Friday, April 20, 2018

FOP Lodge 5 supplemental college scholarship selection process

FOP Lodge 5 offers supplemental college scholarships
Education has always been important to me. During my nearly three-decade career as a member of the Philadelphia Police Department, I was able to attend college, obtaining both an Associates Degree at the Community College of Philadelphia and a Bachelor's Degree from Saint Joseph's University.

That dedication to education extended to my career. I have always maintained and continue to feel that continuing and advanced education is important for police officers. My last decade as an active officer was spent as a teacher with the PPD's Advanced Training Unit.

I have been honored to serve on the Scholarship Committee for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 for all three years since the program was first instituted. The four-person committee met earlier this week to select the seven scholarship winners for this year.

Each year, the FOP awards $10,000 spread across seven college scholarships, two in the amount of $2,500 and five in the amount of $1,000 each.

These scholarships go to high school students who will be entering college in the fall. The applicants all have FOP Lodge #5 relatives either active, retired, or deceased.

The quality of the applicants was strong in Year One back in 2016, and the selection process was difficult. The number of applicants has risen each year since, growing from about a dozen and a half in that first year to two dozen last year, and then this year with more than 40 applying. The quality of those applicants has not dropped off.

Needless to say, it was not an easy task to whittle down these tremendous students. But that is the job, and I take that job seriously. It is my opinion from sitting in on the selection meeting that the other members of the committee take it seriously as well.

When we go through the application packages, we have little clue as to the race, or the religious or ethnic background of those applicants. Our only hint as to sex is usually their first name. These things are never a consideration in the evaluation process.

The applicants were all asked to supply an application form with some basic information. They were also advised to include high school grade transcripts, extra-curricular activities (both school and other), college acceptance letters, and recommendations from teachers and other influencers.

They are also asked to write a brief essay describing themselves, what they hope to get out of their college experience, and how they hope to help their community in the future.

The vast majority of the applicants have great transcripts. They are mostly 'A' students with a history of academic success that has continued to the present.

That successful academic profile often becomes the first step in separating the applicants for me. The discipline that it takes for a young person to succeed in their school work when faced with so many distractions in today's modern world is impressive when found.

Unfortunately, some applicants provide nothing more than the basic application. That is unfortunate, as an incomplete or "lesser" overall package is going to likely be a separator as well.



The best applicants for me, those who make it down to my final grouping, have it all: strong academic transcripts, community/activity involvement, adult recommendations, and an interesting essay.

Even then, I still went to the committee selection meeting having a dozen kids who I had difficulty separating from one another. I had gotten my personal selections down to a 'top group' of four, and then a secondary group made up of another eight students.

That is where the committee discussion process comes in to play. We all begin to compare our names and notes, and start to kick around some of the "positives" that we found raised some of those applicants above the others.

It is fairly amazing to me, at least over these first three years, how the committee members have frequently found many of the same names rising to the top of our individual lists. Getting to the seven overall scholarship winners is pretty much a process of finding those kids who stood out to all of us.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

2018 Philadelphia Phillies preview and predictions

Gabe Kapler opens first season as Phillies skipper
The Philadelphia Phillies are set to open the 136th season in franchise history this afternoon. Down in Atlanta, Georgia, the Fightin' Phils will take on the NL East Division rival Atlanta Braves in the first of a scheduled 162 games.

There are a great many changes in the Phillies lineup and dugout from a year ago. In my Phillies preview piece a year ago prior to 2017 Opening Day in Cincinnati, I stated "The lineup taking the field next week at Great American Ballpark should look very different from the one that will come to Florida next winter."

That 2017 Phillies preview piece is well worth re-reading, because I was fairly dead-on in my assessment of where the team was at that point, and where they would be headed for this upcoming campaign.

Gone are the "placeholder" players, as I have been calling them over the last few years. Dom Brown and Cody Asche have been joined by Freddy Galvis, Tommy Joseph, and Cameron Rupp in being shown the door.

While other writers and even some team personnel were lauding some of these players in recent years, I told you consistently that the club would not win until they turned the page from that group. I really do hate to say that I told you so, but...

So here we are, at the dawn of what should be the next era of contending Phillies baseball. The team is not going to win the World Series this season. They are not even likely to make the playoffs. 

But for the first time in years we have a group of talented young players who bring hope for a brighter future that is right around the corner. 

They are led by a new-era style skipper in Gabe Kapler who is in better shape than any of them, and who has already demanded that they must "Be Bold" when approaching each game, as well as in preparing off the field.

Let's take a look around the diamond at those players. Who is likely to start for the Phillies this season? What can we expect to see as the summer unfolds? How will the club finish? Will there be any big moves?





RELATIVELY SET LINEUP ROLES

There was much talk about lineup versatility and positional flexibility from Kapler this spring down in Clearwater. But as the regular season opens, I'm not really buying that we will see a lot of that from most of the lineup pieces.

Given health, Phillies fans are going to watch a lineup most nights that includes Carlos Santana at 1st base, Cesar Hernandez at 2nd, J.P. Crawford at shortstop, and Maikel Franco at 3rd base. Jorge Alfaro will be behind the plate. 

Across the outfield it will be Rhys Hoskins in left, Odubel Herrera in center field, and Nick Williams in right. 

Three players who will come off the bench are going to play pivotal roles. Talented rookie Scott Kingery could play almost anywhere. Aaron Altherr should see plenty of time backing up all three of the outfielders. And backup catcher Andrew Knapp will get plenty of work as well.

Kapler decided to keep versatile infielder Pedro Florimon on the opening roster. He can play second base, shortstop, and even some third base in a pinch.

That "versatility" and "flexibility" is likely to come from finding ways to get Kingery into the lineup, and in juggling the four main outfielders. You might also see Hoskins play some first base, giving Santana a break against some tough lefties.

