NL MVP contender heading into the final week, needing perhaps just one more hot week leading the Phils to that division title to clinch it. But the real reason that the Phils are in this solid position right now is an unexpectedly strong performance from the pitching staff, especially the bullpen. Cole Hamels has been as good as advertised most nights, and Jamie Moyer has once again defied Father Time to post one of his most consistently strong seasons in years. Brett Myers was downright awful for the first three months, got sent down to the minor leagues, and since returning two months ago has simply been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Joe Blanton was added in trade to provide stability, and he has done just that. He will never be a lights-out stopper, but he gives you a dependable, veteran, quality start most times out. Kyle Kendrick kept winning for awhile, but it was with mirrors, and the league finally caught up to him. To the rescue has come lefty J.A. Happ, who has been solid every time the Phils have given him a chance. In the bullpen, the off-season trade to bring in Brad Lidge as the new closer has proven to be perhaps GM Pat Gillick's best acquisition to date. Lidge has been perfect in save opportunities, though he has struggled from time to time since being misused in the MLB All-Star game back in July. The rest of the pen has also been solid, with Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, Clay Condrey, Rudy Seanez, and now the newly acquired Scott Eyre holding most of the leads with which they have been entrusted. Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett have been invaluable off the bench, and Pedro Feliz has been one of the best defensive 3rd basemen in the league when healthy. The Phils catching combo of Chris Coste & Carlos Ruiz is highly underrated. And for the pennant push there are veteran bench bats Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, So Taguchi, and Tadahito Iguchi around for depth and pinch-hitting. Charlie Manuel's team appears like it has everything that it needs heading into the final games, and hopefully into the playoffs, and there is every reason for we fans to believe that not only will this pennant push be successful, but that the season will continue well into October.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Islamism Series: Obsession

This past Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer's weekend advertising inserts included an item that you might have missed if you weren't looking carefully, or that you might have simply disregarded while moving through your shopping choices.

The item was a heavy-paper card with a DVD attached, one that you absolutely need to view.

The DVD is a one hour version of a documentary film previously shown on both Fox News and CNN titled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West".

There has perhaps been no better vehicle produced to this date that presents and explains the facts behind the problem of 'Radical Islam' and it's Jihadi adherents.

The film includes interviews with some who lived through the indoctrinations that take place of youth in today's Middle East, including Nonie Darwish who is the daughter of a 'martyr'. Her father was recruited to be the head of Fedayeen operations against Israel back in the Egypt of the 1950's, and became a national hero when he was killed in Jihad operations against that country.

Walid Shoebat is also interviewed in the film. A former PLO terrorist who spent time in jail for incitement and violence, Shoebat eventually emigrated to the U.S. where he continued to speak out against Israel.

He eventually decided to study the Bible back in 1993, in order to obtain information to help convert his wife to Islam. After months of study, he began to realize that everything he had been taught in his Middle East upbringing was a lie. He began to speak out on behalf of his former enemy, and is now a leading speaker against radical Islam.

There are many leading experts on the issue from here in America and around the world who also make presentations during the film. These include journalist Daniel Pipes, analyst and author Steven Emerson, former Middle East news anchor Brigitte Gabrielle, Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus, and former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus among many others.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Greed is Not Good

"...Greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA." - Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"

The Catholic Church divided sin into two classes - venial sins, which were relatively minor, and the more serious cardinal sins, which became known classically as the 'seven deadly sins'. These were said to "destroy the life of grace" and brought the threat of eternal damnation on those who practiced them, unless absolved through a formal confession or forgiven through an act of perfect contrition by the offender.

One of these was the sin of 'Greed', which is seen as a sin of excess, and is applied in particular to the acquisition of wealth. It is closely aligned to avarice, which can manifest itself in bribery, robbery or theft by means of violence, trickery, betrayal, and even treason. It also covers the scavenging and hoarding of materials, as well as manipulation or abuse of authority.

In the film 'Wall Street', Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko delivered the above now-famous speech at a shareholder's meeting. Gekko was trying to woo shareholders to accept a bid that his company was making to takeover the Teldar Paper company.

