Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Gypsy That Remains

It's been a bit 'heavy' here at the blog lately, so I thought that I would lighten things up a bit as we ease out of July, and as I ease into my summer vacation.

Last night I had finished up watching the Cubs-Brewers on ESPN and was getting ready to go to bed, and decided to do one last flick through the program listings.

There on WHYY's local public broadcast 'Arts' channel was listed the program Soundstage, which features concert performances, and here they were offering a concert by one of the true loves of my lifetime, Stephanie Lynn 'Stevie' Nicks.

I hadn't watched Stevie perform in some time, and the program information said that this concert was filmed this year, in 2008, and so I was curious to see just how she looked and sounded today. I wasn't disappointed. Stevie is still a beautiful woman, and her voice still rings true with that same raspy, story-teller quality that has made her a rock icon.

Well, this kept me up for another hour watching the concert, but it was well worth it. Listening and watching her perform songs like 'Rhiannon', 'Gold Dust Woman', 'Edge of Seventeen', 'Landslide', and more took me back to thinking about various times in my life. Especially remembering those times that I first heard her and the opportunities that I had to actually see her perform live and in-person.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

85 Shots and 'One Less Nigga With a Gun'

A year ago at this time, in July 2007, Steven 'Butter' Miller (left) was shot at 85 times by Philadelphia police officers. I have sources that say it was actually 81 times. In any event, about two dozen of those shots found their mark, and Miller was dead.

In it's July 24th-31st, 2008 issues the extremely liberal 'Citypaper' here in Philadelphia, one of those free tabloid style publications distributed throughout the downtown area by placement in stores, business lobbies, and curbside boxes, published a cover story titled '85 Shots' about the incident.

As could be expected if you understand the source, the Citypaper writers, Doron Taussig and Tom Nammako, told the story in a way that was, in both tone and tenor, completely sympathetic to the alleged victim and extremely critical of the Philadelphia police officers involved in the shooting, as well as their hierarchy in its response.

That's a shame, because the real problem right here in Philadelphia and in many big American cities today is not unwarranted shootings by rogue groups of police officers.

Actually, one of the biggest problems facing American big cities today is men just like Steven Miller.

Fact is that Miller exited his house that night as a stark-raving mad lunatic waving a gun around in the air, alternately pointing it at officers as well as towards neighbors homes as he waved it.

The officers gave him plenty of warnings to drop the weapon, perhaps even more than they actually needed to give. At a certain point, one officer felt that the circumstances had gotten too dangerous and felt that he needed to discharge his weapon in order to save his own life, the life of a fellow officer, or that of a community member.

It was a hot summer night in South Philly, so it was dark, and when this officers' shots rang out other officers who had also responded did not know from where these shots were coming. They fired at the man who they saw waving around the gun, Miller, just as they were trained, and they took him down.

One of Miller's best friends, Daniel Williams, was quoted as saying "...they probably look at it like, that's one less nigga with a gun."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two Million Minutes

That is how long the typical student the world over will spend in their high school careers - two million minutes. Four years in the students life - do the math (assuming you know how.)

It is also the name of a documentary film that asks a simple thought-provoking question that you might think you can answer easily: Can your high school Junior or Senior measure up to the 10th grade proficiency standards of the Third World?

"Two Million Minutes" (website linked by the title of this blog posting) is a breakthrough film from Executive Producer Robert A. Compton, directed by Chad Heeter, written and produced by Adam Raney from Compton's original idea.

In the story line, the priorities and pressures of six students from different parts of the world are examined. There are two from Carmel, Indiana representing typical American students. Neil Ahrendt is an 18-year old senior class president and National Merit Award semi-finalist. Brittany Brechbuhl is a 17-year old who is in the top 3% of her graduating class who wants to become a doctor.

Also in the film are a pair of students from Bangalore, India. Rohit Sridharan is a 17-year old young man who is seeking acceptance into an elite Indian engineering school. Apoora Uppala is a 17-year old girl who aims to become an engineer, which she believes is the safest profession in her home country.

And finally we have two young people from Shanghai, China as well. Hu Xiaoyuan is a 17-year old girl who plays violin, hopes to study biology, and has applied for early admission to Yale University here in the States. Jin Ruizhang is a 17-year old boy who competes in international math tournaments and wants to continue studying advanced math in college.

None of Our Business

A leading business website, Inc.com, billed as 'The Daily Resource for Entrepreneurs', has released its annual list of 'The Best Cities for Doing Business'.

Where do you think that Philadelphia ranked on their list of 393 metropolitan areas?

A top-ten city by population, you would think that Philly would probably be there somewhere among the leaders, right? Well, before we get too excited, let's examine some of the criteria that the e-zine factors in order to formulate the rankings.

What 'Inc.com' does as an overall approach is that they analyze job-growth data as supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the previous calendar year on 393 metropolitan statistical areas across the country.

The list just released was specifically derived from analysis of three-month rolling averages of the BLS state and area unadjusted employment data from January 1995 to September 2006. It uses four measures of growth to rank all areas for which data was available for the past ten years.

These four measures are: recent growth trend, analyzing this and last year; midterm growth, averaging 2001-06 rates; long-term trend, analyzing 1995-2006 data; and current year growth.

Monday, July 28, 2008

No Soulful End to the Curse

The indoor Arena Football League played it's championship game yesterday, and the local boys, the Philadelphia Soul, took the Arena Bowl XXII title by downing something called the San Jose SaberCats by a final score of 59-56.

The Soul are partly owned by famed New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi, the very public face of the franchise, and have another local hero, former Eagles Super Bowl quarterback Ron Jaworski, among their official team hierarchy.

So the club has found a niche in the local sports scene, much as the pro lacrosse Philadelphia Wings and indoor soccer Philadelphia Kixx have found.

For those not from Philly, you may not be aware that we are in the midst of one of the worst major pro sports championship droughts in the history of such things.

