Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 American of the Year: Chuck Cassidy

Folks outside of the Philadelphia, PA area might be saying “What? Who?” right about now. But bear with me and you will understand. For those in the area, it’s likely that you know the name, and if so then you know the reason.

Let’s start off with the briefest of updates for those who don’t know the reason. Charles “Chuck” Cassidy was a Philadelphia police officer who gave his life in the line of duty on Halloween morning, basically ambushed by a robber whom he likely never saw coming.

It was the sunny morning of October 31st, 2007, and 54-year old Chuck Cassidy eased his marked Philadelphia police department SUV into a parking space directly in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts business in the West Oak Lane section of the city. No one can speak for officer Cassidy as to what was running through his mind at that moment. From being in his situation on thousands of occasions over a seventeen-year career, I can probably paint you a fair picture.

First, it was a beautiful day outside and Chuck, a veteran of a quarter-century policing the streets of Philadelphia, was likely basking in it. Perhaps on the drive to the donut shop he had music playing in his patrol vehicle. He certainly had his police radio on, listening to the scattered broadcasts coming over on a typical bustling day in the busy 35th police district which he served for two decades.

Nearby that morning there was scheduled to be a memorial service for a long-ago fallen officer. A plaque would be placed near the location of that heroic officer’s ultimate sacrifice, and it is entirely plausible that Chuck had plans to attend that service along with dozens, if not hundreds, of fellow officers, friends, and family members of the officer. He would certainly have known of the service, and was factoring it into his morning plans in some way.

Also, it was Halloween, and Chuck Cassidy was a family man in the best sense of that word. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Judy, for over 26 years, and they had been raising three great kids: Katie, Colby, and John. Along with this immediate family there were numerous nieces and nephews, and some would be getting ready for the annual “trick or treat” rituals. This kid-friendly holiday and his own family’s plans to handle that evening’s anticipated rush of candy-craving kids was surely on his mind.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Can Mike Huckabee Go the Distance?

Over the past month or so the nation's pundits, broadcasters, and editorialists have been broad-sided by the sudden rise in popularity among grass-roots Republican voters of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Question really should be, why is this such a surprise to them? For months, Republican voters have been telling anyone who will listen to them that while President Bush was the best choice in '00 and '04, he has generally been a disappointment, and it is these voters who have kept the President's approval ratings low in recent years.

Why has the President been a disappointment? Is it because of his handling of the War on Terror? Hardly. That is just one of the many reasons that Dems hate the man, but has little or nothing to do with Republican dissent. We on the right support the President's measures in that regard, which we understand have helped to keep our nation safe since 9/11.

What we Republicans have been shouting from the mountaintops is that we are completely dissatisifed with the outrageous spending policies in Washington, which are way out of control, and which the President has done nothing to help control with vetoes or leadership.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Gift

It’s Christmastime once again. More specifically it is the final weekend before Christmas Day itself. This certainly means that over the next two days there will be a mad rush by many folks to complete shopping for their gift lists.

That perfume or pajamas for your wife, a book for your pop, a couple of gift cards for aunts and uncles, one more toy for the kids. For many (from what I hear) it will be one final attempt at picking up a “Wii” gaming system.

For the next two days it will most certainly seem in many respects as if it is, as Andy Williams famously sang, “the most wonderful time of the year.” There will be house parties among friends, relatives, and neighbors, Christmas carols will be heard from homes and cars, home light displays will be sparkling for longer hours.

For many it will be a weekend of anxiety. Worrying that you simply must complete your shopping. Worrying that you won’t have enough money to buy all the presents that you want. Worrying about the limits on your credit cards, and the balances in your bank accounts.

Whether you are reading this as the weekend begins, and I can help you right now, or sometime later when you can take this to heart for next year, stay with me a minute and let me try to help you out. Let me try to calm you down, straighten you out, ease your anxiety, and vastly improve your Christmas enjoyment.

Are you ready?

Stop buying everyone gifts.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Joseph: A Righteous Man

He couldn't have been happier with the way in which his life was finally turning out. A hard-working tradesman who plied his craft with the best of them, he had met a beautiful young girl and fallen in love at first sight.

Sure she was much younger than him, but he was determined to have her in his life. He continued to pursue her gently, and finally got up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage.