Gekko's sales pitch highlighted that the current Teldar management was bloated, wasteful, and borderline incompetent. Either that, or they were intentionally abusing their positions to ensure their own personal gain, and those shareholders be damned.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gianna Jessen Survived Modern Holocaust

Gianna Jessen is one of the few survivors of a holocaust that has raged in a war that has been waged across our country for more than 3 1/2 decades, and that continues to be waged around the world every single day.

It is a holocaust that has claimed over a billion human beings worldwide since 1980 alone, more than three times the number killed in any 'conventional' war.

Gianna Jessen, you see, is a survivor of the immoral Abortion Wars.

She is not a mother who had complications during an abortion and survived. No, Gianna Jessen is an aborted baby! One who survived, lived, and grew despite all prognostications to the contrary.

Her mother was 17 years old when she found out that she was pregnant and decided to have a saline abortion. In this abortion procedure, which is now only rarely practiced, a needle is inserted into the abdomen to remove amniotic fluid. A strong salt solution is then injected, poisoning the baby and badly burning its lungs and skin, and resulting in a birth within 24 hours.

Gianna was burned in the womb for over 18 hours, but somehow survived, albeit at around 2 pounds of weight, and was born in an L.A. abortion clinic. Doctors gave her little chance of living.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Real American Hero: Paul Smith

The Congressional 'Medal of Honor' is our nation's highest military award. There have been over 3,400 recipients in our history, but just over 840 since requirements were tightened in World War II. In order to be eligible a person must be nominated by his or her commanders.

The nominee then must have their story wind through a dozen levels of military and presidential reviews, during which various factors are taken into account to ensure that only the greatest among the many noble sacrifices are selected for the final honors.

Some of it's recipients have gone on to fame, or earned it by their honored actions, including President Teddy Roosevelt, Audie Murphy in World War II, and even 'Buffalo Bill' Hickock.

It's recipients have been called 'unsung soldiers who acted valiantly in a moment of extraordinary pressure'.

Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, over a million military men and women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the first from this 'War on Terror' to be so honored was Sergeant Paul Smith.

He grew up in Tampa, Florida, enlisted in the Army in 1989, and served in the first Gulf War in 1991. He didn't join up at first out of patriotism, that developed later. At first he wanted just a good-paying job right out of high school, and saw this as his best shot. A career soldier, Smith was serving in Bosnia when the United States was attacked in 2001.

In April of 2003 he had moved on to Iraq, and was serving there as a combat engineer as his unit moved from Kuwait towards Baghdad, seizing a part of the Baghdad Airport on April 3rd, 2003.

The following morning, Paul was part of a team that was constructing a holding cell that would house prisoners of war, when the company came under attack by at least 100 Iraqi soldiers of Saddam Hussein's Special Republican Guard.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Embarrassed About Christ?

There are many people in this world, especially right here in the United States, who would describe themselves if pushed into a corner as Christians.

However, many would have to almost literally be pushed into that corner and have a knife held to their throat to admit it. You might then even get their denomination: Catholic, Protestant, whatever.

But many are simply reluctant to ever bring up the subject in normal discussion, or to ever 'advertise' their faith, their belief in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Maybe they will wear a crucifix or a cross. Unfortunately, if left dangling on the outside of shirts and tops, it's frequently as much a fashion statement as anything true advertisement of faith or belief. Why is this so?

I was reading a great article yesterday by Colonel Oliver North in a recent issue of Townhall magazine. North was lamenting the fact that so many of us seem to know the names of our top athletes such as Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps and Venus Williams, and care about what is going on in the lives of celebrities such as Britney Spears, Madonna or Brad Pitt, but care little about our military heroes.

These men and women are fighting and dying for our country, and for the cause of freedom, all over the world. They are often committing incredibly brave and selfless acts that rival and surpass any story that could be told about a sports figure or a Hollywood starlet. Yet you don't know who they are.