I expect that the lineup might still struggle to consistently score runs in the early going. That is a product of a combination of factors, mostly their overall youth and the typically cold early weather.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

2018 MLB Preview and Predictions

The Boys of Summer are set to begin the 2018 season
The crack of a bat ripping a line drive. The pop of a fastball into a catcher's mitt. Fireworks exploding. Hot dogs steaming.

It's that time again folks. The start of another season in Major League Baseball.

For the first time in 50 years, all MLB teams will experience Opening Day on the same date. That comes this Thursday, March 28, when 15 games will take place scattered at various times throughout the day and night.

Those first games will begin a regular season that will stretch out over more than six months, leading to the drama of the MLB playoffs as Fall arrives.

Which teams are most likely to reach those playoffs? Which players will stand out over the course of the 162-game MLB regular season?

Each year, I give you my picks for the final standings across each of MLB's six divisions, as well as my playoff predictions. I also make picks for some of baseball's most important awards.

A year ago in my 2017 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I correctly picked the winners in five of those six divisional races. The biggest letdown from those picks was for the San Francisco Giants to edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. The Giants collapsed to a last place finish after winning three World Series crowns in the previous seven seasons.

I had the Washington Nationals beating the Boston Red Sox in seven dramatic games a year ago. As we know now, it was the Houston Astros beating the Dodgers in six to capture their first-ever world championship.

So now it's time to make my team picks and my awards predictions for the upcoming 2018 MLB season. Would love to hear your own picks in the comments section below this piece. Here we go again, baseball fans.




2018 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Kris Bryant, Chicago
Contenders: Corey Seager LAD, Bryce Harper WAS, Nolan Arenado COL, Paul Goldschmidt ARZ

CY YOUNG AWARD: Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Clayton Kershaw LAD, Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lewis Brinson, Miami
Contenders: Jack Flaherty STL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Scott Kingery PHI, Nick Senzel CIN

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Noah Syndergaard
Contenders: Adam Eaton WAS, Mark Melancon SF, Homer Bailey CIN

Friday, March 23, 2018

Omnibus spending bill proves 'the Swamp' cannot be drained

Sen. Rand Paul holds a copy of the omnibus spending bill
President Donald Trump was elected to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. by eliminating waste and turning away from politics as usual.

But today, the president signed a massive $1.3 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill that not only failed to help drain the swamp, but pumped more muck into it instead.

As reported by Dave Boyer at The Washington Times:
"The spending deal will increase the deficit for the current fiscal year to at least $850 billion, up from $666 billion in fiscal 2017. Starting in October, annual deficits are projected to top $1 trillion for the foreseeable future. On that course, the government would add roughly $12 trillion in borrowing over the next decade."
Of course, this one isn't all on the president alone. Congresspersons in the U.S. House of Representatives and members of the United States Senate crafted the bill, then voted it through to his desk.

The spending bill passed in Congress by a vote of 256-157, and then passed in the Senate by a 65-32 vote.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a vocal critic who voted against the bill, summed up the feelings of many conservatives very succinctly per Benjamin Brown of Fox News:
“Republicans control the government, yet Congress still follows the Democrats' playbook. Time and again, spending skyrockets, and conservatives are expected to fall in line to praise the party for making the big-spending status quo worse."
President Trump had stated as late as Saturday morning that he was considering a veto of the bill. However, in the end he signed off on it, claiming that it provided necessary increases in funding for the military as a primary reason.

Though a staunch supporter of the American military, I find this reasoning disingenuous at best, and a flat-out lie at worst.

After signing, the president referred to the bill as "ridiculous", and per S.A. Miller at The Washington Times stated that "I will never sign a bill like this again."

Unfortunately, by that time the damage was already done. He signed this one. Why sign this one, knowing while you are doing it that you allegedly will never sign one like it again?

What the president could have, and should have, done in my opinion was to veto the bill. While the bill had passed easily in both Houses of Congress, there was not enough support to override his veto.

With a veto, the Congress would have been forced to go back and make cuts that would allow for the president to affix his signature. That, or with no spending authorization in place, they could simply decide to shut the government down.

This president was supposed to be the one who did things differently. Who didn't play the same old political games. But here, when he had the chance to back up his tough talk and tweets with some real hardball action, he blinked and signed.



The Trump signature on this bill was a slap in the face to every conservative American who threw their support to him in November of 2016. It was a betrayal of those of us who believed that we finally had someone unafraid to stand up to the Deep State establishment.

There is no sugar-coating this one. President Trump caved in to politics as usual in Washington, D.C., and as a result we as a nation will sink deeper and deeper in debt.

There is no doubt that there is much to like in the spending bill, including those necessary increases for the U.S. military. But there is no funding to "build the wall" that has been promised by the president, and there is no fix to the DACA issue.

There is also no doubt that among the ridiculous 2,232 pages of this massive grab into taxpayer wallets that there is a great deal of money going out to special interest pork barrel projects that the government has no business being involved in funding.

Frankly, I'm tired of vocally backing a president and a party that, when push comes to shove, continually thumbs its nose at the people who elected them to office. They talk about Democrats spending like drunken sailors and promise that they will be different if given the chance. Then when given that chance, they drink the Dems under the table.

No more. I'll be taking a nice, long, happy break from politics after this piece. It's on to sports, faith, entertainment, and other less stressful topics in my writing. And that's a shame.

The election of businessman Donald Trump was supposed to mean an end to business a usual in Washington. Instead, we saw today that he is incapable of nothing more than talk in regards to draining the swamp.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Podcast: In defense of Donald Trump

First episodic podcast featured Donald Trump
The following was the script for the first topical episode of the Traditional Americans podcast: "In defense of Donald Trump".