She was a very young girl, much younger than he was, yet she was in some ways wise beyond her years. She wasn't completely sold on the man who was pursuing her affections, but her family was completely taken with him. After all, he was a hard worker who would absolutely be able to provide for their daughter. He was ruggedly handsome and possessed a maturity that told them the man would treat their daughter right.

So the young girl somewhat grudgingly entered into the engagement. The engagement period was going along smoothly until one night the young lady realized that she was pregnant.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Seven Signs of Terrorism

There is a video currently available from the Delaware State Police at their website entitled the "Seven Signs of Terrorism".

In this conscise video presentation, the DSP posits the seven signs that we should all be watchful for as: Surveillance, Elicitation, Testing Security, Acquiring Supplies, Suspicious Persons/Vehicles, Trial Runs, Deployment of Assets.

Knowing and putting into practice a response to these signs will help protect you, your family, and your nation as a whole. This is particularly vital in these days where our society is under direct, sustained, committed attack by islamofascist terrorism.

In the area of Surveillance, you should be on alert for someone who might be taking photos, drawing maps or schematics, or constantly found loitering in the area, especially in a clandestine manner, of important facilities, insfrastructure, and public places.

The Department of Homeland Security website is an excellent source of information to help you know the who, what, when, where, how of possible attack targets.

Defense Against Anonymous Cowards


I have some reservation about writing this article because it addresses specifically a topic that I have begun to feel strongly about in recent months.

The topic would be that of anonymous postings on the internet, their dangers, and their repercussions. It is my opinion that anonymous internet identities and postings are some of the most dangerous things on the web today.

For a few years, I was actively involved with an internet message board. For the great unwashed who have never had the pleasure, or experienced the pain, a message board is basically an online community of posters, usually interested in some particular topic, who post ideas, opinions, news, commentary, and more based on that area of interest.

Within this general area of interest, posters would both introduce specific topics to be discussed, or would participate in the ongoing discussions of topics already begun by others.

For instance, the board that I was involved with fell within the domain of law enforcement generally, the Philadelphia Police Department specifically. There could be ongoing topics at any particular time involving tactical considerations, particular newsworthy jobs, departmental personalities, etc.

Though I posted under the pseudonym of “The Big Irish”, anyone who cared to know my true identity could know it. I made it available on my publicly accessible profile at the host website, and I frequently alluded to my real name and work assignments, as did many of the regular posters on the board. Everyone knew who I was, if they cared to know.

Over the course of the years that I was involved, the vast majority of my fellow posters chose to remain anonymous. I am quite sure that they had many reasons for this.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Keep Holy the Sabbath Day

For Catholics it is traditionally known as the Third Commandment from God (in some churches it is listed as the fourth). It is the command from God to "Keep Holy the Sabbath", to formally set aside one period of time each week to rest from our work, and to celebrate and thank Him for all that He has given us.

For some, the sabbath observance comes on Fridays or Saturdays. For Catholics and many others, this day comes on Sunday.

For police officers, the chance to attend Mass (or to observe Shabbat in Judaism) should be something that we look forward to each week. It is our opportunity to be rested and refreshed in and with the Lord.

The work schedule of a police officer, who does the necessary work of protecting and serving the public, is such that we cannot frequently take a Saturday or Sunday completely away from the workplace.

Catholics are heartened by the fact that almost all churches now offer both a Saturday evening "Vigil Mass" along with the usual Sunday services. Thus, no Catholic officer should use work as an excuse to miss the weekly Mass obligation.

In Exodus chapter 20, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai. The people waited down below, since God had previously warned them to "set limits around the mountain to make it sacred".

As Moses stood in the presence of God Himself, the people trembled at the experience. The mountain was enveloped by thunder and lightening. The mountain itself appeared to be smoking, and a great trumpet blast was heard from the heavens. Here in the presence of the Almighty, Moses was given the basic laws of God by which man was to live.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jersey Cops and 'Bama Hooters

A story broke today of the disbandment of the Hoboken, New Jersey SWAT team after a controversial incident.

Apparently the officers of the unit stopped by a Hooters restaurant in order to enjoy some of those great wings. Someone snapped some racy photos of the cops posing with the Hooters girls. So what, right? Boys will be boys, after all.

Problem is, the boys in these photos were in SWAT garb, had gone to the location in their fully-equiped SWAT van, and let the girls play and pose with their equipment. Pun fully intended.

The actual incident happened about two years ago. The SWAT team had gone on a road trip to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and stopped by the restaurant in Alabama while on their travels.

