Saturday, February 28, 2009

Netanyahu or Livni: Why You Should Care

Approximately three weeks ago the people of Israel went to the polls in order to attempt to elect new leadership to guide them as the troubled Jewish nation moves forward in particularly challenging times.

I am no expert on Israel or it's political process, but I am going to try to explain the possible outcomes, as well as to explain why that outcome is important to you.

Americans have to begin by understanding that Israeli elections are not as clear-cut as those in the United States. For all of the faults of our own democratic system, all of the intense battles between Republicans and Democrats, Israel's hodgepodge of parties on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum cause extreme confusion.

Not only that, but the plethora of parties with competing visions, goals, and ideologies makes it difficult to form a ruling governmental structure.

In America it is easy to simply add up the number of Dems and GOP members in the House and Senate to get a picture of who holds the power. When the party in power in Congress is the same as that of the elected President, that party holds most of the cards in getting it's agenda passed.

If there is a Democratic Party president with a Democratic majority congress, as there is right now, then liberal ideologies, programs, and laws are going to be front and center. With a Republican president and congress, such as happened in the beginning of the most recent Bush administration for example, then conservative principles, laws, and policies are going to hold sway.

There are the same issues of government in Israel as there are in America regarding domestic problems. But in Israel there really is one issue which rises above all others: national security. Israel is surrounded on all sides by neighbors that want to see it wiped from the map, including a few that have actually tried to accomplish just that feat.

Against this backdrop was last month's Knesset election which came down to a struggle between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured on left) and his Likud Party, and the Kadima Party of foreign minister Tzipi Livni (pictured on right.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Repeat a Lie Often Enough, It Becomes the Truth

President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party cohorts have told the lie so many times in recent weeks that one has to wonder if they even believe it themselves.

The President said that his stimulus bill included tax cuts for "95 percent of working families" or what he calls the middle class.

That is great, isn't it? We have a President who cares about you and me, the working people that keep America moving forward. The hard-working everyday folks. Thank God we finally have someone in the White House who cares about us, right?

Well, that only floats if you actually believe what Obama is telling you.

Do you, and if so, why do you? Because a network news anchor tells you to believe it? Because the head of your union tells you to believe it? Because your city newspaper tells you to believe it?

President Barack Obama and his administration are simply lying to us. They are lying boldly to our faces by using positive-sounding rhetoric because they simply don't believe that we will care enough to look deeply into the details.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Lenten Burden is Light

Yesterday was 'Ash Wednesday' which marks the beginning of the 40-day period leading up to Easter marked by sacrifice and fasting known as Lent.

The origins of this pre-Easter fasting period have been disputed. Some feel that Lent traces back to the Apostolic era of Jesus' followers themselves during the years immediately after his death. Others feel that it developed later, perhaps around the time of the Council of Nicea in the early fourth century.

Whatever the origins of the custom, it has become a period of forty days based on various Biblical examples provided for such a period by Moses, Elias, and Jesus Christ Himself, who was said to have laid in the tomb for forty hours.

In the early years the actual fasting periods and methods varied in many places, but of course it generally involved someone intentionally 'giving something up' from their regular daily lives as a sacrifice in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ had made on the cross.

Socrates spoke of the practice in the fifth century when he described some who "abstain from every sort of creature that has life", meaning that these people would eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and things of this nature. Still others, he said, ate fish only, or ate only birds and fish, or abstained from eating eggs, or ate only dry bread.

There were still others in those times who were even more strict in their fasting, taking only a couple of meals each week. The early rules of the Church on fasting said that you could only take such meals in the evening, and that meat and wine were forbidden during fasting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No Monkeying Around With Obama

To say that the world has gone overboard with political correctness is an understatement, and this is nowhere more visible than in the world of editorial cartoons.

You learned in recent years that you can't draw an editorial cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammed without risk of being shot dead, blown up or decapitated by some radical Islamic lunatic.

Having a sense of humor is an integral part of the human experience. And in democratic societies, freedom of speech including a free press is a vital piece of our civilization puzzle.

But it's not just the radical Islamic world that has lost its collective sense of humor, or at the very least its willingness to allow sarcastic expression. The more radical members of the black community here in America are at it again as well. Write or draw something that those people don't like, and they are all over you like white on rice.

Oops, did I call them 'those people'? Better be careful, they might find something to take as a personal affront in a few typewritten words. I might get a letter from the NAACP and some choice comments from Al Sharpton.

Last week a woman in Connecticut was severely mauled when her friend's pet chimpanzee got loose and attacked her. A frantic call went out to 9-1-1, and the responding police officers were faced with the chimpanzee attacking them. They had no choice but to shoot the animal dead. It was a major story all over the network news.

Another major story in the news recently has been the alleged 'stimulus' bill that the majority of Americans were against, but which President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party cohorts in Congress decided to ram down our throats anyway.