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Hello America and welcome back to the Traditional Americans podcast. I’m your host, Matthew Veasey.

After using our pilot episode last time out to introduce you good folks to myself, the podcast direction, and its social media and internet resources, this will be our first real topic-driven discussion.

So what topic would be most appropriate, most important to you, the listeners? Well, with everything that has been in the news lately, the fact remains that one man dominates the news cycle, probably more than any previous individual.

Today we’re going to talk about the Presidency of Donald Trump over the undeniably controversial, but also undeniably successful first 14 months of his first term in the highest office in the land.

There are so many directions from which we can begin a discussion of the Trump presidency to this point: his social media usage. The large and frequent turnover among his key advisors. His battles with the Democrats and with their liberal media mouthpiece. And of course, the accomplishments of his administration.

Let’s start with the positive - those accomplishments. Now, of course, most of these are only truly positive accomplishments if you’re a supporter of the president and his policies. That would mean that you need to be a conservative, because frankly, this president has accomplished more for Traditional American conservatives than any of recent decades. And that includes our beloved President Ronald Reagan.

The list of Trump administration accomplishments is indeed impressive for those of us in the conservative camp:

On jobs and the economy, we’ve seen passage of the first tax reform bill in more than three decades. This measure will mean $5.5 billion in real tax cuts to American workers and businesses.

Bloomberg has reported that the unemployment rate is expected to fall below the 4% mark by this summer. The DOW ended last week at the 24,984.45 mark. That’s up from the 18,589 on the day that he was elected back in early November of 2016.

All of these economic victories mean real jobs, real money in the paychecks and pockets, and real increases in the pension plans and 401K’s of real working Americans. No wonder Barron’s just reported that the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey rose to the 102 mark, its highest level in 14 years.

Another big piece of the Trump economy success story has been the elimination of numerous stifling Obama-era regulations. The president has operated from the beginning on the position that any new regulation would have to be accompanied by the elimination of at least two. In 2017, the president actually cut 16 for every new regulation, saving an additional $8.1 billion per the Washington Examiner.

Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was grossly unfair towards the United States, put an end to even more looming stifling economic regulations. Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership helped forward the cause of fair trade for American businesses, as will renegotiation of American involvement with NAFTA and the president’s recent threatened tariff increases.

President Trump has freed up agencies to further loosen the regulatory environment, which includes the Department of the Interior making 77 million acres available for gas and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president nominated and saw successfully seated to the U.S. Supreme Court an originalist justice in Neal Gorsuch, a move that should benefit Traditional Americans for decades to come. 

Also, President Trump has successfully placed 14 judges to the district courts, and another 14 to the courts of appeals. He currently has another 55 nominees to those two courts awaiting Senate action.

In the area of Homeland Security, the president has ended Obama’s practice of “catch and release” of illegal immigrants. He has started towards an end to DACA and chain migration. 

The president has added roughly 100 new immigration judges, and empowered ICE and local communities to boost the arrest of criminal gang members and other illegals. He has enacted a travel ban from nations that have refused to clamp down on terrorism.

He visited the southern border just this past week to examine proposed samples for the border wall. Though numerous conservative commentators, Ann Coulter chief among them, has criticized the president for not pushing ahead with actual construction, the fact remains that this is a major project which cannot be taken lightly. Trump knows construction projects. He’ll get this done, and done right.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Podcast: Pilot episode

Pilot episode of the Traditional Americans podcast

The following was the script for the Pilot episode of the Traditional Americans podcast. This first-ever episode was a basic introduction to the purpose and direction of the site. It also served to introduce my role as the host, as well as to provide contact information.

-------------------------------

Welcome to the first ever Traditional Americans podcast. I’m your host, Matthew Veasey, and I’m coming to you from the Matt Cave, my personal lair here at the Veasey Ranch, a bright beacon of conservatism located on the northeast edge of the ultra-liberal City of Philadelphia.

In this cherry-popping first information explosion, I am going to introduce you to what these podcasts will be bringing to your ears and ultimately to your brain. And I’m also going to be letting you know where you can find us out there on the intrawebs, and how you can contact us as well.

Let me start off this first episode by making three pledges to you, the listener.

My first pledge to you is that these podcasts are going to be as succinct and on-topic as possible. Each will run for approximately 15 minutes. So you can enjoy them while on your drive to work in the morning, on your lunch break, or home in the afternoon/evening hours. Or you can pull up the latest episode or any back episodes that you may have missed or want to re-ingest, and not lose much time out of your busy day. Each will focus on a lead topic, a hot button news story, or an issue that I find of interest that I believe you will also find interesting.

Second, I pledge that we will be consistent in delivery. There will be at least two or three new podcasts each week. If my availability allows more, awesome. That’s just more of my enlightening conservative political, social, and religious commentary for you good folks to enjoy. As we get underway, the hope is that I can narrow down their delivery on a regular, consistent schedule on particular days and times.

Third, my pledge to you is that I will ALWAYS be honest with you. I’m not here to simply parrot the opinions of any other individual or organization. That includes any politician or political party. We’re going to call a spade a spade here, and let the chips fall where they may.

However, that said, this pod will be centered around what we refer to as Traditional American values. Our national Judeo-Christian faith system. Generally conservative political and social positions.

As we move forward, my hope is to bring other voices into the conversation. That could be co-hosts in the future. It most certainly will mean guests to the show from time to time. If you think that you are interested in either role, feel free to drop an email to the show, and we’ll get back to you in a timely manner.

Now you might ask yourself, what the hell do you hope to accomplish here, Veasey? I mean, there are thousands of podcasts and blogs and voices already putting in their two cents. Why are you starting a podcast? Who do you think is going to listen anyway?

