Sunday, August 31, 2008

End of Days?

Every once in awhile, I sit down to watch some TV, nothing special is on my agenda, and a show or movie catches my attention and ends up drawing me in to watch the whole thing.

That very thing happened yesterday with Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1999 apocalyptic themed movie "End of Days", which I watched on the 'Encore' movie network.

I grew up in the whole Schwarzenegger-Sylvester Stallone-Bruce Willis-Harrison Ford-Clint Eastwood era of movie watching. I simply enjoy watching these actors performances in most of their action adventures.

This group of actors has delivered more memorable one-liners than any collective group in the history of cinema. Their films have come during the era when special effects have allowed almost anything to happen and seem realistic.

The plot of "End of Days" finds Schwarzenegger portraying an ex-cop turned private security specialist. He is providing security along with his partner, played by Kevin Pollack, for a wealthy Wall Street financier played by Gabriel Byrne.

Problems begin when Byrne's character's body is taken over by Satan himself. It is the devil's goal to mate with a chosen human woman in the final hour before the end of the Millennium.

That chosen woman is played by the beautiful Robin Tunney. The film is also highlighted by one of the final appearances (the last in a major film) from veteran actor Rod Steiger.

As the rest of the world prepares to celebrate the coming of the year 2000, officials of the Church are trying to track down and stop the mating process of Satan and his chosen concubine. Per the story line, this would result in the birth of a child who will usher in a 'hell on earth' scenario.

Schwarzenegger's character is an unbelieving, pragmatic dupe whose own wife and daughter were brutally murdered a few years earlier. He has descended into a battle with alcoholism in the aftermath, and is now just moving through life using his particular 'skill set' to provide private security services.

He finally is forced to realize that in this case, he is providing those services for the Dark Prince himself. Thus begins his mission: to protect Tunney from becoming the devil's mate, something which she was apparently born to become.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

That's My Boy !

My grandson was born just a month ago, and is beginning to make his presence known in the family. But I never had a son, so for a long time the only other male in the immediate family was a boy named 'Petey'.

He alternates between long hair, when we sometimes refer to him as the 'puffy dog' and his shaved-down look. I am talking, of course, about our family dog: the one and only Petey Veasey.

Petey came to us in the fall of 1999, just about five months after we moved into our new home in the Somerton section of Philly. It was a bit of a coincidence that brought us together. Our new home with a spacious back yard came at the same time that Pete was being evicted from his previous residence.

It seems that as a puppy living in a cramped row home in Fishtown, young puppy Pete escaped from his cage one day while his owners were at work and quickly went about the task of tearing a new leather sofa apart. His owner, a young man named Jeff, was engaged to a young woman who promptly told him "that dog is outta here, and you ain't getting back in with him!" This broke Jeff's heart, as he had taken to loving Petey, but he chose his fiancee and put Petey up for adoption at a Bensalem shelter.

My wife, Debbie Veasey, worked with and was good friends with Jeff's mom, and heard about the story. We had been discussing the possibility of getting a dog, and when Deb brought up the idea of adopting Petey it sounded good to me.

Helena Amendolia Update

Helena Kirsch Amendolia (3G) updates that she is finally an 'empty-nester' and is continuing to do volunteer work. It has been 8 years since she had her kidney removed and she seems to be doing well, praying every day for continued health. She is also considering a return to college, where she needs about 1 1/2 yrs to complete her degree.

Helena also reports that her kids, Olivia and Zachary, are both progressing in their education.
Olivia Amendolia (4G) is in her 3rd year attending Rutgers University (New Brunswick campus) on scholarship, and she is carrying a 3.5+ GPA. She is currently studying for her MCATS, which she will take in the spring, so we have a budding doctor in the family.

Olivia is a member of Rutgers' performing dance company, and will choreograph a number for their winter show. She spent the summer at HUP as a clinical research assistant in the Neurosurgery Department. She was able to see brain surgeries, traumas in their ER, do 'grand rounds' with patients, and work with the neuro-surgeons seeing their post-op patients.

Zachary Amendolia is now 6'2 and 200 lbs, and graduated from Paul VI high school back in May. He is now a freshman lacrosse player at Miseracordia University in Dallas, PA. He has not declared a major, but would like to go into business in some way, taking over Wall Street in the not-too-distant future.