Into the fray stepped cartoonist Sean Delonis, a famed satirist who took the big monkey story and decided to merge it with the stimulus bill story.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rabbit Ears Have Digital Life

The full digital television revolution officially began a week ago on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 in places like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Biloxi, Mississippi and Charlotte, North Carolina and Eugene, Oregon and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

On that date in these and many other American cities, the transition began from analog to digital television. It begins a revolution that will have spread to every American household with TV reception by no later than June 12th, 2009.

Ever since television sets became commercially available in the late 1930's the signals transmitted to our homes and businesses have come to us in 'analog' form.

Technicality aside, the idea is that a number of images are drawn across the screen of your monitor in rapid succession. You were basically receiving a high-speed version of a flip-picture book, where each page of the book contained a slightly different image from the one on the previous page.

Your TV monitor would flip through the images to create the illusion of movement. Because of this process there were occasional image 'skips' and other distortions.

Then digital television began to be developed, and in 1996 the U.S. Congress ordered all broadcast networks to begin preparations to switch their broadcasts over to digital.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Heart That Plots Wicked Schemes

On this Sunday morning we continue the discussion of Proverbs 6:16-19 in the Bible which lists those things which the Lord hates.

The fourth item in the list journeys deep into our hearts. Not our physical hearts, but those things which can be found at our very inner core - for each of us, the heart of the matter in all things that we consider in our lives.

Those whom the Lord hates in this item are plotters and schemers of sin. Those who plan to do someone else ill. Those who plan to take what is not theirs. Those who intentionally and with malice aforethought actually take the time to sit down and think about their sin and how to make it happen.

The man who sees a way to deceive his business partners of money, and then goes about the planning and execution of his embezzelment. A woman who feels the desire and sees an opportunity to steal the body and possibly even the heart of a man who is already married to another, and then begins to lay the bait for her seduction.

The first human schemes occurred way back in the beginning of man himself. Eve used her seductiveness to get Adam to take a bite of the apple, the very act of defiance of God's will that drove man from paradise. She knew they were different, man and woman, for God had made them that way on purpose in order that they might procreate and populate the earth.

Eve had been led into this plot by the whisperings of the great deceiver Satan, who had lied and manipulated her as only he can to pull man away from God. Eve knew that her feminine charms would be enough to coax Adam into the bite, and went about the task of using them for that very purpose.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Casey Anthony Just Latest Doe-Eyed Criminal

Casey Anthony is a reasonably attractive, obviously articulate, and at least somewhat intelligent 22-year old woman who in August of 2005 at the age of 18 gave birth to a daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony.

The father of her baby wasn't in the picture, and Casey proceeded to try to raise the young child with the help of her own parents. This is a situation not unfamiliar to many young women around the world.

Also like many young people in her situation, Casey was not very mature in taking on the role of motherhood. Despite having the responsibilities of being mom to a young daughter, she also still had the desires of others her age. She wanted to go out and party, to date men and have a good time with her girlfriends.

And as it turns out, Casey Anthony is also another in a long line of what some refer to as 'doe-eyed' criminals. There was something wrong with Casey Anthony behind those doe eyes, that winsome smile, and that pretty face. She was a habitual liar, which is problematic in itself. But then things took a turn for the worse.

Sometime during the middle of June in 2008, just short of her 3rd birthday, little Caylee went missing. Casey didn't let anyone know of the disappearance until a month later when her own parents began to suspect that something was wrong and notified authorities. This set into motion a months-long investigation that finally led to the discovery of little Caylee's dead body in December, and Casey being charged with her murder.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Judicial Misconduct at Broad & Champlost

Philadelphia Judge Craig M. Washington is either the single stupidest person in the history of the American judicial system or he is the most callous, ignorant and disrespectful.

There is no middle ground for the actions that Washington took yesterday at the 35th police district here in the former 'City of Brotherly Love' which can no longer claim that moniker with any credibility whatsoever.

The latest in a string of murders of Philly cops happened just days ago when young, bright and talented police officer John Pawlowski of that very 35th district was gunned down in cold blood on our increasingly violent streets. Police officers with badges, guns, vests, and with fellow officers just a radio call away (or closer in Pawlowski's case) are not safe, so you the average citizen most certainly are not safe.

It was under these circumstances that Mr. Washington, whom to recognize with the title 'Judge' would be a severe travesty of that institution, marched into the very home of the 35th district on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to Handle the 'Steroid Era' in Baseball