Well, first of all, if you’re hearing this, YOU are listening. So that’s one. My hope is that you’ll tell a family member, or friend, or co-worker. Maybe they’ll listen. We’ll be getting the word out at the website, on social media, and any number of other resources.

Why? Because every voice matters. Every opinion matters. And you might be surprised how many people actually feel the same way that you do about many issues. But frankly, not everyone has the ability and opportunity to share their voice.

I’ve been blessed by the good Lord with a voice and a brain that I am not afraid to use. He has given me the ability and the intestinal fortitude to stand up and speak out without fear. And with my recent retirement from a longtime profession, which we will most certainly talk about in future podcasts, I have the time.

Who am I? Well, as I said at the top, my name is Matthew Veasey. Born and raised in the City of Philadelphia, PA – the City of Brotherly Love and the Cradle of Liberty. I’m a 56-year old retired Philly police supervisor and instructor who just left the profession in January after nearly three decades in law enforcement. Prior to that, I worked in the banking industry for more than a decade. 

I’m a married father and grandfather. A graduate of Saint Joseph’s University with a degree in Criminal Justice. By voter registration, I’m a Republican. By religious affiliation, I’m a practicing Roman Catholic. I’m a huge Philly sports fan, and also a lifelong baseball fan in general.

My political and social positions have been staked out over decades of living, experiencing, reading, and education. I’m pro-life, and that includes being against the death penalty. I’m a strong supporter of the U.S. Military and American law enforcement. I’m a huge believer in capitalism and free markets, while also believing that as Americans we need to protect and defend our nation’s workers. I’m most definitely an America First player.

I’ve been writing at my own blog since 2004, at a website that I hope you will all become familiar with as we go forward. But this podcast thing is brand new to me. So there are going to be some hiccups along the way. There is going to be a learning curve. But trust me, I’ll get it down, and it will get even better as it continues to develop and grow for you.

Where can you find me in writing? The core of that experience can be found at my website “MattVeasey.com” – I will spell that for you: m a t t v e a s e y . com.

At the site you will find a handful of topics at the toolbar: the Commentary section includes general opinion pieces on a wide range of topics. The categories of Faith, Politics, History, Sports, and Terrorism are fairly self-explanatory as to the content you can find in those. There is a “Reviews” category where over the years I’ve reviewed everything from TV shows to motion pictures to books.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jake Arrieta is the perfect player at the perfect time for Phillies

Phillies sign free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta
In a move that was rumored for weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies won the race to sign the top free agent on the market this off-season.

That signing not only bolsters the starting pitching rotation immediately. It also signals that the club is clearly ready to move towards a return to winning baseball right now.

Jake Arrieta, who turned 32 years old exactly one week ago, has been reportedly signed to a three-year deal worth $75 million total dollars.

However, as Wayne G. McDonell Jr with Forbes wrote, the deal is more complex than that:
"... it appears as if Arrieta’s contract is front loaded and includes an opt out...2018salary is $30 million, but drops to $25 million in 2019...opt out clause apparently is an option at the end of the 2019 season with a 2020 salary set at $20 million...the Phillies have the option to void the opt out and establish a two-year contract extension that begins at $20 million per year. It also appears there are various performance incentives as well. In total, the contract has the potential of reaching $135 million."
Arrieta immediately becomes the #1 starting pitcher in the Phillies rotation, the true ace that the club has lacked since dealing away Cole Hamels at the 2015 trade deadline.

A veteran of eight big league seasons, Arrieta broke in with the Baltimore Orioles. He battled mechanical and health issues with the O's, and it wasn't until a 2013 trade to the Chicago Cubs that the right-hander truly began to blossom.

Arrieta finished 9th in the NL Cy Young Award voting during his first full season in Chicago. Then in 2015 he won the award, honored as the National League's top starting pitcher after going 22-6 with a minuscule 1.77 ERA and 0.865 WHIP.

In 2016, Arrieta helped lead the Cubs to the franchise' first World Series championship in 108 years. He pitched gems in winning Games Two and Six, both times tying the Fall Classic after Chicago had fallen behind the Cleveland Indians.

That year, Arrieta was selected as a National League All-Star for the first time, again finishing 9th in the NL Cy Young voting. In his final season with Chicago a year ago, Arrieta went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA. He allowed  150 hits over 168.1 innings with a 163/55 K:BB ratio last year.

While with the Cubs, Arrieta tossed a pair of no-hitters, one each in 2015 and 2016. Per Ed Barkowitz at Philly.com, in that 2015 no-no against the Los Angeles Dodgers he struck out the side in the 9th inning to end it, becoming the first to accomplish that feat since Sandy Koufax.



What was an extremely young and inexperienced pitching rotation now has a talented veteran at the front to take on a leadership role.

Manager Gabe Kapler will still go with Aaron Nola on Opening Day in Atlanta. However, Arrieta is not really behind the other pitchers, despite joining the club in Clearwater for Spring Training nearly a month late. He addressed readiness in his introductory press conference:
"I've been throwing 50-65 pitch bullpens every two or three days, so my arm strength is there. The workload is there. My body is in tremendous shape. I feel like we'll probably sit down and game plan, and decide how quickly I get into a game, how many pitches I'm able to throw right away, and develop a program to get me ready for the opening week of the season."
The Phillies rotation, given health, will be led by Arrieta and Nola. It appears in the early going that the club will slot Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez behind those two. The fifth starter job would then become a battle between Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, and Mark Leiter Jr.

No one in that group, including Nola, has more than two full big league seasons under their belt. Arrieta's experience and leadership will be invaluable to the others as they watch how he goes about his business. That goes not only for how he handles the ups and downs on the mound, but also how he handles himself in the clubhouse, during the off-season, and away from the game.