Helena says that Zach is like her dad, our late Uncle Billy Kirsch (2G), in that 'he knows everyone and everything.'

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dem Ticket Palin by Comparison

The 2008 U.S. Presidential election just keeps on getting more and more interesting with every passing day. Of course this pace cannot continue, and now that both parties have set their full tickets things will settle down a bit to the serious campaigning, particularly once next week's Republican National Convention passes. But what presumptive Republican nominee John McCain did today was toss a serious curve ball to the Democrats and their nominee Barack Obama. For months, the McCain camp has pointed at a lack of experience on Obama's part as a serious shortcoming. And for their part, the Obama folks have called McCain nothing more than the same old tired Washington politics, and a continuation of Bush policies. So when given the chance to name Vice-Presidential running mates, who did each candidate choose? Obama chose the ultimate Washington insider, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, a man whose middle name is 'same old politics'. Then today McCain names as his running mate the Governor of Alaska, Sara Palin, whose national political experience is almost as short as Obama's. So the Dems have a man at the head of their ticket who is a 3-year Senator with no governing experience, where 2 of those years have been spent running for President, and a man at the back end of their ticket who is as 'more of the same old Washington politics' as any person around. Meanwhile the Republicans have at the top of their ticket a seasoned political veteran and universally acknowledged American hero, and at the back end of the ticket a woman, the first woman to ever be nominated on the top Republican ticket. Once the shock of not having someone like Tom Ridge, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or even Joe Lieberman as the Veep choice wears off, the conservative base of the Republican party should find much to love about Sara Palin. First off, she is pro-life, which should be a litmus test for any Republican. Second, she is a lifetime member of the NRA, an outdoors woman with a passion for intelligent, informed environmentalism and the 2nd amendment. Her state's proximity to Russia and it's abundance in prospective oil make her experiences with those issues stronger than most. She has governed, albeit for just the past two years in Alaska. But that is two more years than the man at the top of the Dems ticket has ever governed in his life. In her personal life, she was born in Idaho and raised in Alaska. She is the 20-year wife of her high school boyfriend. And she is a 5-time mom, having just given birth in April to her 2nd son, a Downs Syndrome child. She is a woman, a wife, a mother, a Governor. She is an attractive, articulate, intelligent Vice-Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, which makes this ticket every bit as historic as the Dems ticket. Uh, yes, I did say she was attractive. That is not a slight or a sin to notice. The woman was the runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant a couple decades back, and still looks great today. So sue me for noticing. In November, the United States will either elect it's first African-American to one of the top two offices, or the first woman. Experienced war hero backed by governing, conservative woman on the Republican side, or inexperienced liberal backed by old-time Washington politico on the Democrat side. The choice is now clear, and when held up against the light of the Republican ticket, the Dems choice is palin' by comparison.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bill & Hill's Mile-High Show

The Democratic National Convention winds down today in Denver, Colorado, culminating with tonight's acceptance speech by Barrack Obama.

In that speech, Senator Obama must go further than he has at any time in his campaign to this point. He must speak to those 'swing' voters, the true 'undecideds' who allege that they have yet to make up their minds.

So far his campaign has been only about two themes: ambiguous 'Change' and the typical liberal anti-Bush mantra.

What has been seriously lacking are specifics about what programs and policies that an Obama administration intends to implement in order to reach those goals. He cannot win over middle America with ambiguity and misdirection. For example, he cannot win with the kind of speech given the past two nights by the Clintons.

Former President Bill Clinton last night, and his wife (for now at least), New York Senator Hillary Clinton gave speeches that showed as much that they are positioning for another run in four years as they are supporting any specific Obama plans this time around.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's the 'Hard' That Makes It Great

This past weekend, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be his running mate. One of the things being touted about Biden is that he is Irish-Catholic.

I don't know if this is a harking back to the good ol' JFK days for Dems, or if it is an attempt to paint the Obama-Biden ticket as more mainstream. But in any event, as most real Catholics know, there is a big difference between calling yourself something and actually being that which you label yourself.

In recent decades the concept of the 'cafeteria catholic' has emerged. This means that you do some things, like attend Mass, take Communion, send your kids to Catholic schools, and so on, but that you don't follow Church teachings on certain issues.

Those certain issues are different for each person, each gets to select whatever part of the faith they want, and discard whatever part of the faith that they do not want. Thus the idea of it being like a cafeteria, you get to pick and choose from available items, ideas, positions, rulings.