I wanted to wait a bit before fully forming and stating my opinion after last week's announcement by Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees that he had previously used steroids to enhance his on-field performance. I've been asked about it by a number of people already who know of my life-long love affair with the game. Most of them come with their opinions already made up on the issue. Many of them appear to be knee-jerk reactions and spoon-fed opinions that sound as if they've been developed by too much listening to radio and television commentators. I've largely stayed away from that kind of editorial on the issue, and so the opinion that I am going to give comes purely from my mind and my heart. I think that what baseball should do in regards to records set and player performance during the so-called 'Steroid Era' is largely this: nothing. No one ever put an asterisk next to Hank Aaron's homerun record and said "If only World War II wouldn't have happened, Ted Williams would have this record." When Aaron and Mays were taking their runs at the all-time homerun record as it was held by Babe Ruth, no one suggested putting an asterisk next to Ruth's record and said "If Ruth had to face the great black and Latino pitchers and keep the same travel schedule as today's stars, he would never have come close to 714." The fact is that baseball has come through a number of different eras during its long development into our national pastime. Many of these eras saw dynamic shifts in the way that the game was played which had dramatic effects on the games collective and players individual records. No one in their right mind can possibly argue that players such as Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson, Jimmy Foxx and all of the other white players who played through and set their records during the era of 'whites only' baseball could possibly have amassed those same statistics had the Major Leagues been integrated. These players would, of course, have still been superstars. They would have still put up strong numbers. But having to face a largely expanded skillful talent pool day-in and day-out? There is no way that with the increased black and Latino competition that their numbers would be quite as high as they are today. In the days when I was growing up with the game during the entirety of the 1970's all seemed innocent to me. Men caught, threw and hit balls, ran the bases, and played the game with love and passion. Here in Philadelphia, my beloved Phillies began to win while I was still a young teen, and continued that winning for years. The players on that team were my idols: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Pete Rose, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Gary Maddox and so many others. Their sweat, sacrifice, and sometimes their blood were left on the field. They played the game hard everyday, from city to city, all throughout the spring and summer and into early fall. Little did I know that these men had a glass bowl in the middle of their locker room containing tiny colored pills. These 'uppers' of 'greenies' as many called them were simply illegal narcotics that were available and used almost as if they were a bowl of M&M's candies. Many of the players of that era could not have performed at those high levels over that time period under those conditions without the help that these performance-adhancing drugs provided them. Unlike many people who look at the game from the outside, I find two of the most unlikeable superstars of this recent steroid period to be somewhat sympathetic characters. Mark McGwire came out of college in the late 1980's as simply a longballing beast. He was raw power, bashing 49 homeruns during his first full season of 1988 to win the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award. Over his first seven seasons, Big Mac slammed a total of 220 homeruns. He was just 28 years old at that point, just entering the prime of his career when he would make large amounts of money and put up the numbers that would establish his legend for all-time. And then the wheels fell off as his health deteriorated under the strain of a bad back. In 1993 & 1994, McGwire missed the vast majority of each season due to back troubles. He finally began to get some control over the problems in 1995, and it is my opinion that he used steroids to overcome the back troubles. I believe that Mark McGwire saw what was supposed to be a glorious career going up in smoke and made a deal with the devil to get back to health and his former superstar status. It worked, and as the results got better and better, McGwire got into the usage more and more, bulking himself up into the obvious physical monster that he eventually became when he broke the single-season homerun record in 1998 by hitting 70 bombs that year. I believe it was during that same summer of 1998 that the problems began for Barry Bonds. I believe that Bonds, all massive talent and massive ego, looked around at the pure adulation given that summer to McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they chased the homerun record and wondered why he, the greatest player in the game, was not afforded that same adulation. I believe that Bonds saw performance-adhancing drugs as necessary to catch-up to the new production levels that the game was now embracing, and so he jumped in head-first. The resulting combination of Bonds natural gifts and the drugs was something that the game had never before witnessed. Bonds broke McGwire's record by hitting 73 homers in 2001, and then broke Aaron's career mark in 2007, leaving his new career homerun record sitting at 762. McGwire began using steroids because he simply could not have physically continued playing the game without them. Bonds used because he believed that his true greatness would not be acknowledged without them. In both cases the players used during a period when these substances were not against the rules of baseball as relates to substance abuse. Like Bonds, I believe that Alex Rodriguez saw what was going on around him in the game and decided to see what levels he could achieve if he too tried these substances. His results were remarkable as well, and so the usage continued. Someone decided to take a fun nickname given to him once by Bowa of 'A-Fraud' and run with it. Really now, is there anyone out there who does not believe that Bonds, ARod and Roger Clemens would not be among the game's greatest all-time players in any event? You can probably plug in many other names across the game over the past decade and a half, from Rafael Palmeiro to Juan Gonzalez, from Sammy Sosa to Mike Piazza, and any number of others as users of one substance or another. If Jose Canseco is to be believed, and it is looking more and more like he can be, then steroid use and the use of other substances has been rampant in the game. Just as in the 1970's when not every player reached into the bowl of greenies, not every player used steroids during this most recent era, and not all those who tried them continued their usage. But with really no way of knowing truthfully who did what and when, there is little recourse for the record books. As for the standing of the individuals, the question remains as to how to evaluate players such as Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, ARod and others for Hall of Fame purposes, and simply for the purposes of their places among the pantheon of the legends of the game. I for one do not believe that these players should be dismissed. Barry Bonds was the first-ever 400-400 player by 1998, the first player in the history of the game to have hit 400 homeruns and stolen 400 bases. He was a multiple Gold Glove winner in left field. He was quite simply one of the half dozen greatest players in the history of the game long before he every likely used any type of performance enhancing substance. I believe that these players need to be judged against one another over this era, that the substance use should be taken into consideration at some level, but that it should not be the single determinant when evaluating their Hall of Fame credentials. The best way to handle the 'Steroid Era' in baseball is simply to acknowledge it, ensure that baseball is doing everything in its power to end it, and then move along with no asterisks and with common sense considerations for individual players, just as was done for the players of the 'Whites Only' era.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Islamism Series: Soldiers of Allah

The debate rages around the country as to the balance between liberty and security. After the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001, it became clear that two oceans and allegedly friendly northern and southern borders would no longer be enough to insulate and protect Americans in our homeland.