Based on a reasonable look at the remaining Grapefruit League schedule, Arrieta should get at least two and possibly three chances to start games in Florida. He could then be ready to start during the opening series in Atlanta.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Why I joined the NRA, and why you should too

Attacks finally drove me, and many others, to join the NRA
The gun debate has once again heated up in America in the aftermath of the recent Parkland, Florida school shooting.

As usual, a major target for the anti-gun crowd has been the National Rifle Association (NRA), who those liberals see as being at the vanguard of gun rights in the United States.

The fact remains that the killer in Florida was, once again, not an NRA member. In fact, none of the school shooters who have reigned terror down on American children over the last couple decades have belonged to the NRA.

What the NRA does, what makes it the major liberal target, is resolutely fight for 2nd Amendment gun rights with few restrictions.

The NRA was chartered in New York state back in 1871 to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis", and even more specifically to improve marksmanship within the United States military. The organization really came to prominence in 1873 after its members won a marksmanship contest with the best riflemen of Europe.

Over the ensuing decades, the NRA spread to many other states and continued to expand in influence. The NRA gained further prestige when Civil War heroes Ulysses S. Grant and Philip Sheridan, the former also a United States President, served as the organization's eighth and ninth presidents.

In 1907, the NRA moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C. in order to improve its opportunities to advocate on behalf of gun owners. Those headquarters relocated to the current home of Fairfax, Virginia in 1998. In addition to its administrative offices, the Fairfax NRA headquarters is also home to the National Firearms Museum.

The museum is home to some 2,500 guns covering seven centuries of firearms history and development. Included are weapons which belonged to such historic figures as Napoleon Bonaparte, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, Annie Oakley, and 'Buffalo Bill' Cody.

A total of nine U.S. Presidents have been NRA members: the previously mentioned Kennedy, Reagan, and Roosevelt, as well as William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, and current President Donald Trump.

From 1998-2003, famed American actor Charlton Heston served as president of the NRA. At the organization's 2000 convention, Heston picked up a replica of a flintlock long rifle and stated:
"So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: 'From my cold, dead hands!'"

Heston repeated the phrase at the end of each NRA convention over which he presided. When he announced his retirement in 2003, he concluded by repeating "From my cold, dead hands."
The NRA sponsors programs on firearms safety, including hunting safety. It trains firearms instructors and issues credentials for same. It hosts and sponsors a number of shooting competitions. The organization publishes at least a half-dozen regular periodicals as well.

Their own "brief history" of the organization at the official NRA website reveals both the size of its membership and its primary modern activities:
"While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the NRA has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world. But our successes would not be possible without the tireless efforts and countless hours of service our nearly five million members have given to champion Second Amendment rights and support NRA programs."
I first fired a gun as a small boy of about 10-11 years old when my father gave my younger brother and I a brief lesson in the woods of the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania. Dad was a Philadelphia Police supervisor at the time, and showed us how to safely use his service revolver.

I never fired a real gun again until I followed in Dad's footsteps, joining the Philadelphia Police Department in 1990. My brother had done the same the previous year.

I purchased my first private firearm a couple of years later, a small five-shot Smith & Wesson air weight revolver that I still own today.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

There should be no debate: we need to talk about guns

AR-15's, such as the Parkland killer used, widely available
This past Wednesday was marked by the convergence of a number of happenings on the same day. Lovers and wannabe's were celebrating Valentine's Day. Western Christianity was marking the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. And at camps in Florida and Arizona, many Major League Baseball teams were opening their spring training.

But for many in America, those happenings were overshadowed by one of the worst school shootings in history which took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A former student, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, entered the school with an AR-15 in the middle of the afternoon and proceeded to murder 17, including three faculty members and 14 students. Numerous others were injured, many remaining hospitalized today.

Per a piece by Bart Jansen at USA Today, Cruz legally purchased the weapon himself in 2017.
"Cruz lawfully bought the semiautomatic rifle last February, according to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The gun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223, was purchased at Sunrise Tactical Supply, according to the Associated Press. Federal law allows people 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of assault weapon. With no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database."
In the immediate aftermath, a number of students and others came forward making statements that they were not surprised if such a thing were to happen, that Cruz would be the attacker.

At least three students made reports regarding Cruz to adminstrators at the school, per Max Greenwood for The Hill. According to that report, the attack may have at least partially been set off by jealousy and a fight over an ex-girlfriend.

Cruz' mother had died back in November, his father years ago. The couple who took him in at the urging of their own son stated per a piece by Katherine Lam for Fox News that, though they knew he was depressed, they never saw this type of outcome.

“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead, 49, said. “We didn’t see this side of him.” James Snead, 48, added that he and his wife didn’t know what “everything, everybody seems to know.” “Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” Snead said. “It’s as simple as that."

That is actually not very unusual, as Erica Goode, a visiting professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, wrote in a piece for The New York Times.
"Tony Beliz, a consultant to schools and corporations on violence prevention who for many years ran the mental health side of the Los Angeles program, which was started by the Los Angeles Police Department, has noted that parents often have no idea what their children are up to. In more than a few cases, a team visiting a home has found weapons or other indications of deadly intention."


The Federal Bureau of Investigation had received a tip regarding Cruz nearly six weeks prior to the shooting. You've heard of the public "See Something, Say Something" campaign, perhaps? Well, someone saw something and said something. And the FBI dropped the ball.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) made this very observation as related in a Kyle Feldscher piece for the Washington Examiner:

“We all say if you see something, say something. And Parkland community, we saw people reporting, there were 20 calls to the sheriff's department, they responded. The FBI received a legitimate, credible tip and it was not followed up upon. What we have seen in three major atrocities is that the system that was in place simply was not followed.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The 2018 State of the Phillies

Phillies owner John Middleton plots the next steps forward
Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers reported for the official start of spring training on Wednesday.