Problem is, we as the faithful flock do not get to make or interpret Church doctrine or spiritual matters. In most instances, the Church Fathers, especially the Pope, rule on and interpret matters of the faith, and pass along how we should approach these situations.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One World, One Dream

There has been much wringing of hands and criticism across the blogosphere and in news print about the Beijing 2008 Olympics being a facade. So let me get right to the point here and state that in my opinion these Olympic Games, as is any Olympiad, were a huge success in all the important ways.

Is China a repressive communist nation that subjugates more than enhances the lives of its people? Yes.

Does the Chinese government commit human rights atrocities in order to remain in power? Absolutely.

Did the Chinese Olympic organizers commit a few slights of hand in order to make Beijing and the Olympic venues and ceremonies look better for the TV cameras than they actually were in person? Sure.

But it remains that the International Olympic Committee selected China for these games knowing that these things were and would be facts. They made the selection just as they made the choices of Los Angeles in 1984, Moscow in 1980, Berlin in 1938, and many other places around the world that have been controversial locations for some nations and political systems.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

God and Country

Of course it's purely a hypothetical question if you live in America or most any free nation, but if you simply had to make a choice, which would you choose: God, or country?

If you're someone who is among the tiny minority of Americans who doesn't believe in God to begin with, it's an easy question. And if you're one of those who loves God completely but has little faith or confidence in any government, then it's probably an easy choice for you as well.

But the vast majority of Americans would find this a difficult question with which to wrestle. Your first inclination would be to say something like "There's no way that would ever happen here in the U.S., so I don't even have to worry about it." Perhaps true.

When the United States of America publicly issued its Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, the document began:
"When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them..." 
The Declaration goes on to famously state:
 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 
The document, written by Thomas Jefferson, was signed with affirment by him, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and leaders from all 13 original colonies. So the United States at its founding was a nation of believers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mendte's Muse-Gone-Wrong

First, for those who may be from out-of-town and don't know the players, Larry Mendte is a former local TV news anchor, a typical middle-aged white male.

Alycia Lane is a younger, very attractive former co-anchor of Mendte's.

Dawn Stensland is an attractive, popular local news anchor and married to Mendte, mother to his two youngest children.

Mendte and Lane have been fired in the last few months for controversial incidents.

Lane was involved in a late-night dust up with undercover cops in New York, one of a string of controversies surrounding the nubile news beauty.

Mendte was canned for tapping into Lane's email accounts and leaking negative stories about her to the press. Mendte subsequently faced federal charges for the privacy violations, and pled guilty to those yesterday and now awaits sentencing in the matter. Stensland is steadfastly and classily standing by her man.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Islamism Series: Goodbye, America

"Imagine a world without the U.S. or Israel, it can happen." That is a publicly pronounced statement by Iranian President and radical iIslamic ideologue Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured) that I read to the police students in my Radical Islam class every week.

But is anyone taking him seriously? How could the United States, the acknowledged "most powerful nation in the history of the planet earth" cease to exist? Could a relatively small nation like Iran make something like this happen?

I mean, the United States defeated the British against all odds, survived a devastating Civil War, and led the world in overcoming both the Fascism of Hitler's Nazi Germany and the Socialism of the Soviet Union, a pair of legitimate world military powers.

You would think that it might be pretty difficult for Iran, at least acting on it's own, to make America completely disappear as a nation.

However, to think that we are invulnerable from a devastating attack from them would be to act with naivete, and that is something that we must not allow to happen. Because not only can Iran cause widespread devastation and seriously cripple, if not destroy, the United States as a superpower, but they are actively engaged in efforts to make that happen.

Throughout history, every mighty empire that has ever come along has fallen.

Does Egypt still exist? Sure. Does Rome still exist? Of course. Is Britain still a strong peopled nation? Most definitely.

But the fact of the matter is that not one of these is the major force in the world today, and at one time in history each one was the dominant power in the world. For the United States to fail to learn this lesson of history is for the United States to doom itself to repeat the process, and to one day either cease to exist or find itself a secondary nation.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who is This Marshawn Lynch Fella Anyway?

I used to play Fantasy Football regularly, and was usually pretty good at it too. With a bunch of guys that I knew from my former profession in banking, I kept playing into my early years with the police department.