Numerous security measures and programs were instituted by the Bush administration in an effort to thwart any further attacks and to root out terrorists living and operating here on our home soil.

Programs and policies including taking the fight to the terrorists in the Middle East, the enactment of the PATRIOT Act, loosened surveillance requirements, and the housing and interrogation of terrorists in the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay successfully protected our nation in the seven years following those deadly attacks.

At this website the 'Islamism Series', each entry of which you can read by clicking the label at the bottom of this posting, has been an effort to better educate and inform readers on the very real threat that radical Islam continues to pose to America.

That effort grows more important now that the new Obama administration has taken office with a mandate from its followers to decrease if not dismantle those counter-terrorism efforts that have proven so successful.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hands That Shed Innocent Blood

For the past couple of weeks this 'Sunday Sermon' series (each entry can be read by clicking on the label at the bottom of this post) has been focusing on Proverbs 6:16-19 which covers the six things that the Lord hates, and a 7th which is an abomination.

The 3rd item in this list would be "hands that shed innocent blood" which is sadly ironic considering Friday night's murder of Philadelphia police officer John Pawlowski.

Whether or not John's killer will end up spending an eternity in hell, whether anyone who takes an innocent human life will suffer that fate, is not for us to say or know. But one thing that Proverbs makes undeniably clear is that this murder of innocents is particularly detestable to God Himself.

On Friday night, John Pawlowski was an innocent man. Perhaps more than that, he was working actively to try and help keep peace and order in his community. He was a police officer in an increasingly violent major American city that is itself ironically nicknamed 'The City of Brotherly Love'. It is a moniker that is no longer appropriate.

John and his partner exited their police vehicle after being flagged down to handle a disturbance on the highway. While handling this dispute, one of the individuals involved reached into his own pocket and shot right through his jacket, killing John Pawlowski there and then. Innocent blood once again shed in one of the acts that God hates.

Each year, hundreds and hundreds of Philadelphians are murdered in cold blood by their fellow citizens.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Numb...Again

Another Philadelphia police officer lies dead this morning. He was only 25 years old. His young wife is now a widow as she carries their first and only child in her womb, a child that won't be born until the coming summer is almost over. A child that will never know it's father, never even get to meet him.

He is John Pawlowski of the PPD's 35th district, and he is the 7th Philly cop to be killed in the line of duty in the past 33 months. I remember a time when it seemed that we lost a brother or sister officer every few years. Now we don't even get six months, and often it's been much less.

There was a time when it made me sad and angry. But the wave of murders of our officers over the past couple years has simply left me numb. I can't even watch the stories on TV anymore beyond the headlines to get the basic facts. I am well aware that the danger is part of the job for which we have all signed up, but I want it to just all stop, even if just for a couple years.

Part of the problem for cops is that we do a job that few others could ever possibly relate to, but we can all relate to one another. No matter what our current responsibilities in this career that we have chosen, we were all John Pawlowski at some point.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Real American Hero: Peter Tomich

In the middle of May in the year 2006 a moving ceremony took place aboard the USS Enterprise, one of America's powerful air craft carriers.

At the time, the Enterprise and her crew were anchored at sea off the coast of the town of Split, Croatia. The story of who and what brought the mighty ship to this little corner of the world is that of yet another in our 'Real American Hero' series, all of which you can read by clicking in to that label below this entry.

On board the Enterprise was Rear Admiral J. Robert Lunney, the judge advocate general of the New York Naval Militia, a World War II veteran, and now a White Plains, New York lawyer.

It seems that a few years earlier, Lunney had embarked on a mission on behalf of a fellow WWII navy man, Peter Tomich, whom Lunney believed had been wronged. Peter Tomich you see was an American Medal of Honor winner for his actions at Pearl Harbor on that date that still lives in infamy of the Japanese sneak attack, December 7th, 1941.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Phillies Reward World Champs