While much of the Delaware Valley and broader Phillies Nation were celebrating Valentine's Day, the first steps towards the 2018 season were being taken down in Clearwater, Florida.

A year ago, the Phillies finished with a 66-96 record. It left them in last place in the National League East Division for the third time in four years.

The fifth consecutive losing season for the ball club then cost manager Pete Mackanin his job. The team went just 174-238 under the former skipper in roughly two and a half years.

It's hard to blame Mackanin, however. Fact is, no manager would have been able to win with the combination of subpar talent and youth with which he was asked to work in the entirety of his time at the helm.

In late October, the team hired Gabe Kapler as their new manager. The colorful and intense Kapler was a player for parts of 13 seasons in Major League Baseball. He also played in Japan for part of the 2005 season. Kapler was a part of the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series championship team.

After his retirement as a player, Kapler coached for Team Israel in the 2013 WBC, worked for a baseball analytics company, and then served as an analytics voice for the Fox Sports 1 network. He then worked as the Los Angeles Dodgers Director of Player Development. He certainly brings a rare depth and breadth of baseball experience to the job.

What Kapler brings most is an intensity to the Phillies clubhouse and dugout not seen since Larry Bowa was relieved of those responsibilities late in the 2004 campaign. Heck, even the mercurial Bowa might not have been as intensely driven as Kapler appears.

It remains to be seen how Kapler's style will translate on the field and in the standings. The bottom line, as it is with almost all baseball teams, will be talent. Do the Phillies actually have the talent to finally make a move upwards in the divisional and league standings this season?

The short answer appears to be a firm "It's hard to say." And as non-committal as that may seem, it's simply the truth.

The Mets, who the Phillies finished four games behind a year ago, look to be improved this year. The Marlins, who finished 11 games ahead, have lost serious talent. The Braves, who ended up six games ahead of the Phillies, appear at a similar place in their own rebuilding plan. The Nationals remain light years away for the time being, clear divisional favorites once again.

Financially, the Phillies are in great shape moving forward. The club is operating with a $63 million projected payroll for the 2018 season per Cot's Baseball Contracts. That figure is between one-half and one-third of what they spent each season between 2008 and 2015.

What this means is that Phillies management has the ability to take on almost any contract at the trade deadline if the club finds itself in contention. In fact, they could take on multiple contracts without hurting themselves, especially if those are of the short-term variety.

The key will be in that fight for contention. The players who will be making the pitches and cracking the bats at Spectrum Field over the next six weeks will be the ones who have to make it happen if there is to be a surprise push this year.

The Phillies lineup will be intriguing if nothing else. Start with first base, where Carlos Santana was the club's big free agent signing. I was and remain critical of the signing, especially at roughly $20 million per year for the next three seasons during which he will go from 32 to 34 years of age.

Santana is lauded for his plate discipline and defensive prowess. He has a career .365 on-base percentage, and his K/BB marks have been very close over his career.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

Story of America's First Barbary Wars
I recently returned to my first love in reading topics: history and biography. While fiction can be extremely enjoyable, especially when done well, I have always found the true, non-fiction stories of real people and events much more interesting.

That return to true history results here in my latest book review. For the first time in nearly four years, it does not involve the topic of baseball.

"Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates" was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House's 'Sentinel' imprint. 

This joint effort of Fox News host Brian Kilmeade and author Don Yeager tells the story of "the forgotten war that changed American history."

That war is what many students of U.S. history know as the 'First Barbary War', which, as the book jacket explains, "is the little known story of how a newly independent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America's third president decided to stand up to intimidation."

America's first four Presidents played key roles in the events leading up to and during the conflict. But George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are largely secondary figures to the real military and diplomatic heroes and villains who took part in the action.

Following the War for Independence, the newly formed United States of America was saddled with enormous debt and had largely disbanded its military. This was particularly true in the area of naval force. 

America was protected from more established world powers of that time primarily by distance and trade agreements. It had little or no influence on the high seas.

In trying to further those trade efforts, American merchant ships would frequently come under attack in the Mediterranean Sea by the Muslim powers of North Africa. These 'Barbary States' nations practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers.

American ships would be raided, and their goods stolen by Muslim crews. At times, the ships and their crews would be taken and held hostage for large ransoms. 

The fledgling United States had no response other than to pay those ransoms. But this only further added to the national debt. Also, the problem wasn't being dealt with in any meaningful way. It just kept happening, with no end in sight.

The United States wasn't the only nation facing these issues. Wealthier countries with an actual naval presence in the region simply paid tribute to the Muslim leaders in order to ensure free passage of their ships.

Adams, a Federalist, and Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, were political adversaries. Those differences extended to their views on dealing with the Barbary powers. 

The second President of the United States, Adams thought it possible to continue to buy peace, as was done by other nations. Jefferson, America's third President, wanted to end that system permanently. He preferred a strong military response.



As Kilmeade and Yeager write:

"In response to events on the Barbary Coast, Jefferson, in 1801, had dispatched a small U.S. Navy squadron to the Mediterranean. For the next four years, he responded to circumstances, expanding the fleet to a much larger naval presence. In the end, thanks to the bold leadership of men like Edward Preble, James and Stephen Decatur, and William Eaton, and Presley Neville O'Bannon, military force had helped regain national honor. Even the Federalists, who liked little that Jefferson did, came to accept that the United States needed to play a military role in overseas affairs."

The book is the story of those men: Preble, the Decatur's, Eaton, and O'Bannon and many more as they battled on land and sea to help a new nation stand up for itself on the world stage. 

The United States Marine Corps played a key role in the ultimate victory. This was the war from which came the USMC hymn line "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, we fight our country's battles in the air, on land and sea."