But somewhere around the turn of the century, I dropped out. Part of the reasoning was that I just wanted to simplify things a bit, to get rid of some things that were taking up my time and effort.

You see, when I get involved in stuff like that, I get involved. It's fun, sure, but it's not all just fun, I have to win too. So that means that I have to know as much information as possible, which involves reading on the web and in magazines, watching TV shows, watching games, etc.

For the past decade without Fantasy Football, I have found that I enjoyed watching Eagles games so much more. Of course this may also have had something to do with the fact that during this period the Eagles got really good thanks to Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, et al.

I found that I didn't at all miss the Sunday ritual of checking the highlight shows to see if any of my guys had big games, scored touchdowns, and so on. I enjoyed football much more without the Fantasy element.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Unions Want to Know Your Secret

I am going to preface this posting with the disclaimer that my wife is a longtime Teamster. At times in the past she has been directly involved with the contract negotiations for her co-workers at her company (I would jokingly call her 'Norma Rae' during these periods), and she is both proud and happy to have been a member of the union for the past three and a half decades. As a police officer, we are not allowed to unionize by law, but we have do have an effective labor bargaining unit with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). My wife and I have both always been supporters of unions, both in theory and in practice. Can you sense the 'but' coming here? There is one, and from this point forward it is only my own opinion being expressed. While unions can serve a very valuable purpose, they can and have been a detriment to their membership at times over the years. Early in and on through the 20th century, employees unionized for legitimate reasons, including the need to battle abusive, corrupt, and unfair practices and standards of many employers. They sought to make work conditions safer, and to have workers share more fairly in the economic rewards of a successful business. Basically, they sought to make better the lives of those on their membership rolls. But steadily and rapidly, those membership rolls have declined over the past few decades, and this has been for many reasons. Let's go back to the beginning, perhaps a century ago. Many companies cared only about their 'bottom line' and making profits, and so paid their employees as little as they could get away with in order to maximize those profits. Medical insurance, job-site safety concerns, family leave and the like were all considered to be added costs, so they were out of the question. Those workers revolted ultimately, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not, physically forcing ownership and management to share the profits and improve the lives of workers. Once in power, this 'organized labor' or 'labor unions' would regularly negotiate with management over the terms of compensation and benefits for workers. Companies learned to live with some lesser profits in return for peaceful co-existence with a dedicated labor employee pool. Over a few decades in the early and mid-20th century, power shifted from the companies to the labor thanks largely to the force of 'strikes', in which labor would halt work if ownership did not meet their terms. These strikes, or even just their threat, would often intimidate companies into paying more money or giving more benefits. As professional representatives of the massed employees, union leadership was able to itself work thanks to 'dues' paid by the members. Each member paid a set sum from their paycheck to the union in order that it might represent the employee more professionally and effectively. As the post-WW II work force boomed, so the rolls of labor unions swelled, and their political influence rose along with the rolls. Political candidates saw close relationships and 'endorsements' from labor unions as a key to winning election. When labor gave money, along with the power of thousands of labor member votes at election time, to a candidate then unions themselves gained power when their candidate was elected. Politicians began to 'earmark' special projects for their home districts, creating hundreds and thousands of union jobs, in return for the union election support. However, this entire system began to become corrupted. Some union leaders took their membership dues and supported lavish lifestyles for themselves. Others used cash contributions from member dues to support political candidates whose views did not match those of the majority of membership. Still others made outrageous demands of businesses, causing those businesses to close up entirely. In 1981, air traffic controllers working for the FAA walked out of their jobs in an illegal strike. President Ronald Reagan responded by firing them all, replacing them with new workers. Emboldened by the President's stance, companies began to take similar positions, and in most cases unions were not strong enough to respond effectively. In 1945, more than a third of American workers were in a union. But by 1979 that number would fall to less than a quarter of workers, and by the end of the 1990's would fall under 14% of workers. Union membership and strength declined due to a number of factors including automation at plants, production-based companies moving overseas, service-industry employees becoming part-time and unrepresented, the overall strength of the economy, and a general independence of spirit among younger workers. What cannot be discounted is the role that the unions themselves played in their own decline. They often failed to respond properly to changing conditions in the world and with their workers, clinging to old habits and practices long past their useful point. Today, union membership is at abysmally low levels, and the union leaders want to somehow stem the tide. Their newest tactic is so blatant and obvious that it is hard to believe that it has gotten this far. The new tactic, laughingly called the 'Employee Free Choice Act', would abolish private voting on union membership. If there were a vote on whether a company should unionize or not, the vote would be public, with everyone knowing how each individual had voted. Free choice? Hardly. This would enable unions and their supporters to 'strong arm' or otherwise force or cajole those who did not support the cause into changing their votes. Even the threat of these tactics would be enough for many to vote the way the union wanted. Is it any of my business who you are going to vote for in the November election for the Presidency? No, that is your private decision, right? Then why would anyone think that there is any legitimate reason to support such a bill for union votes. Thankfully, a bill introduced by the unions' Democratic Party lackeys failed, but they are trying again. Unions want to know your secret: the secret that you have a right to keep to yourself. If unions want to get more membership, perhaps they should start by supporting candidates who will take actions that will matter to their membership by lowering taxes, cutting spending, strengthening traditional American values, and securing our Homeland. Unions can't get you to support them on merit, because in many cases their actions don't deserve your support, so they want to return to the bullying tactics of the past. Let's not give in to these 'easy way out' liberal union leaders. Make sure that your vote remains your business alone, and support political candidates who support that position.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Veepstakes: Does it Matter?