It's been 3 1/2 months now since Brad Lidge slipped a hard slider past the Rays' Eric Hinske, dropped to his knees, was embraced by Carlos Ruiz, and was steamrolled by Ryan Howard to begin a long-awaited championship celebration in this sports-crazed city. The World Series champions received a parade befitting their status as the conquering heroes, and then began to fade into the sunset of the winter's off-season period. But while the players and coaches moved off to well-deserved vacations and off-season family time there was not much opportunity to rest for the Phillies front office. With the formal announcement of the retirement of GM Pat Gillick, longtime organization man Ruben Amaro Jr. (pictured) was named to the position and began to put the pieces together that would attempt to defend the newly earned championship. Less than two weeks after that mad celebration at Citizens Bank Park and along Broad Street, Amaro signed lefty reliever Scott Eyre for the 2009 season. Eyre had been added down the stretch of the '08 season, and became a key 2nd left-handed reliever out of the Phils tremendous bullpen for manager Charlie Manuel. The Eyre signing is now even more vital since top lefty reliever J.C. Romero will be suspended for the first 50 games of the '09 season after testing positive for a prohibited substance. With Romero out basically until the end of May, Scott Eyre will be a busy man early in the season. Over the next couple of months, Amaro solidified the club's depth by resigning key subs Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett and long reliever Clay Condrey and adding veteran pitcher Chan Ho Park. He also managed to reach agreement on a new two-year deal with hometown lefty and big game starting pitcher Jamie Moyer, a fan favorite and the Major Leagues oldest player. But it wasn't just on the fringe and depth of the roster that Amaro and the organization rewarded the champs. They began in mid-December by signing free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez to a three-year contract. This move officially signalled the end of the Pat Burrell era here in Philadelphia, the only player that the Phils have not retained from last year's champions. Pat 'the Bat' enjoyed a roller-coaster career here, but ended it on the highest of highs when his 7th inning double off the deep centerfield wall at The Bank keyed the rally that won the World Series. Pat road off into the sunset at the lead of the parade, and eventually and ironically signed a contract with the very Tampa Bay Rays who he had defeated in the Series. Phillies fans will always remember Burrell fondly thanks to that ending, but they will appreciate having Ibanez in the lineup for the next few years just as much. Ibanez is a much better defender, a better base runner, and a better all-around hitter than Burrell. He is also a quality character in the locker room, and should become a fan favorite in left field. Within a span of five days in mid-January, Amaro nailed down the bulk of the champs by giving new contracts to Cole Hamels (3 years), Ryan Madson (3 years), Jayson Werth (2 years), Joe Blanton (1 year), Shane Victorino (1 year) and Chad Durbin (1 year). This left one big, hulking monster of a contract negotiation remaining. For a couple of years the club had tried to sign 1st baseman Ryan Howard to a multi-year contract without success, and most thought they would again fail. But Amaro was always positive, and yesterday the club announced it had reached agreement with Howard on a 3-year deal that makes him the highest-paid Phillies player of all-time. With the hard work and dedication that Ruben Amaro has shown since taking over as GM he has put the pieces in place that make the Phillies serious contenders once again. Every off-season publication, website, and television program has them as favorites, or at least among the favorites, to again win the N.L. East pennant and challenge for another World Series. Actually accomplishing that will be no small task. No team has repeated as World Series champs so far this century, and in fact most champions have not even returned to the Series the following season. I can think back to the 1979 Phillies for a good example of why things can look good and then fall apart. The Phils back then had won three straight N.L. East titles in 1976-77-78, had won 101 games in both the '77-78 seasons, and then signed legendary spark plug Pete Rose and slick-fielding 2nd baseman Manny Trillo for 1979. They seemed to have the pieces in place to finally get over the hump and win that first World Series in franchise history. They did, but it would take until the following 1980 season to accomplish it. That 1979 season fell apart after the Phils had been in first place early on, ending in an injury-marred 4th place finish that cost manager Danny Ozark his job. So while Amaro and the organization have indeed done their job, so much will happen that we cannot now foresee in the next 7-8 months that will tell the ultimate tale of the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies. And then it will begin all over, as Brett Myers is a free agent following the upcoming season, and Jimmy Rollins will have just one more year after this one. For now we can absolutely say that the Phillies have certainly rewarded their champions well, as the roster will open the season with a payroll over $130 million dollars. It is now in the hands of those players and the baseball gods to determine the ending to what appears like another fun summer down at our gorgeous South Philly ballpark.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Lying Tongue

If you ask almost anyone to list the things that they hate, 'liars' will inevitably be near the top. A funny thing, since every single one of us has lied, and continue to lie at times.

Not always about big things, but often in small ways that involve both actual words that come from our mouths, or actions that we take or do not take. We do it in ways that we ourselves might not define as a 'lie' but that others most certainly would.

You see, most of us equate a lie with intent. As long as we did not actually intend to mislead someone maliciously then it wasn't really lying.

Maybe a 'mistake', or an 'exaggeration', or we were being 'nice' to someone by not hurting their feelings in telling them the cold, hard truth. Perhaps we were simply balancing two bad outcomes and deciding that by telling a 'little white lie' (in our minds) we would spare ourselves and possibly others a worse outcome than would occur by telling the truth.

Lying does not in actuality go to 'intent', instead being defined as an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker. Call it whatever you want, defend it however you want - we are all liars.

It is probably one of the reasons that we hate liars so much. When we tell a lie ourselves we understand what we are doing at our very core. That guilt feeling is hard-wired into us as a part of our humanity.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rez & Elysia: February 2009



Reznor and Elysia visit at Pop and Mom-Mom Debbie's home with their parents, Chrissy Veasey and Bill Lloyd, on Saturday afternoon February 7th, 2009.