The vast majority of you reading this article couldn't name a single 'Medal of Honor' winner, a single 'Purple Heart' recipient. The everyday heroes of law enforcement, fire fighting, and other public services only get attention when they are killed while doing their jobs. Even that is usually only a local story, with the exception of an event such as 9/11. Why is that so?

Much of the reasoning behind why you so easily speak about sports and entertainment, but so little about Jesus Christ and real American heroes, is that media and academia in this day and age have a political and social agenda. Roll your eyes at the claim if you like, but tell me it isn't the truth.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

American Health System Not the Real Sicko

In the summer of 2007, ultra-liberal propagandist Michael Moore released his documentary film titled 'Sicko', which was intended to compare the U.S. health care system to other nations and to tell HMO horror stories. Moore's basic premise was that the American system was somehow broken, and that it just could not compare with the health care received in places such as communist Cuba. What Moore and his fellow liberal idealogues would have you believe is that if only the United States would adopt a national health care system such as the one implemented in Canada, and would guarantee everyone free health care, all would be well with the world. So many more regular folks would be healthy and whole, not just the wealthy patrons of the current health care model. Of course Moore weighs down his films with so many outright lies and distortions of truth that the majority of thinking Americans have come to recognize them for the far left, neo-socialism smear pieces that they are in actuality, and have stayed away from the theatres in droves. As Cato Institute medical expert Dr. Michael D. Tanner reports in the article "The Doctor Is In" from the July 2008 issue of Townhall magazine: "Moore cites a 2000 World Health Organization study that ranks the U.S. health care system as 37th in the world." Tanner goes on to explain that the W.H.O. measured highly subjective items such as 'fairness', 'not having a sufficiently progressive tax system', 'tobacco control', 'not providing all citizens health insurance', and not enough 'social welfare' programs. Bottom line, the W.H.O. takes a political position, not a medical one, in ranking the U.S. so low, playing right into Moore's socialist visions. When the W.H.O. does finally talk of the actual medical care here in the U.S., they rank us at the top for the truly important areas of 'provider choice', 'dignity', 'autonomy', 'confidentiality', and perhaps most importantly 'timely care'. You see, American health care is actually so good that large numbers of foreigners come here every year for their treatments, drugs, and surgeries. Want a perfect example? Belinda Stronach, a member of the Canadian Parliament, developed breast cancer and, as Tanner reported: "abandoned her country's national health care system", instead seeking treatment at a California hospital. Stronach could have received her treatment right there in Canada, but would have had to go through the red tape, referals, and waiting lists that the rest of her countrymen have to endure. But she didn't have time to wait, since over 800,000 Canadians are currently on waiting lists for various procedures, suffering what their highest court calls 'chronic pain' which many will endure until they die while still waiting their place on the lists to be reached. In his film, Moore further makes a point that Cuban babies have low infant mortality rates when compared with American babies, and yet fails to point out that Cuba has one of the world's highest abortion rates, meaning that many babies with potential health problems are never brought to term in the first place. And here in the U.S. our technology is so far advanced that low birth-weight babies who are automatically dead in Cuba can be born alive here. Some will make it, some will not, and those that do not contribute mightily to our infant mortality rate. As I said, in Cuba none of these types of babies would make it home alive. Whether it be cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, or even AIDS, patients of any disease, illness, or condition have a far better chance at survival and cure when treated at American health facilities under the current U.S. health care system. As long as our system continues to be free of national restrictions and buerocratic red tape, this will continue to be the case. Do we have problems? Sure, but a deficit in the quality of care here is not one of them. We need to figure out a way to keep prescription drugs at the lowest possible prices. But the way to reach that goal is not to restrict or regulate drug companies, but instead ensure they have incentives to lower those prices and keep them affordable. How we balance the need for greater care for some of our citizens against the need to maintain the availablity of the best health care in the world is one question. How we balance the desire to see our poorest citizens receive basic health care against the need to keep the incentives high for our best medical facilities to research and develop the best treatments into the future is another question. There are many questions. But the answer is not to scrap the system that we have in favor of some 'national' or 'universal' health care system. None of us need that nightmare of long lines, long waits, long periods of pain, and shorter lives.