The Democratic National Convention kicks off next Monday, August 25th, in Denver and the increasingly ultra-liberal Democratic Party will select Barrack Obama as their nominee for the Presidency of the United States.

The Republican National Convention will then get underway the following week, on September 1st in Minneapolis. There the sometimes conservative party will nominate John McCain as their party nominee for the Presidency.

There will be much hoopla at both events, a great deal of pomp and circumstance, and a large amount of partisan blathering from any number of talking heads.

In the next few days and into next week there will be a great deal of speculation as to whom each party's prospective nominee will be selecting as a running-mate. The selection of a Vice-Presidential candidate to run with the Presidential candidate on their party 'ticket' is seen as a key moment in any campaign.

Very often the Presidential candidate and his advisers look to pick an individual who embodies the values of that Presidential nominee, but who also has differences that can be helpful in drawing voters to the ticket.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Assumption of Mary and Marie

This past Friday, August 15th, is celebrated each year as the Feast of the Assumption in the Catholic Church. 'The Assumption' represents 'the happy departure of Mary from this life', and 'the assumption of her body into Heaven'. The online New Advent encyclopedia further refers to it as "the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin."

It is thus incredible to me, or maybe in retrospect not so much so, that this holy day coincides with the anniversary of my own mother's passing. My mom, Marie Therese Gilmore Veasey, passed away on August 15th, 1998, alone in her home on what was also a Friday in that year.

I had the unpleasant, but perhaps fortunate, task of finding her. Unpleasant for obvious reasons. Fortunate in that I can't think of anyone that I would have rather walked in and found her that day.

I was always close to my mom, and had lived with and helped take care of her throughout my twenties and into my thirties while she dealt with an often debilitating illness that had robbed her of much of her adult life.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Ancient Mariner Keeping Phils Afloat

Jamie Moyer was born on November 18th, 1962, just two days short of my own first birthday.

John F. Kennedy was the President of the United States and dealing with the Cuban missile crisis, West Side Story was highlighting the motion picture scene, television was still in black & white and had only three channels available, and Richard Nixon had lost the California gubernatorial race stating famously "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore!"

In the preceding months, Hall of Fame athletes Jerry Rice of the NFL, Patrick Ewing of the NBA, Grant Fuhr of the NHL, and boxing champion Evander Holyfield were all born. All are long retired from their respective professional athletic careers. Meanwhile, Jamie Moyer continues at age 45 to slip low-80's fastballs and an assortment of breaking pitches past hitters in Major League Baseball.

The team that he now pitches for is my team, and his hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies. So far in 2008, the Phillies have been an underachieving squad that has alternated between first and second place in the National League East Division.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Golden American Beauties

The United States of America team currently competing in Beijing, China at the XXIX Olympiad has given much attention to its men.

Michael Phelps is a swimming machine who is about to break every Olympic swim record ever held, currently having won 6 gold medals while setting records each time.

The men's basketball team is an NBA star-studded bunch led by Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and others, and it is on a mission to not stub its toe the way U.S. men's basketball squads of the recent past have done.

But it is the exploits, and frankly the good looks, of a trio of U.S. women that has captured this sports fans attention.