Evolution of the Online Social Network

Like a great many other people my online social networking presence has moved in recent years from AOL to MySpace and on to Facebook.

Letting go of one site or technology is sometimes difficult. You get comfortable and familiar with the process at a location and become very reluctant to let go.

You also set up things like photo albums, icon pictures, favorites lists, friends lists, and many other features and so letting go feels like you wasted a lot of time and effort. But eventually the fact that things simply are better at another location is going to catch up with all of us.

I first got online over a decade ago, when we purchased our first home PC in late summer of 1997.

At that time, AOL (America On Line) seemed like a miracle. You could interact immediately with people all over the world, and organize your friends and family together in groups that allowed you to easily interact with one another.

Sharing pictures, videos, and ideas in programs from email to chatrooms to IM's (instant messages) allowed me to reconnect with family members that I had lost touch with, and develop new friendships that never would have happened without this new technology.

The AOL service was the standard for years, and frankly I couldn't imagine anything coming along that could be better than their product.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tired of All the Financial Hand-Wringing

Am I the only one who is more than a little bit tired of the end-of-the-world financial hand-wringing going on in the news these days? Every day, day after day, both the local and network news lead with stories about the 'fiscal crisis' or the 'financial meltdown' that is happening at all levels of government. Cutbacks, layoffs, budgets, spending, revenues, stocks, bonds...blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! Now anyone who knows me knows that I take these kinds of things seriously, so this is no sports or entertainment-starved and isolated individual talking here about being fed up. I have read books on economics on my own, not school related. That isn't to brag about any alleged intelligence, just to note that I do really have an interest in these matters. I like to understand what people are talking about, at least to a certain level. But what is happening today in this country is utter and complete doom-and-gloom defeatism. As always, I do have a political take on at least a part of the problem. But it might surprise some of you where I lay that political blame. I blame my own Republican Party and its leadership at the Presidential level and at the Congressional levels. You see, I fully expect Democrats to spend your hard-earned money and mine like a bunch of drunken sailors on shore leave. I fully expect the Dems, leaning more and more towards open socialism these days, to demand government intervention and control over as many facets of our day-to-day lives as they can get their grubby hands on. Those things are a given with me, and with most people who look at the political world with open eyes. But I expect more from my Republican Party, and I am not getting it. Much to the Dems chagrin, George W. Bush was in the White House for eight long years. He had a Republican-led Congress for a part of that time. But despite this advantage in political power, the nation took steps backwards in key areas where Republicans are supposed to move us forward as a part of our very fundamental structure. This was highlighted by their spending your money and mine at a pace that leaves only a one word description - Democrats. For the past eight years Republicans have been as much to blame if not more so for the fiscal problems in which we now find ourselves mired. Republicans are supposed to stand up for two major fiscal principles: lower spending, lower taxation. As we all know, when we lower spending federal money, and we lower the amount of money taken from the pockets of individuals and the accounts of business, we increase freedom. People and businesses have more of their hard earned money and are free to spend it on their own wishes, needs, desires, futures. We also need some solid controls to ensure that people don't go crazy and mortgage away their future on dreams that they cannot handle. Why give someone a mortgage for a $500,000 house when they cannot possibly afford it based on any reasonable estimate of their income and employment history when balanced against the likelihood of future market changes in things like interest rates? But that is just what we allowed to happen over the past decade or so. People were allowed to buy bigger homes than they could afford, or second/vacation homes, or rental properties that they could not afford. It was up to Republicans to be smart and pull in the reigns, or at least to publicly put out stern warnings. It didn't happen. Now another key Republican idea is that we are all big boys and girls. We know very well what we are getting into when we sign on the dotted line. If you signed up for a huge variable rate mortgage that you could only afford because that rate was so low at the time that you obtained it, and then could no longer afford the payments when the rates inevitably went up and were in danger of losing your home, that is absolutely on you. You knew without a shadow of a doubt when you signed those papers that this was a serious risk that you were taking. We all make decisions in life, from what we put in our bodies (food, cigarettes, other people) to what we put in our financial portfolios (properties, stocks, artwork) and we all take on the risks and consequences of those decisions. We love it when things are riding high, but we all know that the party is going to end some day, and we need to make sure that we are prepared for that day. In this case, very few people made the adult decision to let us know that the sky was going to fall, and likely fall hard and fast. Now everyone is running around like Chicken Little, and I am just a bit tired of it all. I want my Republican Party leadership to stand up for fiscal sanity and a return to their roots. They made a good start last week when every single Republican member of the House of Representatives voted against President Barack Obama's massive socialist spending boondoggle that he calls a "stimulus" package. They need to continue that very real and very Republican leadership, and inspire more and more Republican leaders to step forward and take those same positions as we move forward and try to regain both Congress and the Presidency. But even if we can win those elections it won't matter a hill of beans if there is no basic philosophical difference manifesting itself in the actions of Republicans over what their Democrat counterparts would have done. It's not rocket science, it's basic conservative Republican ideals at their best: lower spending, lower taxes, more freedom. Long live democracy and capitalism. Let's put an end to this socialism and defeatist hand-wringing right now.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

TV Watch: '24'

After an extended delay that cost we fans of the Fox television series '24' almost the entire year of 2008, Jack is finally back.