Bell Tolling for Jersey Residents

The results of electing a Democrat to a major executive office, especially at the state and federal levels as the Governor or President, can be seen no more clearly than what is happening in the state of New Jersey.

The residents of the Garden State elected the bearded hard-core liberal Jon Corzine as their Governor back in 2005 in a virtual landslide. Corzine won by a 53-43 margin over Republican candidate Doug Forrester. This was expected, as New Jersey is generally considered to be one of the strongest Democratic Party states in the nation.

That's fine, the residents there can vote for whomever they wish. Problem is, they stick with the Democratic Party over and over and over, the Dems continue to shaft them with tax and toll increases while lessening the actual services delivered, the voters then scream and holler and wring their hands...and then they go back out the next election and vote for more Democrats! It's always amazing to me when people continue to do things that hurt them over and over again.

Now comes the news that the toll bridges connecting Philadelphia and South Jersey are going up by a full dollar beginning today. Who will be hurt the most by this? New Jersey residents, who use the bridges far more than their Philly counter-parts.

Jersey residents come across into Philly to work every day. They come across to attend sporting and cultural events at places like Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park, the Wachovia Center, etc.

The toll increase is a de facto tax on New Jersey residents, yet another by the Democrats in charge there.

Friday, September 12, 2008

TV Watch: Entourage

Embed from Getty Images
HBO's "Entourage" boys are back for another go at Hollywood

Last Sunday marked the debut episode for the 5th season of the HBO hit series 'Entourage', a show that has sometimes been tabbed as a male 'Sex & the City'.

The show focuses on the life and career of Vincent Chase, a hot rising young actor played by Adrian Grenier.

Vinnie is a kid from Queens with great looks and some acting chops who goes to Hollywood and quickly makes it big.

He is helped by the three guys in his 'entourage': Eric 'E' Murphy is played by Kevin Connolly and is Vinnie's best friend since childhood who takes on the role of managing Vinnie's career; another longtime friend known only as 'Turtle' is played by Jerry Ferrara and is the gopher of the group; and finally there is Vinnie's older brother, Johnny 'Drama' Chase played by Kevin Dillon.

'Drama' had some limited fame from a TV series in which he starred years ago, and is always trying to get back into the acting game and out from under the considerable shadow cast by his kid brother.

The 5th wheel in this dramedy is Vinnie's agent, Ari Gold, one of the great characters in television history as played by Jeremy Piven.

These five largely stick together through the thick and thin of Vinnie's turbulent acting career.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Incredible 9/11 Video

I was going to write today on the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but there is just so much information out there, and so many perspectives that have already been shared, that it was difficult to decide from what angle I wanted to approach it this time.

Then I came across a video at the National Terror Alert website, and I knew that the best thing to do would be to simply share that video.

It was shot as a home video by a couple living in an apartment building just 500 yards from the North Tower of the World Trade Center, with a remarkable view and incredible real-time commentary from the couple as they viewed things happening live that tragic, unforgettable morning.

View the video here: 9/11 VIDEO and never forget!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Better Country

In September of 2002, with the first anniversary remembrances of the 9/11 attacks taking place across the country, and with America obviously preparing to go to war to thwart another such attack, Arthur Borden began to notice some disturbing reactions coming from his Democratic Party, even among his own friends and colleagues. 

These reactions and the totality of the circumstances involving 9/11 and it's various related issues led Borden to study the issues more closely and led him to realize that he was now living "..in an America which is not the country where I went to college, served in a good war, and enrolled in law school.." 

The result of his studies is the book "A Better Country: Why America Was Right to Confront Iraq" released this year as a soft cover by Hamilton Books. 

In it's short number of pages (67 plus a handful of indices), Borden makes a compelling argument that not only was President George W. Bush right in going into Iraq and deposing it's despotic leader Saddam Hussein, but that this move was vital. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Just a Fantasy

If you know me, you know that I am a huge baseball fan. A lifelong Phillies fan, of course, and someone who played for and managed a local championship men's softball team for over a decade and a half.