Darra Torres is an American swimmer who has already won a silver medal in these games as a member of the Women's 400m Freestyle Relay squad. A silver medalist on a relay team. What's the big deal, you may say?

Well, Darra Torres is also the 41-year old mother of a two year old little girl. That's right, 41-years old. The relay silver was her 10th Olympic medal won during her career, the first of which she won at the Los Angeles games...in 1984! Two years earlier, at age 14, she had set her first world record.

Now over two decades later, she continues to win medals, and is the favorite this weekend in a 50m sprint freestyle race. Darra is just five years younger than me, and let me tell you that my bones are already creaking and my muscles popping just getting up in the morning.

But Darra Torres is not your typical 41-year old. The woman has one of the most incredible, sexy physiques that you are ever going to see on a woman of any age. She is in better shape than most athletes two decades younger. The odds are that you are seeing her at her final Olympiad, so if you haven't caught her act, look her up this weekend.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Talent on Loan from God

On issues of politics and culture, there is little doubt that the leading voice of the revolutionary revival in talk radio during the past decade and a half has been one Rush Limbaugh.

Michael Harrison, the editor of Talkers Magazine has been quoted: "Before Rush Limbaugh, there was nothing like talk radio. He's been to talk what Elvis was to rock-n-roll. He saved the AM dial..."

Former White House aid Karl Rove has said: "He's a leader. If Rush engages on an issue, it give others courage to engage."

This year, Rush is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his highly successful "Rush Limbaugh Show", a syndicated radio program which can be found in the Philly area airwaves at The Big Talker, 1210am, every weekday from noon to 3pm.

Limbaugh blends an incredible mind with a sharp wit and a sometimes biting, often humorous tongue to spread the conservative gospel to the converted masses (as well as any of the opposition who want to read the true pulse on the other side.)

Rush takes on all of the important issues both political and cultural, brings their key points into sharp clarity, and tells you why you should not only agree with him, but should actively engage yourself in supporting these positions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The One Who Died From 289

Charlie Knox was a Police Academy classmate of mine from recruit class #289 in the Philadelphia Police Academy back in 1990.

Entering the Academy and joining the Philadelphia Police Department was a huge step for me, both personally and professionally. It led directly to many big changes in my life, and signalled a complete change of direction for me and my family, both in the short and long terms.

But the changes that I would go through as a result of joining the PPD were nothing compared to those of Charlie Knox. You see, he was the one who died on-duty from our class. He sacrificed his actual life for the citizens of Philadelphia.

The experience of a recruit officer at the Academy is not an easy one in any way, but it is an incredible experience, and it was seriously fun at some points. I have often described it as sort of being back in high school, but being paid for it. Only this time you have classes that include how to fire a gun, drive a car under emergency conditions, and hand-to-hand combat, among others.

Still, the instruction takes place in classrooms and on the grounds of a campus environment, and it very much has a high school feel to it for those of any age.

Our class #289 started at the Academy on April 23rd, 1990, and was made up of about 100 recruits divided into two 'platoons' identified as 289-A and 289-B. The division came alphabetically, and Charlie fell in with the 'A' platoon while I was assigned to 'B' platoon.

Since most of your day-to-day experiences came within your own platoon, we didn't see a lot of the 'B' folks except in passing. But Charlie and I had become friendly in passing over that spring and summer.

We were the same age, were both married, and both had young kids. His son was 7-years old, and my two daughters were 10 and 8 years. And he had that same kind of mischievous, smart-alick, attitude and sense of humor that I had, and we always said 'hi' to one another and asked how we were doing with the Academy process.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

For those who care mostly about MLB standings, the Wii gaming system, SportsCenter, poetry, kittens, and puffy white clouds, you might want to stop reading now.

For those who truly understand why we are fighting the roots of terrorism overseas, who understand that much more is at stake in the upcoming election than some generic 'Change', and who care about the world around them, this article is for you.

Russia has invaded Georgia.

Anyone with an understanding of history and basic human freedoms will get why that is important, but for the great unwashed I will try to paint a simple picture of what is happening behind the headlines that you have seen in the papers and on the TV and internet news.

First, who are the combatants?

The true big bully in this event is Russia, the behemoth nation stretching from Europe to Asia. They are by far the largest country in the world, controlling 1/8 of the world's land area. At 142 million people, they have the 9th-largest population on earth.