Intrepid U.S. counter-terrorist Jack Bauer that is, and he's on a mission to stop yet another crazed terrorist from laying waste to the land of the free and home of the brave.

This time around there are many new challenges facing Bauer and the series producers have also decided to bring some of today's top public issues into the discussion.

These early episodes of the shows seventh season have brought the issues of coercive interrogation, torture and communications interception into play, and future episodes will be exploring these issues even more closely.

Taking on modern issues and putting them firmly into play is nothing new for the folks at '24', who this year have cast actress Cherry Jones as President Allison Taylor, the first female President of the United States. She follows on the heels of the early years of the show which featured regular character David Palmer as the first African-American U.S. President.

For those who have not followed closely, the basic plot of '24' surrounds Keifer Sutherland in a career-defining role as a U.S. undercover operative named Jack Bauer. Bauer has spent most of his adult life in highly sensitive, dangerous, and at times violent deep undercover operations for the government.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Welcome, Jake Ryan Shaver !



A visit to Williamstown, New Jersey and our introduction to our new nephew, the days-old Jake Ryan Shaver. Cameo appearances by his 2-year old sister Danica, and his 2-month old cousin Ayden Clegg as well as other members of Deb's family.

A White-Knuckle Ride Home

Last night's drive home from work was one of those nightmare rides that thankfully only come along once or twice a year. I was on a night work schedule so my ride home began when most of you were headed to bed or already sound asleep on your pillow, tucked under your covers like a bug in a rug, warm and toasty. Myself and two of my co-workers along with a few dozen others were just beginning our trek home, but we had a major obstacle in our paths. A snowfall that every local weather person from Cecily Tynan to John Bolaris to Glenn 'Hurricane' Schwartz was predicting would be 1-3 inches in the city turned out to be more like a half foot. Note to local weather persons: 1-3 inches is a minor annoyance just a little worse than a rainy day. A half foot of snow, especially as a surprise accumulation level, is a big deal. These television stations trip all over themselves to advertise how their weather is better than the other guy. "The futuristic Accu-Zoom 12000 Radar/Sonar Skycast powered by the Flux Capacitor" or some other such nonsense. In the end, they all get it right, or they all get it wrong. To give them some credit, weather forecasts are shinier and more technical looking than they used to be a half century ago. But I don't see much more difference in their reliability than I did as a kid back in the 1970's when Jim O'Brien was giving us the Five Day Forecast. Anyway, back to that ride home. It begins with the chore of cleaning off your car. Since you have inches of snow all over it, you start by cleaning off the area around your driver door, so that you can get into the car and start your engine. With the car now started, the engine warming, and your defog settings beginning to work you start the process of clearing the rest of the snow from the car. This is a good measure of how much it has actually snowed. How high in inches that it has piled up on your roof is pretty close to how much has fallen on the ground. Last night there was a lot. Okay, so you spend a few minutes clearing off your car and warming the engine, and now comes the tricky part, actually maneuvering this machine with rubber tires home over frozen, snowy surfaces. Did I mention that I hate some of you yet? You would be the folks with the gas-guzzling, humongous, I-can't-see-around-you SUV's. Seems that these things generally handle this kind of weather better than my little old 1994 Toyota Camry. I slowly and carefully eased out of the parking lot just south of Spring Garden Street and moved on to southbound 10th Street. From here down to Vine Street, which is just about three city blocks, gave me a nice preview of what was in store. The conditions were slick and the roads were totally snow covered. PENNDOT had not yet won the battle, perhaps caught a little off guard by that forecasting fau pax. In any event, the roads last night can best be described as dangerous. That's worse than hazardous or treacherous, and just a notch below impassable. I thought there was a chance that if I could just get to I-95 safely, that I would be alright until exiting at my home neighborhood. No such luck. The interstate was worse than the city streets had been thanks to both the condition of the road itself, snow covered and slippery, but also thanks to a heavy volume of traffic. Little did I know that the Philadelphia 76ers buzzer-beating loss to the Boston Celtics had happened a short while earlier. The fans who had exited into this same storm had cleared their cars at the Wachovia Center parking lot and made their way this far north. Whenever you have weather conditions that are poor such as this or even a hard rain storm, you get 'those' drivers out on the roads. You know the ones. The ones that are driving all 'damn the torpedoes' down the highway. The ones that are bound and determined to drive 80+ miles per hour, weaving in and out, in an effort to get home 5-10 minutes earlier than you will? When one of these rocket scientists on wheels goes zipping past me I realize that they care more about reaching their destination a few minutes early than they do their own safety. More importantly I know that they don't care about mine at all. Well these people were out last night. Thankfully not many of them. Most everyone was realizing either out of intelligence or by slipping and sliding that speed was not on the menu tonight. Most of the ride up I-95 towards my goal of the Woodhaven Road off-ramp was slow going, 30-35 miles per hour. Then we saw nirvana. Well it was for me at least. As I hit the Cottman Avenue area traffic began to slow and bunch, and I feared there was an accident ahead. Instead off to the distance were the spinning yellow lights of those PENNDOT trucks, plowing and salting the road ahead. From here on out the drive on I-95 was a little slower, but it was mostly just wet roads thanks to those wonderful PENNDOT crew workers. And luck for me their plow train continued right where I was headed, westbound on Woodhaven Road. It was there as traffic exited from I-95 on to Woodhaven, just before Franklin Mills, that the final two idiots came barreling along. Apparently they had been road-racing in these conditions and were continuing it into this area where traffic had tightened. Not only were they riding each others bumpers, but they were blaring their horns and cutting in and out of traffic. That these two idiots (nice term for what they are) managed to maneuver their little ego-driven race through the traffic and the weather without causing an accident was one of last night's little miracles. On exiting from Woodhaven and moving into my neighborhood, the conditions again got slick and snow-covered, but now I was almost home. I took it slow through the mostly deserted streets of Somerton and finally eased into a parking spot on my block. I flipped off my wipers and turned off KYW from my car radio. The white-knuckle ride was over, and now it was my turn to finally join the rest of you folks, warm, cozy, and safe with my head on my pillow. Until next time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Obama's Partisans Go After Limbaugh, Specter