As I got a bit older, I retired the old glove and bat, and moved into the fantasy game. Fantasy baseball has been one of my biggest hobbies over the past decade, particularly with a 'Keeper' league of which I am a part known as the 'Whitey Fantasy Baseball League'.

In this case, 'Whitey' refers to the man for whom the league is dedicated, Philly's own Rich 'Whitey' Ashburn. We have 16 players in the WFBL known to each other as GM's (general managers) of the 16 teams, which are all league-owned.

My own team, the Philadelphia Athletics, has been highly successful. My team has captured seven of the 11 pennants in our Paul Owens (East) Division, and one league championship during a history which began back in 1998.

That first summer saw the WFBL stock each of our team rosters for the first time with an original draft. Since then, players have been exchanged over the years through trading and a waiver-acquisition process. We are permitted to keep between 16-20 players every year, so you can actually build a team and keep it together if you like.

That original franchise-stocking WFBL Draft yielded me Scott Rolen and Derek Jeter as the first two picks. They became cornerstones, and I picked up later in the Draft such young studs as Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I Want Yours

The Catholic Church refers to the Ten Commandments as the precepts which bear upon the fundamental obligations of religion and morality relating to man's duty to God, as well as to his fellow man.

Written by the very finger of God, expressing His will, and handed over to Moses on two stone tablets at Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.

Jesus Christ revealed them as binding, clarified the spirit behind many of their basic principles, and even added to them with his edict to love your neighbor as you love God.

The 10th Commandment serves to rebuke us and restrain us from overly desiring what is the property of another man, popularly expressed as: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods."

This commandment is meant to protect men's natural property rights against the injustice of his fellow men, against 'covetousness', which is said to be an unreasonable desire for that which we do not possess.

The Church could be said to break down this command into two primary ideas: 'property', and men's 'rights' to same. Your 'property' is anything for which you are the person who would enjoy the full right to dispose of it in any manner not forbidden by law.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Isabel's Sacrifice

There is no way that I can get into the life and mind of Isabel Nazario last night, but let me paint you a picture of a normal night that would lead up to what happened to her that might bring it more closely home for you.

First let's start with the fact that Isabel is a 40-year old mom and also a Philadelphia police officer, working for the Narcotics Strike Force.

This unit is an active, on-the-streets, in-the-face-of-the-drug-dealers group that works every day to keep the city and its residents safe from the scourge of the illegal narcotics that are at the root cause of most other crime.

Isabel and her unit are the people that 'hit the houses' of the dealers, that actively patrol the streets of the neighborhoods that are the worst infected. They chase down, get directly into the faces of, put their hands and cuffs on, and sometimes get into armed confrontations with drug dealers at all hours of the day and night.

They also have a tremendous camaraderie within their group that comes from the both the respect that their day-to-day job enjoins and from the sharing of their personal lives and family stories.

Isabel Nazario is the mother of a teenage daughter who was herself likely enjoying her first Friday night of the school year, perhaps anticipating shopping or some other activity with her mom over the weekend.

I am absolutely certain that Isabel had her daughter on her mind any number of times while patrolling the streets of Southwest Philly last night.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Real American Hero: John McCain

There is no way on God's green Earth that I am going to try to compare my life and it's trials to that of John McCain and the trials and sacrifices that he endured in Vietnam.

But I have some small appreciation for what it is like to have to overcome difficulties thrown at you by both life and your own bad decisions and attitudes, including some similar to what John McCain has had to overcome.

Last night at the Republican National Convention, a real American hero stepped to the podium to humbly and deservedly accept his Party's nomination to be it's candidate for the office of President of the United States.

In doing so, McCain spoke as an everyman whose heroism was not always completely altruistic. He said that on the day he was shot down over North Vietnam, and subsequently became a prisoner of war, he prepared in the Gulf of Tonkin for that mission "for my own pleasure; my own pride. I didn’t think there was a cause more important than me."