Russia is an 'energy superpower', holding the world's greatest reserves of mineral and overall energy resources. Within their territory can be found the world's largest forest reserves, and 1/4 of the world's unfrozen fresh water. Oh, and they are also a military nuclear superpower.

Russia, or the Russian Federation as it is also known, is a giant country made up of 83 federal 'subjects'. Think sort of like the USA incorporating 50 states and other territories.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rays of Hope

It's mid-August, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, er, just plain 'Rays', are in first place in the American League east division. That is not a typo. I did not mean to say that first place belongs to the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, or the perennial pennant-winning New York Yankees. No, first place in the AL East belongs to the upstarts from Florida, and real baseball fans know the significance in that development. The 'Rays' as they are now formally known (they dropped the 'Devil' from the front of the nickname this past off-season) are now bringing sunshine to Tropicana Field for the first time in their history. The franchise was founded in 1998 as part of a baseball expansion, and has finished in last place in all but one season ever since, that being in 2004 when they finished in 4th place. They are one of just four current teams to have never played in a World Series (the others being the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and new Washington Nationals.) In fact, before this season the team had never won more than 70 games in a season. But this past weekend the Rays won their 71st game, breaking their franchise record, and have generally held first place in the power-packed AL East for most of the past couple of months. Fluke? Feel-good story that will likely fade? Far from it. Anyone who follows baseball as closely as I do has seen this coming, it was just a matter of 'when' it would happen, not 'that' it would happen at all. For a half dozen years now, the Rays on-field futility has resulted in high draft positions, and the team management has made astute choices that has led to a minor league system that has been teaming with talent. Players such as young outfielders Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, and B.J. Upton, 3rd baseman Evan Longoria, and pitcher James Shields have come through those drafts, and will soon be joined by last season's #1 pick pitcher David Price. The club made an astute trade during 2004 in which they stole young starting pitching stud Scott Kazmir from the New York Mets. This past off-season, management made a handful of astute deals that have lifted the Rays to the next level of contention, signing free agent closer Troy Percival, veteran bench bat Cliff Floyd, and another young starting pitcher in Matt Garza. Manager Joe Maddon guided his charges past Seattle yesterday to win their 71st game, a new franchise record with almost two months remaining in the regular season. The victory pushed the Rays 4 1/2 games in front of the Bosox in that AL East race. Fans should get used to this, as the Rays aren't going away any time soon. Their young pitching is some of the best in all of baseball, a key that will keep them contenders all by itself. But those arms aren't alone. Crawford is a somewhat anonymous superstar, and both Upton and Longoria are legitimate top-level talents who will be stars in Florida for years to come. When the Rays dropped the 'Devil' from their nickname this past off-season, owner Stuart Sternberg said that the team was now the 'Rays' and would be a "beacon of light that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida." I don't know that he realized just how soon these young Rays would shine so brightly, but their play has central Florida square in baseball's pennant race as the 'Dog Days' of August move along. As always, the title of this blog posting is a link to more information, this time on the history of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball franchise.
NOTE: The Rays suffered a double-jolt on the day of this article, with star outfielder Crawford and rookie phenom 3rd baseman Longoria, the two biggest keys to their offense, going on the disabled list at the same time. Will be a true test for this young contender.....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Forgive Yourself

Apparently there are many Christians out there who, even after participating in the Catholic sacramental process of confession and reconciliation, find that they continue to worry about past sins for years after they have confessed them. The fact for many people is that the Lord forgives more easily than we can forgive ourselves.

In the New Testament, John 3:17 says it most completely: "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

Let's start by dealing with the forgiveness of sins as the Church deals with it. God gave us two ways to be forgiven of our sin. First is the sacrament of Baptism, which I spoke more fully about last weekend at this blog. Baptism was given by God to take away the 'Original Sin' committed by Adam in the Garden of Eden, as well as to cleanse our souls of any sins committed by us prior to our baptism.

At Pentecost, Peter, who Christ had left as the first steward of his Church, said: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..."

Of course, man is an imperfect creature, and he will sin even after being cleansed and forgiven at baptism. To help man with sins committed after baptism, another process was needed. That is a process which has been called by the names confession, penance, and reconciliation after the three main parts of this process.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Islamism Series: The Beijing Olympics

The 2008 Beijing Olympics began yesterday with the Opening Ceremony, and will continue on through August 24th.