As you can see by viewing the photos available through some of the links supplied here, the Southern Belles seemed more than happy to meet these Yankee heroes.

The story was broken earlier this week by a local investigative news reporter, and Hoboken responded by naming a new Public Safety Director who was formerly the Chief of the Hoboken Fire Department.

Happy Thanksgiving to You, Happy Birthday to Me


On this coming Tuesday, I will turn 46 years old. Two days later is Thanksgiving. It is the closest that my birthday ever comes to actually falling on the holiday, which it will never exactly meet.

Thanksgiving is celebrated always on the fourth Thursday in November, and if you do the calculating you will see that the latest that my birth date, the 20th, can fall is on the third Thursday.

Still, with this being my own closest confluence of the two days, which some years is almost a full week apart, it gives me a good opportunity to reflect on what exactly it is for which I am personally thankful.

Sliding towards the back end of my 40’s, with apparently no reversal of this aging process in sight, reflection is something that I find increasingly vital in my life, and here is a sharing of those things.

I am thankful for having a good career that is affording me opportunities and experiences that I could have never imagined as a young man. To tell of all the many exciting, demanding, rewarding experiences that one gathers over almost two decades as a police officer on the streets of a big city would take up volumes. Suffice it to say that they have all contributed to my personal growth and knowledge. For this career I am very thankful.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dad, In Real Life

In my experience, cops are some of the strongest "family" folks around, and yet that can sometimes seem contradictory. The rate of divorce for police officers is as high as 60-75% according to some studies.

One officer who has been married and divorced multiple times is even said to have amusingly stated: "If I ever decide to get married again, I'm just gonna find some woman that I don't like very much, and just buy her a house."

I can vouch for the feelings involved, being divorced once myself. After that one, I met and married again, to my wife Debbie, who I can tell you for a fact is the most wonderful woman in the world.

And yet with all that is good in her and in the relationship, I have certainly made it a "challenge" for her at times. It has only been in the last few years that I have begun to seriously take a look at and understand the challenges of stress on police officers, and their marriages in particular.

Marriage challenges for a high percentage of cops doesn't tell the full story. I know many officers who have great marriages, and who adore their wives and husbands, even if they sometimes need to fight through challenges.

And there are more familial relationships than spousal ones. I have seen few people dote over and care for their kids, and even their aging parents when needed, the way that cops will.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

When Good Cops Go Bad


Pretty much all cops start out as "good cops". The vast majority start out wanting to make positive contributions in our communities.

We want to make life safer and a bit easier for our families, friends, and neighbors. We want to "get the bad guys", help bring some measure of peace and justice into a difficult world. We want to make a difference.

The news stories that we see on TV or read about in the papers seldom feature the everyday good cop.

About the only time that these good officers get into the media, and thus into your consciousness, is when one of us dies in the line of duty. This happened recently here in Philadelphia with the murders of officers Gary Skerski in spring of 2006 and Chuck Cassidy just last week. Each of these officers was a pillar in their communities. Each laid down his life facing off with one of the bad guys.

Unfortunately for the everyday working cop, the majority of the time that we make the local or national headlines is when one of us goes bad. When for one reason or another, we become that which we promised to fight against. When we ourselves become a burden to the community we serve.

In the news right now is the story of Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was just indicted on a number of federal charges stemming largely from renovations made to his NYC apartment. These renovations were allegedly paid for by a mob-related construction company while he was still an NYC official.

Kerik is fighting the charges, but the investigation is beginning to hurt the Presidential campaign of former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dallas Sucks !

Well, it's finally here, and the zanies and crazies will be out in force this evening as our beloved Philadelphia Eagles pro football team takes on the hated Dallas Cowboys here in Philly down at Lincoln Financial Field.

The game is scheduled to be televised as the Sunday Night Football broadcast, and the nation should get quite a treat.This holiday comes around approximately twice per season, once here in Philly, and once down in 'Big D', and at least here in the City of Brotherly Love the matchups are easily among the most anticipated sporting events of the season, no matter how either team is faring that particular year.

For me, the Cowboy-hate goes back a long ways, to the 1970's-era Dallas team that featured the stoic Tom Landry pacing the sidelines as head coach, his little hat poised atop his head in all kinds of weather.

That team had great players over the years like quarterback Roger Staubach, running back Tony Dorsett, wide receiver Drew Pearson, and a strong defense led by guys like Ed 'Too Tall' Jones, Harvey Martin, and Randy White.