Monday, February 12, 2018

Republican citizen voices more important than ever

America needs Republican bloggers more than ever
Republicans and Democrats alike frequently criticize the general tone and specific messaging pushed by various major media outlets.

For those Americans who consider themselves to be conservative, almost exclusively Republicans, the usual suspects include broadcasters such as CNN, MSNBC, and NPR and print/web sources such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.

Leftists frequently bemoan the messaging and tone that comes from the Fox News network, including Fox Business, as well as media outlets such as One America News and The Washington Times.

For decades, liberals had a monopoly on mass messaging pushed to the American public through broadcast and print news. Slowly over the last two decades or so, conservative voices, once relegated to talk radio, have grown in influence. This has been thanks to the Internet and cable news.

Still, there remain more liberal resources. The influence of the old school networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC continues to wane. However, there remains a large segment of America who still receive their news from these sources, especially at the local news level.

The vast majority of newspapers and TV entertainment programs in America remain under the control of liberal media organizations as well. The messaging pushed out to the public is overwhelmingly liberal, unless you specifically go looking for conservative voices.

That fact makes the continued efforts and expansion of independent Republican voices more important than ever. It is one of the main reasons that I put effort into this website and into my all around social media presence.

Michelle Malkin is the queen of American conservative bloggers. Born in my hometown of Philadelphia and raised across the Delaware River in South Jersey, the 47-year old Malkin makes her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her husband and two children.



A decade or so ago, Malkin gave occasional space at her michellemalkin.com home to an anonymous contributer known only as "See-Dubya" who once described their blogging as follows:
"Actually, blogging is kind of therapeutic. Especially when you’re a red-state person living in a blue, blue state, and your neighbors would burn a peace symbol in your yard at midnight if they knew how you really felt about things. Some people do yoga; I pound the keyboard. The blood pressure goes down either way."
Your own therapy aside, the continued presence and growth of American bloggers of a Republican persuasion is vitally important thanks to the upcoming midterm elections here in the United States.

The facts are that, no matter who sits in the Oval Office, the President's party loses an average of 30 congressional seats in normal midterm elections.

One reason this happens is what is known as the "presidential penalty" - voters from the President's party are happy that he won. History shows that happy voters are much more likely to stay home than angry, possibly more motivated, voters from the opposition.

Per Tom Murse writing for Thoughtco.com:

"In the 21 midterm elections held since 1934, only twice has the president's party gained seats in both the Senate and the House: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first midterm election and George W. Bush's first midterm election. On three other occasions, the President's party gained House seats and once it was a draw. On one occasion, the president's party gained Senate seats."

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Sometimes the bear eats you

The Dow dropped more than 1,000 points on Monday
It's one of the oldest sayings around, likely attributable to an idea first passed into public consciousness by 19th century American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Sometimes you eat the bear - sometimes the bear eats you."

For more than two centuries since even before the founding of the New York Stock Exchange, market up and downs have used the terms "bull" and "bear" to describe down and upturns and waves in markets.

A "bull market"comes about when the markets are rising, charging forward like a bull. A "bear market"comes about when they slow down and investors sell stocks off, almost as if they are hibernating.

That's a simplistic explanation of the terms. There are a number of theories as to how they came about. But it serves well enough to describe how those terms are applied today.

Suffice it to say that since President Donald Trump was sworn in back in January of 2017, the markets had been charging forward. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 5,000 points during the President's first year in office.

The "Dow" represents the stock performance of 30 major U.S. companies. These companies currently represent a wide swath of impact across the American landscape, from Microsoft to McDonald's, DowDuPont to Disney, and dozens more.

As the bull market charged forward, the President took credit. He believes that the policies of his administration pushed those markets forward. From reducing and eliminating regulations on businesses to reducing taxes, the climate has certainly been favorable to business.

It has also been favorable to average Americans, as those companies have hired more employees and given out raises and bonuses. It was no wonder the President mentioned it during his first 'State of the Union' address just last week: 
"The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value.  That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts."
However, a number of financial analysts have warned that a market 'correction' was inevitable. At some point, investors were going to look to capitalize on their gains, taking profits and sitting back to find their next opportunity.

Such a market correction would come in the form of a downturn. That correction finally came on Monday, and it came in a big way. The Dow plunged down over 1,600 points at one time before finally closing with a 1,175 point loss. It was the largest single-day loss in market history.

The bear was hungry, and it was eating.

The Democratic Party's media propaganda wing, led by CNN, quickly seized on the moment to try and make a political statement. Their headline blared "Trump's embarrassing split-screen moment on stocks."

In the piece, CNN's Stephen Collinson wrote the following:
"As the President touted his economic agenda in Ohio on Monday, his face stared out of millions of television screens next to blaring red graphics and yellow numbers whirling like the reels on a slot machine, telling the story of a full-bore stock market plunge. For any president, the split screen moment showing an apparent disconnect between his message of a roaring economy and hemorrhaging equities would be a little embarrassing. But for Trump, who has constantly boasted about almost daily record highs on Wall Street since his election and told Americans that he alone is responsible for their healthy 401(k) balances, the mismatch was even more pronounced."
However, the embarrassingly biased cable news giant forgot a simple, basic rule of the markets. Just as the bulls will run for awhile, the time will come for the bears to slow, eat, and hibernate. History shows that those bears only eat so long before the bulls inevitably come charging back.

Derek Thompson for The Atlantic wrote about the rise of the markets under Trump back in October 2017. He stated it succinctly:

"It’s important to remember that the stock market is not a referendum on the state of liberalism or conservatism. It is not a barometer of moral progress. And it is not a report card on the president of the United States (even if he wishes it were). The stock market is a collective daily wager on the future performance of the nation’s public companies. And they are, to employ a technical term, making a boatload of money right now."