No major Philadelphia professional sports team has won a title since the 1983 NBA Philadelphia 76ers, led by Julius 'Dr. J' Erving and Moses Malone, took that championship from the LA Lakers. That makes it a full quarter-century since Philadelphians have experienced the thrill of a major title, and the ensuing victory parade down Broad Street.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Baptism 9-1-1

It's Sunday once again, so time for the weekly spirituality/religious topic. I hope that you got yourself to Church today. If not, if it's not too late, turn off your computer and get there. But that was last week's topic, let's move on to the new one.

Not the usual subject of conversations, I have amazingly found myself for two straight days now among two different groups of people involved in conversations regarding 'emergency baptism', and these conversations have caused me to look into the facts behind my beliefs.

I suppose those conversations were not too amazing, considering that my eldest daughter is about to give birth to my 2nd grandchild, and that one of my nieces gave birth last year and is about to have her child baptized.

My first grandchild, my granddaughter Elysia, was not formally baptized in Church, despite my wife and I trying to encourage my daughter to do so. She simply feels that it is something that my granddaughter should seek for herself when she gets older, not something that should be 'forced on her' or 'decided for her'.

We love our daughter, and have no choice but to simply agree to disagree. Well, that's really not the only choice. I had heard of 'emergency baptism', the idea that any Christian could baptize someone simply by blessing them with water and saying a prayer over them, as long as the person doing the baptizing was sincere in the danger to the soul of the baptized.

That was how I felt on the day that I was alone with my granddaughter and simply took some tap water, made the sign of the cross on her head and said "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", held my hand on her head and said a prayer for her. But in the end, is she really now officially baptized?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Eurack Obamapean

It has been described in the adoring old media as 'a sea of humanity' and 'hundreds of thousands of adoring followers'. 

Of course, I am talking about the crowds at rallies for United States Presidential candidate Barack Obama's visit this past week to Europe for his speeches in front of the 'adoring throngs' - in Germany and France. 

Meanwhile, back home here in the good-old United States, where the election actually matters and among his own nation, Republican candidate John McCain chose to visit with and talk problems with real Americans. 

The Dems just don't understand the significance of the difference. 

A professor on public policy at George Mason University, Jeremy Mayer, is quoted as saying "...if you look at the pictures this week, McCain is speaking at a German restaurant in Ohio, and Obama is speaking before 200,000 Germans in Berlin” as if that is somehow a negative for McCain. 

Obama is speaking to a lot of Germans overseas. American hero John McCain is speaking to someone who built the American dream here in the U.S. as an independent businessman. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

Islamism Series: Honor Killings

Amina and Sara Said (right), killed by their father (left)
Let's get the Islamofascist rants out of the way with right off the bat.

Yes, America is a society where murder has become epidemic in some communities, and domestic homicides are nothing at all peculiar to only the Muslim community.

That much is obvious simply by watching a few weeks of the 'Nancy Grace' program on CNN's Headline News network, were the latest murder of an attractive woman by a husband or boyfriend is the topic of discussion at least 50% of the time.

People kill people for many reasons, and some kill people that they do now, or at least used to love. What the topic of this post discusses is the particular problem of Islamic 'honor killing', which is indeed peculiar to that community.

The newsworthiness to the American public is that the phenomenon is new here, is growing, and is taking the lives of American citizens.

Tomorrow night, Saturday July 25th, at 8pm, Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly will host a special titled "Murder in the Family: Honor Killing in America" in which she will discuss the problem.

It is a horrific story of fathers killing daughters, brothers killing sisters, husbands killing wives, all in order to restore their families' 'honor'. Kelly is an outstanding reporter and host, and this program should prove as eye-opening as it's title implies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big Red Opens Green Camp

The Philadelphia Eagles opened training camp for their upcoming 2008 season on Monday at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

The camp will run from now through August 13th, when the Birds will pack up and head to Philly.

The Birds open their pre-season schedule at the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 8th, then open at home on August 14th against the Carolina Panthers.

The team will then close out its pre-season with games at New England and at home against the New York Jets.

Coming into camp, the Birds have been installed by the odds makers in Las Vegas as the third-best team in the NFC.

Unfortunately, they are also the 3rd best team in their own NFC East division. Vegas has the Dallas Cowboys as the NFC favorites, with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants ranked just slightly ahead of our Birds at this point.

Over in the AFC, New England is the favorite, and is the overall favorite as well, followed by Indianapolis and San Diego tied for the second overall favorite to win it all. Jacksonville is the 4th highest rated club, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are tied with the Eagles for 7th overall.

The success or failure of the upcoming season is, as always, in the hands of Donovan McNabb. At age 31, McNabb will be starting his 10th NFL season at the helm of the Birds 'West Coast' offense, and will be trying to rally a club that started slow a year ago as he recovered from injury.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Islamism Series: Introduction

This is the first part in what will be an ongoing series of postings relating to the serious problems posed to American society, and indeed to free peoples all around the world, by what I am going to term 'Islamism', and what has been given other names such as 'Islamofascism' and as taught this year in Pennsylvania MPO (municipal police officer) classes as 'Radical Islam'. At the bottom of each posting is a series of 'labels', and you click on the one named 'Islamism Series' in order to view all postings that come in this continuing series.

Since the beginning of 2008, I have been teaching a class at the Advanced Training Unit of the Philadelphia (PA) Police Department titled "Radical Islam", and it has been an eye-opening educational experience.

I have learned a great deal in the teaching of this class, as well as during a course that I took a few years back at the Community College of Philadelphia on the topic of terrorism with its text "Terrorism and Homeland Security" by Jonathan R. White.

In addition, my own personal reading done since 9/11 of books such as "American Jihad" by Steven Emerson, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East" by Martin Sieff, and "Holy War on the Homefront" by Harvey Kushner (all of which I highly recommend), the fact that Islamism is perhaps the overall biggest threat to American society in today's world has been driven home to me.

Just as eye-opening has been what I perceive to be an incredible lack of recognition of this fact by the American public, lulled back to sleep by the American media's political agenda, in the wake of the historically outrageous and devastating attacks that occurred just seven short years ago.