Those Cowboys were always good, always at or near the top of the same NFC East Division in which our Eagles were competing. Unfortunately, most years the Birds weren't very much competition.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Black Males Are Killing Us


Here in Philadelphia, PA, the murder capital of the United States of America, it was just announced that 54-year old police veteran Charles Cassidy died from wounds inflicted on Halloween morning.

Officer Cassidy walked in on a robbery in progress at a Dunkin Donuts in his patrol area, and the robber shot him in the head before the officer had a chance to react.

He leaves behind a wife, three children, and scores of family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers who will be affected by his murder for a long time to come. He also leaves behind a city that is in crisis, indeed a nation that is in crisis, with little or no hope for any meaningful change to what has become the violent status quo. Why? Because few will say publicly what needs to be said: black males, in particular reciditivists, are killing us.

Actually, the saying of it is only the very necessary first step. If folks do begin to say it, and actually recognize it for the fact that it is, then further steps need to be taken to address the problem. But let’s deal first with the facts, and the expected outraged replies.

First, crime in Philadelphia is indeed out of control, and now our own police, pilloried in recent media reports as shooting too often ourselves, are the targets. Officer Cassidy is the fourth uniformed Philadelphia police officer to be shot while performing their duties in the past six weeks, third in the past four days alone.

All were shot by black males.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fox's 'Choice'

This past Saturday night, the Fox News Channel aired a compelling one-hour program titled "Facing Reality: Choice". 

In the program, Fox followed a trio of women as they went through their own particular "choice" process after learning that they were pregnant.

The women, their circumstances, their attitudes, and finally their choices could not have been more heterogeneous.

Kayla is a beautiful woman in her low-20's, born and raised in a practicing Christian environment by her strongly pro-life mother. As a teenager, she took the "chastity pledge" and wore a "purity ring" to acknowledge her commitment to remain a virgin until marriage.

She herself was strongly anti-drug, and like her mom, thought of herself as strongly pro-life. Then she went to college, turned into a partier, experimented with drugs, met a guy, got pregnant.

Her unmarried roommate was also pregnant, and they had frequent girl-chats about how fun it was going to be having their kids at the same time, and raising them as friends.

Big problems popped up though (imagine that) when Kayla's "partner" (read: baby's daddy) didn't want to raise a child. Suddenly Kayla was preparing to become a single mother.

With her future on the line, she was after all trying to graduate from beauty school, Kayla made the "difficult" choice to have an abortion, against everything that she had previously believed in as a theory. She even was able to enlist her mom's support in the project, and mom attended the actual abortion procedure with her.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Narrowing the '08 Republican Field


Busy as this particular American's life is, I had to record this week's debate among the current Republican candidates for President in 2008.

After finally getting to watch the debate in it's entirety last night, I can say without any trepidation that it is time to narrow this field.

So having heard their positions and judged the pulse of the party to this point, and with apologies to these men, each of whom would be a better President than either of the Democratic party front-runners, it is time to say goodbye to the campaigns of Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Ron Paul, good men all.

This would leave the field consisting of, in alphabetical order by last name: Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson.

The following is my own brief take on where these candidates currently stand with me, an average Republican, as they move forward looking for my vote:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Jesus' Sermon on the Plain

Most everyone has heard of Jesus' unforgettable lessons taught at what has become known as the "Sermon on the Mount", what I believe to be the greatest single speech or teaching ever given.

On that day, as recorded in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus gave us the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer and the Golden Rule.

He told us that we are the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world", that we should love our enemies, and taught mankind on a wide variety of issues from divorce to money to managing our anger.

But lesser known was his "Sermon on the Plain", as described in Luke's Gospel.

After beginning with some blessings similar in many ways to the Beatitudes, Jesus goes on to warn us of our own greed and selfishness:
"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way."
Bummer, huh? I mean, this Jesus was some tough guy to please, huh?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

You and Me Against the World


Many Sundays here at the old Blog are going to be, barring some major story that needs attention, our chance to present and discuss religious and/or spiritual matters. It is, after all, the Lord’s day, so the topic is most appropriate.

Though I am a practicing Roman Catholic, I try to keep myself open to any positive Judeo-Christian influences, and that is where the topics and inspiration will be drawn from.

Today will be about some of the worldly things that we who are believers find ourselves up against in the struggle to not only strengthen our own beliefs, but evangelically spread them to others.