Monday, February 5, 2018

Finally Eagles, Finally!

Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles raises the Lombardi Trophy
"Fly Eagles, Fly!" is the official fight song for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.

After winning the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history last night, we can at least temporarily change those first three words of the song to "Finally Eagles, Finally!"

The Eagles and New England Patriots threw haymakers at one another all night long on Sunday night during Super Bowl LII in Minnesota in a game that was reminiscent of the climactic fight of the film "Rocky II".

In that epic slugfest, Philly's favorite fictional underdog fighter, Rocky Balboa, traded big blows with and ultimately defeated a legendary unbeatable champion named Apollo Creed.

Last night it was a real, live legendary champion named Tom Brady who was throwing bombs at the Eagles. For most of the night, Brady found the Birds weak spots, landing punishing shot after punishing shot.

But the Eagles kept taking those shots and answering back with big shots of their own. Leading the way was a man every bit the underdog that the fictional Rocky had been in that film series.

Nick Foles has had big moments as an NFL quarterback before, including in an Eagles uniform. But his career had gone a bit off the rails over the last couple of years to the point where he was ready to retire from the game.

Given another shot at NFL life, Foles was signed by the Eagles for the 2018 season. Brought in to serve as a backup to rising stud Carson Wentz, most Eagles fans thought - in fact hoped - that Foles would never see the field.

As everyone now knows, the unthinkable happened. Wentz led the Eagles to the NFL's best record and was the leading NFL MVP candidate. But it all seemed to evaporate when Wentz suffered a debilitating knee injury, ending his season in a Week #14 victory in Los Angeles.

In stepped a cold Foles. With no training camp, having taken no game snaps all year long, the 28-year old in his sixth season was suddenly put under center for the NFC's top team.

It was a no-win situation for Foles. If the Eagles collapsed at that point, blame would all go to the Wentz injury. If they lost at any point in the playoffs, there would always be those who would wonder "what if Carson" had stayed healthy?

In retrospect - if it had to happen at all - the timing of Wentz' injury could not have been better. His great play had been the biggest key in the Eagles having clinched a playoff berth. He put the team in position to finish as the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs.

That timing allowed Foles to come in and play in two full games and parts of two others before the playoffs would begin. It was just enough time to get him up to game speed and ready to perform once again on the big stage.

Perform he would. Foles threw for 246 yards and managed the game well as the Eagles held off the tough defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons by 15-10 in the Divisional Round.

Taking it up a notch, Foles put on a show in throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles crushed the Minnesota Vikings dreams of hosting the Super Bowl in their home town with a 38-7 victory in the NFC Championship Game.

That all led to last night, and the battle with Brady and his Patriots. Brady threw for an unreal Super Bowl record 505 yards and three touchdowns.

But for nearly every Brady drive of excellence, Foles had an answer. He threw for 373 yards himself, and matched the great Brady with three touchdown passes of his own.

He also did Brady one better. While Brady dropped a possible TD reception on a second quarter trick play, Foles caught one tossed by tight end Trey Burton. Foles thus became the first player in NFL history to both pass for and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

The game itself was much like those fictional Balboa-Creed battles. Big shots. Back and forth action. When each seemed within a blow of landing a knockout punch, the other would come roaring back to life.

After the two teams traded early field goals, Foles was first to put his team into the end zone when he connected with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a 34-yard TD pass with 2:41 to play in the first quarter.

Halfway through the second quarter, former Patriots' running back LeGarrette Blount bulled his way in from 21 yards away with the help of strong blocking from his teammates to give the Birds a 15-3 lead.

That lead nearly got even bigger. On their next possession from the New England 43-yard line, Foles tried to connect with Jeffery down along the sideline at the eight-yard line.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Continued propagation of 'fake news' may be our collective fault

President Trump has repeatedly railed against 'Fake News'
President Donald Trump may not have coined the phrase "fake news", but it absolutely seems as though the practice has exploded since he took office.

Just last week during his speech in front of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the President delivered the statement “it wasn’t until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious, and how fake the press can be.

The statement was greeted by a loud chorus of booing. At least it sounded that way to those watching on a popular German news program. 

However, the broadcaster 'ARD' later admitted that it had "boosted" the sound clip to make it appear louder than it actually was, per Chris Tomlinson at Breitbart. When originally heard on CNN, for instance, the booing was moderate, and obviously came from media in the back of the room.

The ARD editor-in-chief then made the following statement as part of his defense for the move:
"By the way, newspapers also make comparisons when they enlarge image sections and may even mark them with a red circle – nobody would come up with the idea of calling this manipulation, but rather journalistic precision."
Journalistic precision? Now there's a new one.

But this statement perfectly sums up the tactics repeatedly used against the President by the former "mainstream" media here in America, which include cherry-picking from quotes and highlighting stories with unflattering photographs.

In a 2017 year-end article, Georgina Rennard with the BBC did a nice job defining "fake news" as follows:
  • Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform
  • Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive - or old photographs shared as new
  • Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people
Liberal news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, NPR, and more have consistently been violators. This is particularly so in their coverage of the President, his team, and his programs.

Dan Gainor at Fox News did a nice job breaking down the media's 2017 anti-Trump efforts in a piece characterizing their "round-the-clock journalistic insanity":
"...the media have been claiming Republican politicians are evil, racist, crazy or stupid (or all four) for years. Journalists and their lefty partners in slime are running that game on Trump more aggressively than they ever tried with President Ronald Reagan. None more than CNN. The network’s “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter was freaking out about his view of Trump’s mental health back in August. “Is the President of the United States a racist? Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? And if he's unfit, then what?” He began 2018 with a claim the year was starting off with “madness.”"