Islamism is defined as a set of ideologies that holds Islam, the Muslim faith, is not only a religion but also should be considered as a political system. Islamists would say that to call it a political system is to trivialize it, that the truth is that Islam should be a "complete way of life."

However you want to slice it, and by whatever words you want to associate it, Islamists believe that Islamic law (Sharia) must be the primary source of law and cultural identity within a state. Islamists believe that there can indeed by peace on earth: when Islam dominates and controls the world, and anyone who refuses to accept Islam is either subjugated under it or is killed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Third Story on American Street?

I grew up in a traditional, small South Philly rowhouse in the 2300 block of south American Street. Our block was one of the few in our working-class rowhouse neighborhood that had houses on only one side of the street.

Our houses were situated on the east side of the block, between Wolf and Ritner Streets. On the west side was Our Lady of Mount Carmel church and school.

The neighborhood eventually became known to some as 'Whitman' and it led into the next neighborhood north known as 'Pennsport', but nobody from down there used those names. To us, and to those in the other South Philly neighborhoods, we were 'Second Streeters' (some call us "Two Street") the name owing to 2nd Street which ran through the neighborhood and was home to many of the Mummer's Parade clubs who maintained their headquarters facilities along the street.

For those neanderthals not familiar, the Mummers are the thousands who parade each year on New Year's Day through the streets of Philadelphia in what is a cultural phenomenon of our town. But that topic for another day.

Down on 2nd Street, the families were mostly white. Many were of Irish ancestry, with some Germans and Polish mixed in as well. South Philly is largely known for it's Italian community, but they were further west from us. There weren't too many Italians down on 2nd Street.

So back to the topic of this blog post: A third story on American Street. Our block was, and still is for the most part, a long block of two-story homes with peaked roofs in front. It is a kind of signature to the block and a couple of others around that area.

But some one has committed a travesty, and they have done it right in my old house! They put a third story on American Street (see picture), and man does it look out of place.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Love Those Wildwood Days !

I've written before about the Wildwoods, New Jersey. But it's summer time, and you can never get enough of that Jersey shore town once the bug has bitten you.

The bride and I drove on down last week and stayed overnight at one of our favorite Wildwood Crest beachfront motels, the Olympic Island Beach Resort, and it was a fantastic little getaway as always.

Spent the first afternoon down on the beach for hours, and I can report that the water is really starting to warm up. For me, the ocean water temperature has to be around 70 degrees at a minimum to really enjoy it, and we were actually surprised that it was that warm already.

Often up in the northeast section of the country, the air temps can be hot and muggy, but the water temps remain a bit cool well into July. Not anymore, so be ready for wading into the waves if you head down now.

We soaked up a very sunny and warm afternoon just hanging on the beach, taking advantage of the umbrella rental joint. The young guy who popped in our umbrella was down for the season, staying with a bunch of friends from his Delaware County neighborhood. Ah, to be young and have nothing to do but work and hang down the shore all summer!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday or Sabbath?

A couple of years back, I tried to make each Sunday a chance to post on some topic of Faith, and with this posting I will be going back to that effort.

It's appropriate to start here on a summer Sunday with a two-part theme: 1) When should you go to Church in the first place?, and 2) Why do many drift away as summer comes?

Let's start with an effort to answer that first question. These days, many churches celebrate their weekly obligation services of the Mass on Saturday evening, then have a full compliment of Sunday morning services, and some even offer a Sunday evening service.

There are some religious organizations, including Seventh-Day Adventists, who claim that Christians must worship on Saturdays, not on Sundays, because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, and they believe that at some point through the years the Church arbitrarily changed things to Sundays.

The fact is that Sundays were the day of worship for Christian believers as far back as New Testament times. Many passages of scripture indicate this practice as more desirable, worshiping on 'The Lord's Day', as Sunday was known to them.

As just one of many examples, St. Ignatius of Antioch describes in a letter to the Magnesians written in 110 A.D. as follows:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mamma Mia !

A classic movie musical put out in the 21st century, with song and dance numbers, whatever will they think of next?

A bit skeptical of something that is based on a Broadway play that was itself inspired by the music of ABBA? The 1970's-era world-wide supergroup ABBA? So was I.

It's not that back in my teen years that I didn't find some of their dance, disco, and early emo ditties catchy, the Swedes put out some timeless tunes for sure. But an entire story based on those tunes, how could that work? Well, it does, because 'Mamma Mia !' is simply outstanding.

The story line basically follows the upcoming wedding of a young girl named Sophie, played by dazzling young American actress Amanda Seyfried. As her wedding approaches, there is just one thing missing for Sophie - her father.

For years she has been raised alone by her mother, fantastically played in a starring turn by the incomparable Meryl Streep, whose character Donna simply doesn't know which of three men are Sophie's dear-old dad.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The House That Ruth Built

Baseball's most storied playing grounds, Yankee Stadium in New York, played host to one of baseball's premier events last night as the stars shined for MLB's annual All-Star game extravaganza.

The game was awarded to the Big Apple to honor the grand old ball yard in its final season. It is slated for demolition this winter, to be replaced by the New Yankee Stadium.

The stadium was nicknamed "The House That Ruth Built" because it literally was just that. Early in their history, the New York Yankees played their games at The Polo Grounds, a park that was the real home of the New York Giants ball club.