For the next two and a half weeks, the athletic dramas of this Olympiad will play out under it's theme "One World, One Dream".

But as we learned in previous installments of the 'Islamism Series', the radical Islamofascists have their own vision of 'One world, one dream' that runs counter to that on display this month in China.

The radical Islamists want the world united as one Caliphate under the banner of Islam, run by the Caliph, with everyone either believing in or subjecting themselves to the rule of the Islamists.

To this end, every major event held around the world becomes a tempting target for them to flex their muscles, to show that they can and will influence world events by inserting their violent vision into the proceedings if allowed.

Particularly since 9/11, every major public event has properly seen a dramatic increase in the scope and cost of the security surrounding those events. From the Super Bowl to political conventions, and everything in between, security is stepped up, and convenience and personal liberties are sacrificed thanks to the terrorists of Islamofascism.

Already there have been threats and plots against these Olympics. In an attack that the Washington Post described as being done only by the "ethnic Uighur minority", these terrorists killed 16 police officers and injured dozens of others this week by driving a dump truck into a group of officers who were out for a training jog, then tossing grenades into the police compound. This 'ethnic minority' is Islamic, by the way.

The mass media has once again buried this fact from your knowledge under their banner of political correctness.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Say a Little Prayer

Another Sunday, another topic on spirituality and religion, and this one covers one of the single most important things that every one of us can be, and should be, doing on a regular basis. I am talking about the simple act of prayer.

Taking just a few minutes, heck even just a few seconds, to ask God for his help, guidance, protection, and assistance in some matter of importance to us. Our prayer can be for almost anyone or anything, and can take on many forms, formal and informal, in a group or in solitude.

I believe that it is important to keep a running dialogue with God as a part of your life. First of all, He wants it. God wants you to stay in touch with Him, to talk to Him, to open yourself up to Him. And second of all, He deserves it. He is your Creator, the Maker of all that was, is, and ever will be.

For bringing you in to this wonderful world that He has created, you owe Him your regular interaction. It is the one thing that He really wants more than any other, your love and acceptance of Him as your Father.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Islamism Series: Return of the Caliphate

So what exactly do they want, these radical Islamists, these terrorists? Why don't they just live their lives, and let us live ours? Why can't they just leave us alone?

Those are just a few of the many natural, normal questions that the typical, uneducated American usually asks themselves about the radical Islamists.

Why are the terrorists blowing up themselves and others, cutting people's heads off, and hating Israel, the United States, and western culture so much?

The answer lies in understanding one simple concept: the Caliphate. Radical Islamists want to overthrow and eliminate western governments and culture, and reinstall the rule of the Caliph over first the traditional Muslim lands of the Middle East, and eventually the entire world.

So what is this 'Caliphate', and what is a 'Caliph'? Let's take a quick trip back in history, to the late 7th century.

Muhammad is the key personality in Islamic history, but we will save a more full treatment of him for another day. For now, let's just preface things with the fact that he was inspired to, founded, and spread the Muslim faith during his lifetime.

In 632 A.D., at the age of 62, Muhammad died, and control of the Muslim world was debated and fought over.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Reznor Lydon Lloyd

Welcome to the world, little Reznor Lydon Lloyd, my second grandchild and first grandson. In fact, it is the first boy in the Veasey line since my brother Mike was born way back in 1963, breaking a 45-year old male offspring drought in the family.

His dad, Bill Lloyd, and his Aunt Kelly were there in the delivery room at Hahnemann Hospital to help bring him into the world this afternoon at 12:11pm.

Accepting the idea of such an unusual name was a bit of a challenge at first. As my own dad quizzically but lovingly and comically said to me today after informing him of the name: 'Gimme something that I can work with, Matty'.

But as I sat in the waiting room at the hospital, the name wasn't the least bit important to me. I just wanted a healthy baby with all its parts where they belonged, and for my daughter to come through safely.

All went well, and I was beaming when Bill came out and told me 'It's a boy!' They had intentionally not learned the sex beforehand, so we were all truly getting a surprise there.

'The Rez' as I have already taken to calling him, or 'Rez' for even shorter, was named after his mom and dad's favorite rock star, Trent Reznor. Having your grandson named after a rock star can get you doing a little research. I have heard of the guy, but I have absolutely zero clue about him or his music.