In a recent article for the Christian Post, guest columnist and best-selling author of “The Purpose-Driven Life” pastor Rick Warren presented “Six Worldviews You’re Competing Against“.

Warren listed these: 1) The one with the most toys wins, 2) I’ve got to think of me first, 3) Do what feels good, 4) Whatever works for you, 5) God doesn’t exist, and 6) You are your own god. In his article, Warren briefly presented each view, and then presented a Biblical refutation of each.

When we consider the six worldviews above, for the vast majority of Americans the last two are already defeated.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

LOST at Sea


In what has been described as the United Nations greatest power-grab in history, US President George W Bush is about to sign on to the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), which would cede control of the worlds oceans to a new International Seabed Authority.

All the “fairness” and “international cooperation” bloviating is just smoke-screen for what is yet another in a series of actions in which the Bush administration is supporting the ceding of United States sovereignty.

President Ronald Reagan warned way back in 1982 when he declined to sign the U.S. on to the treaty at that time that it did not satisfy the objectives sought by the United States”.

Of course, the Clinton administration, always eager to embrace the One World Government crowd, came up with a parallel agreement and pushed for it’s ratification. The issue became buried in a Senate committee, but has been resurrected and now appears to be getting fast-tracked by Bush.

Today, in response to the renewal of efforts to hand over control of 3/4’s of the globe’s surface to an international body, many prominent citizens continue to fight against LOST, including Colonel Oliver North, who states the enforcing body would act as a “world IRS” and be an end-run towards US support for the Kyoto Protocol. Pat Buchanan states that the treaty would “syphon off national rights, national sovereignty, and national wealth.”

One thing seems certain, that if the Senate makes the catastrophic mistake of ratifying LOST, then the Bush administration and Presidency will be remembered long-term for a true tragic and far-reaching mistake, one that is much worse than that which his Iraq war critics want to hang on him, and even possibly worse than his failure to secure our southern border.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Johnny & Susie Sittin' in a Tree?


When I was a little kid in Catholic grade school if you “liked” another little kid of the opposite sex, meaning thought they were cute,there was a now-quaint little ditty that the other little kids chanted at the two of you:

Johnny and Susie, sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, second comes marriage, third comes Susie with a baby carriage.

It all seemed so innocent back then. It was a way for others to mock the little kiddy relationship that was budding. No one, absolutely no one, ever expected little Susie to actually turn up pushing that carriage. And little Susie never did. Ever.

But as the years have passed, morality has been eroded away in America and around the world. There are attacks on American values and institutions happening on a daily basis. Another downward step in this overall decline is happening in Maine, where a middle-school is now giving out birth control to students.

Arguments have been made along the lines of ”they are gonna do it anyway, you may as well give them birth control and education”, and that “there are parents who can’t or won’t transmit values” to their kids. One advocate said: “This isn’t about encouraging kids to have sex. This is about the kids who are engaging in sexual activity.”

Hogwash.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Union Busting

Up in Canada this summer, President Bush met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in what should have been a standard, wholly positive “meeting of the minds” between the leaders of the three leading nations in our hemisphere.

But many are rightfully concerned that this meeting and other developments of recent years are setting the stage for a government-like North American Union.

At its fullest completed vision, the North American Union (NAU), which has also gone by a few other names as well, would essentially replace the United States, Mexico and Canada as a governing level above the three once-independent nations.

Styled nearly identically to the current European Union, there would be one currency, open borders, and many subtler features that would overwhelm the U.S. Constitution.

Back in 1973, U.S. banking leader David Rockefeller met with American geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski and along with other business and political leaders formed the Trilateral Commission.

Conspiracy theories aside, the commission was formed in order to foster closer working relationships among the leaders of the three leading economic spheres of influence: North America, Europe, and Pacific Asia.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oh, Those Wildwood Days!


There is peaceful serenity in the clear blue skies and the fast-rising sun, in the swooping and squawking of the seagulls, in the clatter of bicycle tires along the boardwalk on a typical laid-back summer morning in the Wildwoods.

There is excited chaos in the colorful lights of the amusements, in the smells of the incredible variety of foods, in the dull roar of thousands of conversations taking place among the throngs along the boardwalk on a typical free-wheeling summer night in the Wildwoods.

For my family and me, and for countless others for nearly a century now, summer means “Wildwood Days”, a trip “down the shore”, where every day’s a holiday, and every night is a Saturday night.