The Giants threatened to evict the Yanks, so the club ownership purchased a plot of land in the Bronx and built the most magnificent facility of it's kind at the time. Ruth had been baseball's biggest star as a pitcher and hitter for the Boston Red Sox, who sold him to the Yankees while he was still a young player. Yankee Stadium opened its doors for the 1923 season, and Ruth christened it by hitting the first home run there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Please Release Me, Let Me Go

Quarterback Brett Favre retired from professional football in early March of this year after a 17-year career that lifted him to legendary status. After beginning his career as a backup for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1991 season, Favre was traded to Green Bay where he became an icon for the Packers franchise. He led the team to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances following the 1996 & 1997 seasons, winning the NFL title in a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots in January 2007 at the Superdome in New Orleans. Favre threw for over 61,000 yards and tossed 442 touchdown passes in his career, and was still going strong at the end. Last season, in his 17th year at the age of 38, Favre threw for over 4,000 yards for the 5th time in his career. He had a 28-15 touchdown to interception ratio, and a quarterback rating of 95.7 to finish among the league leaders. Perhaps more amazing than all of his statistical and team accomplishments is that fact that, at one of the most vulnerable positions on the field, Favre has started and played every game for the past 15+ seasons. In short, Brett Favre is simply one of the top handful of quarterbacks to ever play the game. He takes a back seat to no one in performance or reputation. After retiring, Favre relaxed for a few months and then, as many athletes do, he began to have second thoughts. His body felt good, his mind felt good, and he decided that he actually did want to return for the 2008 season. He began to send out 'feelers' through various channels to let folks close to him and the team know of his feelings. Problems began when he began to receive responses that were lukewarm at best. The fact was that the Packers were coming off a strong season, and did not want to take a step back with Favre retiring. They had handed the starting QB position to Favre's understudy, 25-year old Aaron Rodgers, and had turned the organizational page on the Favre era. As Favre's desire and determination to come back grew, and the approach of NFL training camps draws near, the quarterback solidified his requests, and the Packers, realizing that he was serious, began to address the situation on a practical level. The player wants to come back and play. The team has moved on, but is not prepared to just give away a valuable asset. In this situation, after all that Brett Favre has meant to and accomplished for the Green Bay Packers franchise over the past decade and a half, the team should release him outright and allow him to play out his career with another team. If the Pack management was willing to bring him back and guarantee that he would retain his starting position, that would be the only other viable and fair option. But they have stated their position, that they have moved on and that Rodgers is their man. So let the legend go. He will always be a Packer, will always be remembered as such, will always be a hero in the community and in the annals of the team. But rather than have the situation get ugly, the best solution would be for the Packers to release Favre, wish him all the best wherever he decides to play, and then do what they say they want to do, turn the page. Brett Favre has certainly earned that much respect, as much as anyone who has ever played the game.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chasing a Homerun Derby Crown

Tonight is the annual Homerun Derby contest, which has become a staple at the Major League Baseball All-Star festival since the 1985 season when Dave Parker, the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates slugger but then of the Cincinnati Reds, took the contest held in Minnesota. The Homerun Derby pits a half dozen of baseball's top hitters, usually among the game's biggest sluggers, in a contest to see who can hit the most home runs before making ten 'outs', which come anytime a player swings at a pitched ball and anything other than a home run occurs. Chase Utley of my hometown Philadelphia Phillies, and my personal favorite player in the game today, will be taking part. Chase is currently 3rd in all of baseball with 25 home runs at the break, trailing only teammate Ryan Howard and Cincy's Adam Dunn. He will be trying to become the 3rd Phillie in the past 4 years to win the contest. Howard took the honors back in 2006, and Bobby Abreu won in 2005 when he was still with the Phils. The only multiple winner has been living legend Ken Griffey Jr, who won the contest in 1994, '98 & '99. Many of the games greatest players over the past two decades have won the contest at one time or another including Barry Bonds (96), Frank Thomas (95), Mark McGwire (92), and Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr (91) & Ryne Sandberg (90). The '86 contest is the only one to end in a tie (Darryl Strawberry & Wally Joyner), while the '88 contest was cancelled due to rain. The reigning champion is Angels superstar outfielder Vlad Guerrero, but he will not be taking part, so a new champ will be crowned in tonight's action at legendary Yankee Stadium. This is the final season at the classic "House that Ruth Built", and it's notoriously short right-field porch should beckon to some of the top lefties such as Utley. Lance Berkman of the Astros is having a great season, and has participated four times previously, so he would seem to be a favorite. Also as a fave would be Twins slugger Justin Morneau, the only person who competed in last year's event who is back again. Morneau is a lefty, and so he could make a serious run. But my own pick will be a battle between Utley and the man who I believe will be the eventual winner. That prediction is for Texas Rangers feel-good story, outfielder Josh Hamilton (pictured), to add his name to the winners circle. It should be a fun event, especially in New York as we all begin to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium.

Freddie & Fannie Getting Some Help

You may have heard of them, but you probably don't know a whole lot about them. They are your good friends in the area of housing, and their names are Freddie and Fannie.

That would be Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, to be more precise, and as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was quoted recently they "play a central role in the housing system and must continue to do so in their current form...".

On Sunday, Treasury and the Federal Reserve moved to secure the finances of the two giants, to ensure that they do not drown under the weight of what is termed the current 'correction' in the housing market.

Freddie Mac is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, a mortgage finance system that makes home ownership and quality rentals a reality for more American families, reducing the costs and expanding the choices by linking Americans to the world financial capital markets. It is stockholder-owned, and is authorized to make loans and loan guarantees.

Freddie Mac was chartered by Congress back in 1968 in order to provide competition for Fannie Mae, so the two are not so much a couple as they are competitors in the housing capital market.

Fannie Mae is the Federal National Mortgage Association, which was founded back in 1938 as a part of Franklin Roosevelt's 'New Deal' programs. Fannie is also a stockholder-owned company that is authorized to make loans and loan guarantees.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