At that point in his life, McCain was a 31-year old who had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy nearly a decade earlier. His father and grandfather had each achieved the status of four-star Admiral in the Navy. McCain himself had already cemented a reputation as an independent-thinking maverick who admitted that he thought the "civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn't have the least notion of what it took to win the war."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Grannie Hits a Granny

Soon-to-be grandma Sarah Palin stepped to the podium last night at the Republican National Convention as Presidential nominee John McCain's prospective running mate.

There was much on the line as the VEEP prospect waved off a lengthy standing ovation that had the feel of a group protecting a member of it's own family.

The chills were palpable as the crowd's applause and cheers continued on and on, and the strength and length of the crowd reaction to her appearance was obviously in support of the candidate having come under vicious, personal, liberal media attacks since being announced.

It is fairly obvious that the vast majority of the conservative wing of the Republican Party is ecstatic about the Palin pick as the Veep nominee due to her character and her positions on the key issues. It is just as obvious that attacks on her and her family have touched that 'don't talk bout my _____ like that' nerve (fill in the blank with 'mother', 'sister', 'daughter', 'girlfriend', 'wife'...whichever most applies to you) with many folks.

But then Palin began to speak, and proved over the course of the next 36 1/2 minutes that she is plenty tough enough to stand up for hersel. Palin proved more than capable of standing in the box and staring down the hardball's thrown at her from the Dems and, as local radio talk show host Michael Smerconish said afterwards "hit a grand slam" with her speech.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Islamism Series: Infiltration of America

Steven Emerson, one of the nation's leading terrorism experts, states it appropriately when he says that "only by knowing how the terrorists' networks operate...can we be vigilant in detecting any new activity."

There are at least three significant foreign Islamic terror groups operating in America today: Hamas, al Qaeda, and PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad.)

These groups receive support from, and give it to, countries such as Sudan, Egypt, and Afghanistan. They are here for the sole purpose of attacking America and Americans right here in our homeland, and they were getting more successful at it until the increased efforts of the Bush administration in the post-9/11 world slowed them.

But they have not stopped, they continue to plot and plan and make attempts, and without continued strong security and intelligence on our part they will succeed again, probably on an even larger scale than 9/11.

Emerson has divided the terrorists activities into four categories: recruitment, fund-raising/money-laundering, networking, and direct organization.

In recruiting, the Islamofascists love to find willing participants in Jihad who already hold American passports, at times finding these people among naturalized U.S. citizens of Middle Eastern descent. People who can generally travel freely into and out of the country, and within the country, with little suspicion.

Other recruitment, orientation, and indoctrination can come from websites and newspapers, and the terrorists actively use our freedoms against us. We cannot stop anyone from preaching violence unless a standard of "clear and present danger" is met. As Emerson states, "We cannot stop groups from gathering to share their political views, even if one of those views is that the U.S. must be destroyed."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bristol Palin's Pregnant Pause