There is a new political radio commercial airing frequently on local stations, particularly those with news and news talk formats.

In the commercial a smarmy female voice sulks at the audacity of Republicans and in particular the popular talk show host Rush Limbaugh to oppose President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

The commercial highlights that every single Republican in the House of Representatives voted against the package. It also plays a clip from Limbaugh's show wherein Rush says "I hope he fails!", in relation to the Obama stimulus bill.

The commercial equates opposition to the Obama stimulus bill with being against jobs. The evil, rich Republicans with their 'big business' allies lining up against the 'little guy' to keep him down.

Do Democrats really believe that most people are as shallow as to believe that Republicans don't care about people having jobs? About people having the 'American dream' of home ownership and security?

Here is what Obama and his liberal Democratic Party partisans want done. They won the election, and so they want Republicans to roll over and take it. They want Republicans in the House and Senate, all of whom were freely elected by their constituents in their home communities, to throw away their own values and beliefs and just cave in to Obamamania.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Babies are Always a Blessing

Yesterday was a very 'baby' day in my life. I was surrounded by them almost everywhere that I went. After going to Sunday Mass we headed down I-95 and across the Walt Whitman Bridge, over to Williamstown, New Jersey and a visit with some of my wife Deb's family.

Her sister, Arlene Clegg, has lived in South Jersey for over a decade now, and she and her family are pretty close with ours. We spend a lot of good times together, from holidays to road trips to simple family gatherings.

We used to live less than a block from one another in the 'old neighborhood' on Huntingdon Street, Leen's husband Jim and I used to play ball both with and against one another in younger days, and Deb was in the room for the birth of both of Leen's kids, daughter Cheri and son Jim. Growing up they were close at different times with my own daughters, Christine, Kelly, and Melissa.

As yesterday proved, those days of us being simply the parents, and them being simply the kids, are now officially over. At Leen's house yesterday we visited not only with the folks already mentioned, but with some new members of the family.

Both Cheri (son Jake) and Jimmy (son Ayden) have had babies within the past two months. Well, actually Jimmy's girlfriend Regina had the baby, but you get the idea. Two new babies to visit at one sitting.

Cheri also had a daughter, Danica, born just under two years ago, so now she has two in diapers. Been there, done that. The babies look great, as most all babies do, and seemed to be pretty healthy, so thank God for that.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Haughty Eyes

While reading the Bible I came across this little part of Proverbs at 6:16-19 that was titled "6 things the Lord hates, 7 an abomination." The list seemed like a pretty interesting one, and so for the next month or so the postings in this 'Sunday Sermon' series will highlight and break down each item.

The very first item listed was 'haughty eyes'. Taken literally, haughty eyes would be those which are blatantly and disdainfully proud. They speak to someone who has excessive self-esteem. They suggest some assumed superiority or loftiness, showing scorn for anyone deemed socially inferior. They would imply a claim by the person who has these haughty eyes of more consideration or importance than is actually warranted them.

The Reverend Dennis Marquardt has said that the list of seven starts with 'Haughty Eyes' because "pride is the foundation for sin, it is at the root of all sins in our lives."

It is very important that we all remember that we could accomplish nothing without the blessings of the Lord. There are two obvious places in modern American culture that we have seen the manifestations of individuals giving glory to the Lord when they have been blessed with such accomplishments.

One is in the world of sports, where a number of athletes while being interviewed following a victory begin their interviews by giving honor and glory to the Lord, some even directly naming him as Jesus Christ.