R.I.P. Tony Snow

There is plenty of coverage across the Internet and on television news programs on the death of Tony Snow, but to just let it pass without an entry here would be wrong. Tony Snow was that rare modern-day newsman who was accepted and respected by the mainstream media even though he did not subscribe to their usual liberal school of thought. Born in 1955 in Kentucky, Snow was raised in Cincinnati by his father, a school principal, and his mother who died of colon cancer when Snow was just 17 years old. He graduated from Davidson College in 1977, and began work as a newspaper editor in North Carolina for The Greensboro Record in 1979. His editorial career eventually led him to take over the editorial page at the prestigious The Washington Times from 1987-1991. Throughout the 1990's he worked as a regular columnist at USA Today, made numerous television news appearances, and also was syndicated to over 200 newspapers throughout the country. He took a sabbatical from 1991-1993 to work in the administration of President George H.W. Bush as a speech writer and media assistant. In the mid-90's, Snow took over as the regular substitute host for The Rush Limbaugh Show on radio, and in 2003 began The Tony Snow Show on Fox News radio. Snow had become one of the leading conservative voices in America, making numerous Fox News appearances and often substituting on television for Bill O'Reilly, but his professionalism and fairness gained him the respect from both sides of the aisle in Washington and from his media colleagues across the ideological spectrum. In April of 2006, Tony Snow was named as the new White House Press Secretary, the main face and voice of the administration of President George W. Bush, a position that he held until being overwhelmed by the same colon cancer that had taken the life of his mother 35 years earlier, that would eventually take his life yesterday. Tony was an avid musician who played the flute, trombone, piccolo, accordion, saxophone, and guitar. He was a part of a cover band called Beats Workin' and got to play publicly with members of Jethro Tull, the Doobie Brothers, and Steely Dan. Tony Snow is survived by his wife of 21 years, Jill Ellen Walker, two daughters and a son. Not many come along like Tony Snow, who combine class, intelligence, humor, and a general overall good-natured demeanor that comes through no matter what your opinions of his political views. During a time of severe political partisanship in America, the loss of men like Snow and Tim Russert, who passed away a few weeks ago, is a serious blow to American journalism, and a loss for us all.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Movie Quotes That 'Make My Day'

In 2005 as a part of the celebration of their 100th anniversary, the American Film Institute released the top 100 movie quotes of all-time. The most quoted actor was Humphrey Bogart, who edged out Marlon Brandon by 4-3. Bogart's highest-rated was the #5 ranking of "Here's looking at you, kid" from 'Casablanca.' Brando had two of the top five with both "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse" (#2) from 'The Godfather' and "I could've been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am" (#3) from 'On the Riverfront'. The top-ranked quote of all-time? It was the classic Rhett Butler line from 'Gone With the Wind' as uttered by Clark Gable: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." The all-time top film, 'Gone With the Wind' had two more entries in the top 100, both Scarlett O'hara lines as uttered by Vivian Leigh: "...tomorrow is another day" (#31) and "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again" (#59). It wasn't just oldies either, as many modern films were well represented with top lines. A pair of Arnold Schwarzenegger classics make the list: "I'll be back" from 'Terminator' (#37) and "Hasta la vista, baby" from 'Terminator 2" (#76). The highest rated quotes from the last 25 years have been: "Go ahead, make my day" (#6) by Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry Callahan in 1983's 'Sudden Impact', "I ate his liver with some fava beans, and a nice Chianti" (#21) eerily delivered by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in 1991's 'The Silence of the Lambs', "Show me the money" (#25) as delivered by both Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr in 1996's 'Jerry Maguire', and "You can't handle the truth" (#29) as shouted by Jack Nicholson's Colonel Nathan Jessup in 1992's 'A Few Good Men'. Maguire's Renee Zellweger also made it with her character Dorothy Boyd's classic heart breaker at #52: "You had me at hello." The only quote to make the list from the new 21st century was at #85, the "My precious" as Andy Serkis' character Gollum whispered in 2002's 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'. Perhaps the most unlikely actor to make the list was actress Estelle Reiner, whose one-liner from 1989's 'When Harry Met Sally' was delivered with unparalleled timing and attitude in response to the classic public simulated-orgasm of Meg Ryan: "I'll have what she's having" came in at #33. So many great films, so many great one-liners. It may be the single most important skill of a screen writer in coming up with that signature. But it usually takes impeccable timing by a great actor or actress in a memorable film for a quote to truly become a part of our everyday lexicon. Click into the title of this entry to see the full list of 100 top quotes.

The Truly 'Golden' Arches

As the old jingle for the McDonald's restaurant chain used to ring: "You deserve a break today, so get up and get away to McDonald's." But you won't be getting that break if what you are looking for at McDonald's is franchise ownership.

Own a McDonald's franchise, and you will be fully involved. You will work long and hard. But you will most definitely be rewarded for that hard work.

Famed columnist George Will recently said it best: "McDonald's has made more millionaires, and especially black and Hispanic millionaires, than any other economic entity ever, anywhere."

Getting a bit long in the tooth, and think it's too late for you to start into such a venture? Think again, and we can go back to the beginning to prove it.

Way back in 1954, a 52-year old man by the name of Ray Kroc mortgaged his home and invested his life savings in a product called 'The Mulitmixer', a five-spindled milkshake maker. Kroc learned of a California hamburger stand named 'McDonald's' that was running eight Multimixer's at one time, and saw an opportunity.

Kroc packed up his life and headed west, saw how popular the business was in the area, and met with owners Dick and Mac McDonald. He pitched to them the idea of opening several restaurants, with the intent of selling eight Multimixers to each of them. The McDonald brothers asked who would open the restaurants for them, and Kroc responded "What about me?" The rest, as they say, is history.

A year later, Kroc opened the first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, and made $366 on the first day. As Kroc opened the subsequent restaurants, he preached service and cleanliness to his employees: "If you can lean, you can clean" was his mantra.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Energy Answer: Drill, Refine, Alternate

As was stated in this week's edition of The Patriot Post: "...ours is an economy that relies on a stable energy supply, and this volatility in fuel prices is a reflection of the instability of our present supply."

Bottom line, there are more people that want the world's fuel then there is currently fuel available to give them.

Two decades ago when gas prices were cheap here in America, we were not competing against the rapidly emerging and gigantic economies of China and India.

These two nations alone are rapidly expanding and growing with enormous populations of people, and thus the energy needs involved in that expansion are tremendous. That need creates enormous demand from the world's limited supply, thus driving up prices.

Had we here in America been taking advantage of the vast oil resources right here in our own back yard over the past few decades, by both drilling for it and refining it, we would have a far greater advantage, a much stronger weapon with which to fight this volatility.