The place is known by many names: Wildwood, the Wildwoods, Wildwood-By-The-Sea. There are the old names: Anglesea, Holly Beach, Wildwood Crest.

Today we have the three boroughs that include Wildwood, North Wildwood and the Crest. But whatever name it goes by to you and yours, the place is known by all of us as the epitome of the family summer sun and fun vacation spot.

As a boy, my family had a place on Magnolia Avenue, just about a half-block off the boardwalk, not far from the famous Groff’s Restaurant. It seemed that every night the line would form outside Groff’s for the dinner crowd, stretching all the way down Magnolia away from the boards. We had a small place, usually crowded with parents and kids, aunts and uncles and cousins, and many friends.

After a few years, a few of the aunts and uncles organized and bought a place farther away from the madness, on Leaming Avenue at the far southern end of Wildwood, about 2-3 blocks from the Crest and about five blocks from the boardwalk. It was much farther away from the action, but it was still down the shore, and the new house was bigger with a number of bedrooms and a nice sized backyard.

For most of the 1970’s and even into the 1980’s, this was the Wildwood of my youth. A family shore house filled with uncles rising early to go crabbing and then coming home and playing pinochle on the front porch, aunts cooking up those crabs and many other meals while keeping the conversations flowing on family news, and us cousins running around the house, the streets and the boards.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Pop Tarts

Paris Hilton went to jail yesterday. For her, life changes for the next three weeks. She lives most of her life locked into a small cell with just her books, and her thoughts, for company.

No cell phone, no cable television, no Hummers or Beemers, no drinks, no sex, no drugs, no rock and roll.

Ms. Hilton drove drunk, and like so many other repeat offenders she is paying a price. Thankfully, no one was killed. This time.

Hilton’s case is just the latest in a disturbing trend that I have chosen to dub the Pop Tarts: young Hollywood glam gals who have allowed their fame and money to devolve them into drunken, drug-laden, sex-obsessed, lost little girls. Singers, actresses, models have all succumbed to highly-publicized law-breaking and morals reduction.

Let’s first examine a few specific cases.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pigs Can't Fly


Looking up at the spire of the big, white Philadelphia Inquirer building at 400 North Broad Street, one thing quickly becomes obvious. There are no flying pigs surrounding the place. Pigeons aplenty, but porcine purveyors of the airways? None to be found.

The “flying pigs” campaign being put on by the local newspaper is just that, a put-on, just one more advertising gimmick and one more example of twisting numbers and grasping at straws by a dying entity. In the process of grief that accompanies any such slow, agonizing death, the local newspapers are in the period known as “denial”.

On May 1st, the local newspaper reported that it’s daily circulation had risen, and went about celebrating this accomplishment as if a Democrat had been elected as President of the United States. There were special section in the paper, huge banner headlines, graphs and charts, all celebrating the “impossible news”.

Here is the truth, which you will likely never get from the local newspapers. In 1968, the Inquirer’s daily circulation stood at 648,000 and it’s Sunday circulation at 905,000. This was despite the presence of very real competition from the Evening & Sunday Bulletin, a major newspaper in it’s own right that everyone over the age of 40 remembers well.

The Inky’s Sunday circulation continued to rise slowly, and by 1990 stood at a high of 996,000. Of course the entirety of this rise can be traced to a single huge event: the death of the Bulletin. This longtime competitor of the Inquirer was actually the big boy on the block for a long time. The Evening Bulletin was the top local newspaper, and it’s daily circulation reached the 750,000 level by the mid-1960’s.

Circulation slipped appreciably at all evening newspapers around the country through the 1970’s, and particularly into the 1980’s. Problems included practical ones, such as increased vehicular traffic around cities and towns that made it difficult to deliver the papers in a competitive way (morning papers like the Inquirer, delivered between 1am and 5am, do not face these obstacles). There was also increased competitition in the evenings from 24-hour cable news and the internet.

On January 29th, 1982, the Bulletin published it’s final edition, burying what had once been the nation’s largest afternoon newspaper. Of course, readership was driven to the only option left in town, the Inquirer and the Daily News. The two papers, long owned by the exact same publisher, presented themselves as different, with one coming out in the morning and one later in the day, but that distinction has blurred considerably as the years have passed.