Bristol Palin is the beautiful, intelligent 17-year old daughter of Sarah Palin, who is a woman whom many of us hope becomes the first-ever female to serve as the Vice-President of the United States, and one day possibly the first female President. A woman who is an example for all young women to follow, and whom I would love to become a role model for my own young daughters. Bristol is also pregnant with a child fathered by her boyfriend. All the important people are saying all the 'politically correct' things that they are supposed to say like "It's a family matter", "It's a private matter", "It's no one's business but Bristol, the young man, and their families." All good, correct, proper positions to take. Of course when your mom is running for Vice-President, as Bristol's mom is, it really is not, nor should it be expected to be, that simple. Our parents watched on TV as little John-John and Caroline Kennedy ran around the White House. I watched as a teenager as young Amy Carter went through that awkward, ugly-duckling phase. And most of you old enough to be reading and understanding this were likely old enough to have experienced the growing pains of Chelsea Clinton and both Jenna and Barbara Bush. Fact is, when you make the decision to accept a call to national office as Sarah Palin has, you accept that your family, your past, your entire life and the lives of those important to you are going to become public knowledge. In today's day and age, that means that you and yours are going to become the topics of water cooler conversations, blogger opinions, gossip show episodes, magazine covers, etc. I don't know much about Bristol Palin yet, but believe me when I say that we all will know much more about her in the coming days, weeks, months, and hopefully years. I pray that she will be healthy, that her child will be healthy, and that the relationship with her boyfriend ends up strong enough to support a happy marriage and life-long partnership and commitment. All that said, the main thing that I pray for young Bristol Palin is strength. She is going to need it, not just because she will now come under more intense public scrutiny, but just for the fact of becoming a parent as a teenager. I know, I've been there, done that. I was 17 years old when I learned that my high school girlfriend was pregnant. We had been dating for almost three years when we found out that our lives were going to change. Much like Bristol Palin, we made the correct decision to have the baby, not abort it and end it's life for our convenience. We also got married, which may or may not have been the best decision. No matter the circumstances, it is difficult for a 17-year old to appreciate what "the rest of your life" means. The marriage lasted over a decade, and we had another child along the way. We also had many challenges that most young people our age don't have to face, and in the end were not strong enough to keep it together. But my two daughters are beautiful young women of whom I am very proud, much as Sarah Palin is proud of her daughter in these trying circumstances, and despite all the difficult times over the years, I just would not want to imagine a life without them in it. And my oldest also went through a similar situation, single parenthood in her 20's, now twice over. I hope that she marries the man who is the father of my grandson. He seems like a nice guy with a good heart who generally has his head on straight and his priorities mostly appropriately aligned. We all hope for the best for our children, for some concept that we have of a 'perfect' and 'normal' happy life. But reality has a way of stepping in and making you adjust on the fly. Sarah Palin has done the right thing by teaching her children abstinence and providing a moral leadership and value system in her home. But the fact remains that Bristol Palin is her own person, and so are the other Palin kids. They are going to have challenges in their lives that their parents will have to help them through, that is the nature of being a parent. You don't weaken your values system just because of a situation, you instead use those situations as opportunities to strengthen your family even more, and to provide an example for others as to how families should react during such challenges. You don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Young Bristol Palin is going to have it a bit harder, at least for awhile, than she would have had she not gotten pregnant. She is going to come under a microscope, because even if many in the more professional news services do generally abide by the public calls for privacy, that won't be the case with all. She will be followed, photographed, videotaped. Questions will be yelled, hollered, whispered at her anywhere she goes in public. They won't come from her friends and neighbors in Wasilia, Alaska. No, the pregnancy was no secret there, and the regular folks of that town and region frankly could care less as it relates to Sarah Palin's election efforts. Young Bristol will have it hard, but her life is far from over, in fact it is just beginning, much as that of her young child will be just beginning. Perhaps more than anything that is the biggest lesson to be learned here. The lesson on the importance of life and it's value. The importance of the life of Bristol Palin's little baby. The baby may force Bristol into a bit of a pregnant pause in her life, but should not change anything about the families value system or what they teach their younger children. God bless the Palin family and the family of the young man involved, and especially the new life that God Himself created, and that Bristol is bringing into the world. After all, it is a life, not a choice.

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

For the 2nd time in three years, the City of New Orleans prepares this morning to be blasted by a powerful hurricane. The devastation wrought back in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina is now legendary, but a great deal of that horror was not a creation of God, or Mother Nature, or any kind of natural or supernatural being or event. The devastation was brought on man by man.

For at least decades, the governments, both local and regional, and the people of the Gulf region were warned that this was going to happen, it was just a matter of time.

It is not the responsibility of the federal government to build giant walls and roofs so that men can be protected from every possible disaster. Men need at some point to take responsibility for their own actions and lives.

When you purposefully and intentionally make the decision that you and your family are going to live in an area that is historically prone to certain natural events, then you have chosen to take on certain risks and have the responsibility to ensure that you and yours can survive and recover when those events occur.