Ryan Howard is Underrated

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard may be the single most feared slugger in Major League Baseball over the past few seasons, and yet somehow the guy remains underrated. How else can you explain that the man who will be the National League leader in both homeruns and rbi will likely be left off the N.L. All-Star team when next Tuesday's mid-summer classic takes place? Should he not make the squad, Howard would be the first player in 60 years to be leading his league in both categories and still not make the team. The problem for some who make the selections, and who evaluate ballplayers, is that Howard strikes out at an even more prolific rate than he homers, and that his batting average of .234 is too low. However, there are a number of problems with criticizing Howard for these perceived shortcomings. First, as pointed out in today's Philadelphia Inquirer by writer Todd Zolecki, the folks at baseball think-tank Baseball Prospectus did research on the relationship between teams' strikeout rates and run production for a period covering over a half-century, from the 1950-2002 seasons, and found no correlation whatsoever. In 2005, after taking another look at the strikeout-runs correlation, they noted that each strikeout only costs a team about 3/100's of a run. Ryan Howard strikes out a lot, but that is highly overrated. If he struck out 50 fewer times, but instead 30 of those were groundouts and 20 were decent-length flyouts, would he be viewed any better? His average certainly would be just the same, and just as poor. However, again average is another deceptive statistic. A batting average determines roughly how many times out of every ten at-bats a player will get a hit. If one player will get 23 hits for every 100 at-bats, and another player will get 27 hits for every 100 at-bats, does that make the latter player much more effective? In fact, does it make that player more effective at all? Fact is that so far this season, Howard is the former player, while Kevin Kouzmanoff of San Diego would be a prime example of the latter. Howard is hitting .234 while Kouzmanoff is hitting .274 with 11 homers and 37 rib. Kouzmanoff is hitting 40 points higher. Who would you rather have on your team, now or in the future? Another factor to consider is that Howard has fallen into a pattern of starting slow and finishing big over the course of a season. Two months ago, he was hitting just .163, but has hit a solid .272 since that time. The fact is that Ryan Howard is one of the best run-producers in all of baseball, and scoring runs is the name of the game. He leads the majors in homers and is 2nd in RBI. Health allowing, he is going to smack close to 50 homeruns again this year, and drive in close to 140 runs. The final argument on Howard's all-star worthiness should be the production of others at the position so far in 2008. The other leading contenders would perhaps be N.L. starter Lance Berkman (.348/22/70), Derek Lee/Cubs (.304/15/55), Adrian Gonzalez/Padres (.279/22/70), and Albert Pujols/Cardinals (.348/18/49). Both Gonzalez & Pujols have been named as reserves for the N.L. squad, and are deserving for consideration. But Howard's 27 homers and 83 rbi lead both of them, even factoring in that Pujols spent some time injured. This time of year, every team can look around and find a couple of players on their roster who they believe should have been all-stars but who fail to make the final cut. On the Phils' roster most would probably try to make the case for Pat Burrell & Cole Hamels. But I think that an even more compelling case can be made for Ryan Howard, who because of an over-emphasis on his strikeouts and low average has somehow reached the status of underrated ballplayer. If the Phillies were to actually lose his 50 homeruns and 140 rbi, they would not replace them, perhaps ever again.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Pamplona Encierro

It's that time of year again, time for the famous 'Running of the Bulls' through the streets of Pamplona, Spain. 

This is the highest profile event of an annual 9-day festival of 'San Fermin', which begins each year at noon on July 6th and runs through midnight on July 14th

Saint Fermin is a Catholic saint who is the patron saint of the city of Pamplona. He was said to have been martyred by having his body drug through the streets by bulls. 

The current festival has it's roots in a secular festival previously held in June, and later moved to September, known as the Sanfermines

The bull runs began in the area as far back as the 13th century. Cattle merchants would come to town for commercial festivals to celebrate the beginning of summer, and bullfights became central to the celebrations. 

The runs custom traces it's origins back to the process of transporting bulls from their off-site corrals to the bullring for those bullfights. During this process, youngsters would jump in among the bulls as they were being moved in order to show their bravery. The celebration was finally formally established to the month of July in 1592. 

Islamic Terrorists Aren't Poor and Ignorant

Nearly everyone on earth is aware that Islamofascism is one of, if not the biggest, problems facing today's world.

Here in America, the iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York were bombed in 1993 before finally being collapsed in the attacks of 9/11.

What some are not aware of is that the United States continues to be attacked, more than a dozen and a half attempts (at least) since that infamous date in 2001.

Included among these were Jose Padilla's plans in 2002 to set off a 'dirty bomb', Dhiren Barot's plan to attack the New York Stock Exchange in 2004, Kevin James and the plot to attack the National Guard facilities in Los Angeles in 2005.

There were Narsearl Batiste and his crew and their 2006 plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, and the mammoth plot in summer of '06 to simultaneously blow up numerous airliners flying from Britain to the U.S. using liquid explosives.

Right here in our own backyard in the Philly Tri-State area, we had the May 2007 plot to attack the soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Who are these terrorists, and what do they want? Contrary to theories pushed by certain sociologists and liberal thinkers, terrorists are not poor, stupid, and ignorant.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

ARod: What More Could He Want?

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks of a marital split and pending divorce between New York Yankees superstar 3rd baseman Alex 'ARod' Rodriguez and his wife Cynthia.

Now big stars getting divorced has, unfortunately, become common place in today's American culture. But this one is proving to be a doozy.

For years, ARod publicly tried to cultivate a family-man image, and even his personal trainer recently commented on Good Morning America as to that former mind-set for the baseball star.

However, in the divorce papers being filed, Cynthia alleges numerous affairs by ARod over the years, and now claims that one most recent affair was "the last straw." That suspected affair was with none other than pop music mega-star Madonna, who at age 49 is sixteen years the senior of ARod (he turns 33 at the end of this month.)