With no major local competition, the Inquirer has continued to lose daily circulation on a steady basis. In 1984, two years after the Bulletin’s death, it was already down over 100,000 from it’s 1968 peak. By 1990, it had dropped another 20,000 in daily circulation, but the Sunday editions were holding steady. That all changed in the 90’s with the explosion of cable news and the internet as mass media.

By the end of the decade, the Inky was down another 100,000 in daily circulation, and even more troubling was that the Sunday circulation had declined by almost 200,000. By 2006, those figures stood at about 330,000 in dailly and 682,000 in Sunday circulation. These figures include “free” papers given away by the paper, paid for by it’s advertisers.

This is no view of the glass as half-empty rather than half-full article, which was yet another version of the Inky’s denial mode pushed into their “Impossible News” section. The Inquirer and Daily News are in deep trouble despite new ownership pouring money into advertising for a year now. Just four months ago, in January 2007, the Inquirer management cut seventy-one editorial staff positions due to revenue losses.

According to a “Rebuilding Media” website article of September 2005, what happened to the Bulletin is now happening at the Inquirer/Daily News. Across the country, newspapers are dying. “In 1930, there were 1.3 newspapers sold (daily) per household…by 1980 it was .77…by 2003 it was under .50”. These are actual home subscription numbers. “The number of newspapers sold per 100 adults follows a similar slope…daily newspaper circulation peaked about 20 years ago at 63 million and has fallen about 13% since then.”

There is some growth in the newspaper industry wordwide, largely attributable to a dramatic increase in the rapidly expanding Asian markets, and somewhat less to the distribution of free newspapers in poorer countries. But at the major daily newspapers in America, the message is clear: your days as the most reliable source of news information are long past. Just as the anchor chair at the evening network news has lost it’s power grip, so have you.

In March of 2005, the Inquirer/Daily News were sold by Knight-Ridder, a major national publisher, to industry rival The McClatchey Group. Just over a year later, almost exactly one year ago, McClatchey cut it’s losses quickly by selling to a group of local investors that include high-power, deep-pockets folks like homebuilder Bruce Toll, advertising executive Brian Tierney, and a number of others. This group has little or no publishing experience at this level.

On the same day that the Philadelphia Inquirer was telling us that it’s circulation was increasing, and that pigs could indeed fly, the Philadelphia Business Journal published the real story behind the story. The newest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation show that in the past six months circulation at the participating newspapers has fallen by 2.1 percent, and Sunday readership has fallen by 3.1 percent.

The Inquirer can rightly celebrate the anomaly of it’s slight circulation rise of 2,000 in six months. Of course, this is following huge losses in ’05 and ’06, and is just a six month figure, not the more important yearly measuring stick. Will the Inquirer show increased circulation for the year? No. The message is clear: Daily newspapers have lost their influence and continue to lose readers.

Oh, and pigs can’t fly.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Radical Islam at Virginia Tech?


Ismael Ax walked his demented soul out into the quiet early-morning peace of his residence hall at Virginia Tech University. It was just after 7am on Tuesday morning, April 19th, 2007. But the peace all around him was about to be shattered by the evil raging in his own personal hell.

He was about to transfer all that evil into a terror attack of historic proportions. A few hours later, 33 people would lie dead at his hand, many others injured, thousands of lives changed forever.

The news reports have and likely will continue to refer to this killer by his legal given name of Cho Seung-Hui. They will refer to him as a student at Virginia Tech who was “disturbed” and that there were “warning signs” that preceded the attacks. But that is not how the killer referred to himself. The now-infamous letter sent to NBC news by the killer contained an explanatory letter which he signed “Ismael Ax”.

Why, considering the climate in the world since the overt terrorist attacks around the world over the last decade, would this demented soul not sign his name, and instead choose one with an obvious muslim connotation? Is there any reason to believe that this attack was not just a random one by a single disturbed individual, but instead is yet another example of radical islam rearing its ugly head?

The name he chose, Ismael, is one that is a uniquely Arabic spelling of the grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac, who became the father of all the Arab peoples, just as Jacob/Israel became the father of all the Hebraic (Jewish and Christian) peoples.

The attacks occurred on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and one of the professor’s killed was a Jewish holocaust survivor. But these are only the beginnings of the potential radical Islamic ties. He has at least one tattoo in Arabic writing.

His father lived in Saudi Arabia as a young man. His sister works for a contractor to the State Department that controls billions of dollars worth of aid to Iraq. He wrote some now notorious “plays”, the contents of which are now available on the internet. These plays rant about what he sees as American and western decadence, taking swipes at institutions as varied as McDonald’s, the NFL, and the Catholic Church.