Cynthia claims to have found what is being described as "love notes" to the Material Girl from ARod, and there are also allegations that Madonna may have lured him with her faith in Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Time to Clash

A popular columnist, minister, artist, cigar smoker, big-game hunter, and writer, Doug Giles is a modern renaissance man (though he might slap down that description.)

He produces written and video material at his "Clash Daily" website. Giles is a no-holds-barred warrior for any and all causes for the betterment of American culture.

He hits home for me particularly because he regularly posts advice and commentary as to the raising of his two teenage daughters, a process that I went through as well and can fully appreciate.

But when Giles gives advice, it isn't, shall we say, mushy. Giles is a traditional culture superstar with a tough-guy approach and a real depth to his intellect and humor.

You can catch his weekly columns at TownHall.com, and I highly recommend his books: "Ruling in Babylon: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Twentysomethings", "Political Twerps, Cultural Jerks, Church Quirks", "The Bulldog Attitude: Get It Or Get Left Behind", "10 Habits of Decidedly Defective People: the Successful Loser's Guide to Life", and the new "A Time to Clash".

Pick up something, anything, from Giles' body of work, and you will be hooked.

TV Watch: Mad Men

The Showtime and HBO networks have become masters over this decade in developing and producing great television series, the best that TV has to offer.

HBO has led the way with the granddaddy of them all, "The Sopranos", and they have also given us "Entourage", "Sex & the City", "The Wire", "Big Love", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Rome", "Deadwood", "Carnivale" and more. Showtime has given us programs like "Dexter", "Brotherhood", "The Tudors", "Sleeper Cell", "Weeds", "Californication", and "The L Word" among others.

AMC has now gotten into the action, and their new drama "Mad Men" takes a back seat to none of the HBO/Showtime offerings. The first season is set in 1960, and follows the lives of the office staff at the mid-level 'Sterling Cooper' Madison Avenue advertising agency. Jon Hamm stars as Donald Draper, an emerging superstar in the ad industry and the firm's star employee.

The plot line largely revolves around Draper in his work and home lives, with January Jones as his wife Betty. Hamm and Jones do an outstanding job portraying a married couple with children at a crossroads in their own lives and in American history.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hancock a Summer Dud

The latest Will Smith vehicle, Sony pictures new release "Hancock", came out on the 4th of July weekend and is billed as a summer blockbuster. 

It even took first place at the box office this past weekend, and the Debber and I helped out the coffers of the film's producers and stars by attending on Saturday at the AMC Woodhaven theatre. 

I am a huge fan of Will Smith, and perhaps an even bigger fan of his female lead in this film, one Charlize Theron. So I hate to say it, but rather than a blockbuster, Hancock is a summer dud. 

It's not a good sign when the best part of a film is Theron's gorgeous face and my popcorn/soda combo. 

Something just seems missing from Smith here. He just doesn't ever translate the charm, heart, or heroism that he exhibited in 'Independence Day', 'Hitch', 'I, Robot', or the 'Men in Black' films that made me such a fan in the first place. 

Smith plays John Hancock (seriously), billed as a hard-living superhero who has fallen out of favor with the public. Perhaps that is because Hancock is a drunken bum who causes more damage than he prevents. 

Viva La Vida

From the minute that the iTunes commercial began airing back in the spring with snippets of the song "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay, it was fairly obvious that this was going to be a monster hit.

But the obviousness wasn't just because of the 'i' connection, as powerful as that has become these days. The more obvious factor was that the damn song was catchy. It was a good tune, and it featured great vocals by Coldplay's leading man Chris Martin (also famous as Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow.)

The song has been all over the radio this summer. It has definitely been my personal favorite new tune, and is arguably going to go down as 'that song', the one that you will always equate with this particular Summer of '08.

The success of the song should also be no surprise once you know that the producer is Brian Eno, he of U2 and David Bowie reputation and success (among many other projects.)

What Eno did with the already great Irish rockers of U2 in producing the smash hit album "The Joshua Tree", he may be repeating here with "Viva La Vida" for Coldplay.

Chestnut is a Real Hotdog

It was everything that was good, and everything awful, about America. It was the 2008 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, the gluttonous showcase of over-consumption held each July 4th since 1916 at the original Nathan's outlet on Coney Island in New York City.

The goal: eat as many hotdogs as possible in a 10 minute span.

The dogs come plain on a bun (sorry, no mustard or coleslaw allowed.) The contestants: some of the biggest eaters from around the world who were winners of any from among 23 world-wide qualifying events during the previous year, and many of them remarkably small-framed folks.

The two favorites were the Japanese wunderkind 'Kobayashi', a six-time champion, and last year's winner and sentimental favorite, Vallejo California's own Joey Chestnut (shown in pic after winning the '07 event).

Kobayashi started out slow as Chestnut bolted out to a lead in the early going. Kobayashi began to make his move around the halfway point and pulled slowly ahead, maintaining about a one-dog lead down the stretch. In the final seconds, Chestnut gobbled his way into a tie, and as the buzzer sounded it was Kobayashi and Chestnut well ahead of the field in a dead heat.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Winning the Future With Real Change

Some of the biggest influences on me in recent years have been the ideas and writings of Newt Gingrich. The man is simply the single most eloquent spokesperson for the Conservative cause since Ronald Reagan himself.

In fact, blasphemy acknowledged, he may actually be an even stronger advocate for the cause. Three of his books, "To Renew America" (1995), "Winning the Future", and now "Real Change" (2008) are absolute must-reads. This is particularly so with "Real Change", just released this year and much more updated in scope and time.

Gingrich is a college history professor, historian and novelist who has written outstanding works of living-history fiction on both the Civil War and Pearl Harbor as well.

In the concept of 'living history', you take known historical events and people and 'adjust' the facts/results to show 'what might have happened' had certain things gone a different way.

In the real world, Gingrich was first elected to Congress from Georgia back in 1978.

Gingrich was then re-elected 10 times, and eventually became the architect of the 'Republican Revolution', which saw the Republican Party take control of Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. This happened largely to an effort called the 'Contract With America' created by Gingrich himself.