Finally, his family had settled in Fairfax County, Virginia, home also to a 29-year old Virginia Tech graduate student from South Korea named Yong Ki Kwon, who was recently convicted of terrorism as one of the “paintball jihadis” who practiced massacres with their paintball guns. Fairfax County…Virginia Tech…South Korean…terrorism…jihad…coincidences all?

Taking all the listed “coincidences” listed here individually could be considered by some as playing into the concept of a “six degrees of separation” game between every major incident that occurs and radical Islamic terrorism. But as a law enforcement professional it is my opinion that taken together they add up more closely to the concept of “probable cause.”

The FBI and other investigators are no doubt beginning to look into these ties. There is reportedly much more on the tapes and in the personal writings of Ismael Ax than has been released to the public at this stage. My guess is that we will learn much more in the coming days and weeks that will thrust the issue of radical islam and it’s involvement as either a direct or indirect cause of this attack into the public debate.

One fact that is not for debate is that once again sin as evil has reared it’s ugly head, whether it has once again taken one of it’s most favored recent forms of radical islam or not. Paul in his letter to the Romans spoke of sin saying “when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

The Reverend Billy Graham wrote in his work “Angels” referring to Lucifer, originally one of the greatest of all angels, the Angel of Light: “Lucifer became Satan, the devil, the author of all sin; and it is sin that has always deceived, disturbed, betrayed, depraved and destroyed all that it has touched…Satan and his demons are known by the discord they promote, the wars they start, the hatred they engender, the murders they initiate, the opposition to God and His commandments. They are dedicated to the spirit of destruction.”

This “spirit of destruction” is everywhere you look on the news today. It can be found particularly in the results of the most recent work of sin in the life of a man who called himself Ismael Ax. A sinner as a disturbed and depraved individual, yet another tool chosen by Satan to use as a destroyer of human beings.

Radical islam is the root cause of many recent terror attacks, and we may soon learn that it once again has reared its ugly head, this time on the campus of Virginia Tech.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Choose

Making a choice is not always an easy thing to do, and when it comes to the most important things in life the choices you make will affect not only you, but those around you. Your friends, family, community.

Sometimes your choices can ultimately affect the entire world. One such decision, perhaps the most important one that any of us will ever make, is one that I have recently been contemplating.

The choice to accept Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior.

There, I said it. In some ways, it’s not an easy choice to make. Christ Himself said “You will be hated by all because of my name.” But I will put it to you here that it is the only rational choice that you can make, the only choice that makes any sense, and the only choice that will ultimately get you what we all search for – peace, love, happiness.

When there is a choice to be made, it is usually between at least two, and often many different things. There is nothing different about the choice to welcome Jesus Christ into your life. You can choose to do so, or you can choose evil, or you can choose ambivalence, or you can choose to delay your ultimate choice…but choose we all shall.

In my own life, it has taken far too long to come to this point. What will be your choice?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Winter Doldrums


It’s February in the Northeast section of the country, and it’s cold. Surprise! But this isn’t the usual cold. It’s real cold. Freezing cold. Below freezing cold. Way below freezing cold. Wind chills below zero cold. Did I mention that it was cold?

Not only is it cold, but it’s also dark most of the time. The days are relatively short. It gets dark early, and it stays dark in the morning hours. Cold and dark. That is what the “winter doldrums” are all about.

We are in mid-winter, which began just before Christmas and won’t officially end until March 21st. So batten down the hatches, fire up the furnace, keep the long johns at the ready. We still technically have another five to six weeks more of this stuff, folks.

About a month ago I returned to a work schedule which has me on a steady “Last Out” shift with the Philadelphia Police Department. This means that I work from approximately 11pm until 7am each day. This schedule puts me in the large, but still minority, group of folks who are actually out and about to see the worst of the doldrums period.

While those of you “normal” people are home tucked snug under the blankets, cuddled up with that special someone, snoring away, dreaming sweet dreams, we are out on the streets. There is nothing that points out that it is mid-winter so much as being on the streets of a big city at 3am on a mid-week night in early February when the wind chills are below zero.

So what do we have to keep us entertained, to keep our minds and our lives focused on something other than just how cold and dark it is at this time of year? Let’s take a look at some of the many events that get us through this time of year, when Christmas is far back in the rear view mirror and Easter is not even on the horizon.