Gingrich became the Speaker of the House, leading numerous Republican challenges to President Bill Clinton's liberal Democratic agenda during the 1990's. He was named by Time magazine as the Person of the Year in 1995.

Academic Progress

Just got some nice news in the mail yesterday. I was named to the Dean's List at my college, Saint Joseph's University, for the Spring 2008 term. You get named to the list for being a Senior and maintaining at least a 3.50 GPA. Right now in the Summer term, I am attending a Sociology class that is my next-to-last class work. In the Fall term, will have one more Sociology that will be my final class that will finally earn me my Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice. My GPA is over 3.90, with just three A- grades keeping me from that perfect 4.0 over the years. About five years ago at this time, someone finally got through to me about the importance of going after my formal education, even in my 40's. I had been putting it off for over two decades. Originally had been set to attend LaSalle out of high school back in 1979, but my high school girlfriend and I got pregnant, and I went out to work instead. I had two beautiful daughters and a mini-career in banking (over a decade), but neither the career or the marriage lasted. After joining the Philly PD in 1990, learning and enjoying the police career was my life, and then I met my wonderful wife and got married in 1995. But school was something that always remained a regret in my mind. I actually got to the point where I put it down, publicly taking the position that it wasn't really important for someone to succeed in life. Again, someone finally got through to me. That someone was anonymous on a message board, which is something that I absolutely hate (anonymity in posting). But whatever that person said back then got to me, and so for the past five years I have gone to night school, first Community College of Philadelphia, and now for the past two years at St. Joe's. Making the Dean's List and being set to graduate next spring is making all the time, money, and work feel very worthwhile. So thanks to that anonymous poster, thanks to CCP and St. Joe's for the opportunities, and thanks to the PPD for their relationship with those educational institutions. If any of you are friends or family members, or even other cops or adults, and you have been putting this or some other opportunity off because you feel it simply has passed you by, don't do that. Don't sell yourself short. Go for it, you can do whatever you really decide to set your mind to. The important thing is to get started, and don't give up or take a break until you reach your goal. For me, now I have an alma mater (almost), and a Philly Big Five college that I can point to at tournament time with pride and say "The Hawk Will Never Die!"

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Parenting Advice: Get Your Kids Into Sports

Facts have been emerging that are showing what many have suspected for years: all things being equal otherwise, if a kid plays sports, he or she will earn more money, stay in school longer, and be more engaged in civic life. '

The American' magazine recently highlighted this theory in their "Little League, Huge Effect" article. 

One of their main points is that almost all of life in a capitalist society involves some form of competition, and young athletes learn the formula for success in a market-based system. 

You can wish that wasn't so, you can point to some examples of non-athletes making it big, you can fight the numbers in your head. But the fact is, kids who play sports learn teamwork, learn competition, learn how to harness their emotions, interact live with other kids and adults, and in general get a tremendous start on life. 

We are not just talking about the best athletes, the stars or even the starters on a team. We are talking about every kid who becomes actively engaged in athletics. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, America !


It's that time again, time to celebrate America's birthday. The 232nd birthday this time around.

We may be getting older, and things may be a bit tough right now in some regards, but the fact is that the United States of America is still the greatest nation in the history of the planet Earth.

We all remain privileged to live in the most free nation in our world's history, and we should all feel happy to celebrate the birth of our nation.

Over two centuries ago, our founding fathers fought for their independence from tyranny and oppression, and we all benefit from their collective vision, their sacrifices, their wisdom, and their foresight.

This year Philly will celebrate with various activities in the Independence Hall historic area beginning at 10am.

There will be a 4th of July parade downtown from 7:00-8:30pm, which will culminate with a concert by John Legend at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The concert will be followed by the annual city fireworks display right there at the Art Museum.

Are You Driving Your Family On a Time Bomb?


Are you driving yourself and your family around on a ticking time bomb? How would you know? You probably don't even know what I'm talking about.

Most Americans are still ignorant of the facts, though these facts have been public knowledge for at least the past five years according to The Consumer Warning Network.

What I am talking about is something that, if you drive, you are totally dependent on every single day. Your tires.

The problem is that tires are only good for ten years after their manufacture date. No tires which have been previously unused should be sold after six years. However, these tires are routinely sold at places like Sears and Wal-Mart, among many others.

The odds are that you are right now driving around on tires that are aged or aging. You should change them once they pass six years old, and everyone should begin to learn how to tell the age of their tires.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Great Americans: Joey Vento


You gotta love Joey Vento of Geno's Steaks, 9th & Passyunk in South Philly.

Here is a successful businessman who owns a legendary, iconic eatery and he has the guts to publicly stand up for what is right.

One of the greatest problems that has plagued our country in the past few decades is the slow erosion of our national identity, sacrificed to the misguided cause of multi-culturalism.

Removing prayer from our schools, attempts to remove the Pledge of Allegiance as well. Spanish, Russian and other languages as options in telephone menus and at ATM machines.

Vento's grandparents struggled after getting off the boat from Sicily almost a century ago, and he never forgot that lesson.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

TV Watch: "Dexter"

I tried to start watching this show when it first came out a couple of years ago, and I just couldn't stay with it after about 2-3 episodes. I don't mind something "dark", but this one was just too dark for me.

But my daughters talked about it and liked it, and historically I have really enjoyed the production of cable series such as "The Sopranos", "Deadwood", "The Tudors", "Entourage", "Brotherhood", and "Carnivale" just to name a few. So I decided to give the show another shot, catching up through a Comcast "OnDemand" feature, and I'm glad that I did.

An incredible acting turn by star Michael C. Hall as the title character serial killer Dexter Morgan. He is a serial killer with a twist: he only kills other serial killers.

The exposure to Dexter's current personal life, the emotional forces behind his own familial development, and this fact that he only kills truly evil individuals actually make a serial killer sympathetic, if you can imagine that.

Not only is Dexter a serial killer, but he is also by day a civilian blood splatter analyst for the Miami police.