Monday, September 28, 2009

Your Fair Share

There are a surprisingly large number of people in America who sincerely believe that they are not getting and so want their 'fair share' which leads to the question: what is your fair share?

What is it exactly that you are owed? And who owes it to you?

The first thing that we need to do before we can determine what your particular fair share is would be to define exactly what it is we are talking about.

What is it that you are missing out on that others are getting and that you deserve?

Tops on most people's list would be, of course, money. Are you getting your fair share of money? And if you don't think so, then why are you not getting your fair share? Who are you comparing yourself against? What do they do for a living? What do you do? Why do you deserve as much or more?

One area where you hear many folks complain about what others are earning is athletics, or entertainment. Why should a ball player or a singer or an actor make millions while you struggle every day at your difficult job and make five figures?

Well, first of all, how much do you generate in income with your production at your job, and how easy would it be to replace you right now, or in a short time?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Revelation Perseverance

The Book of Revelation is the final book of the Bible. Also known to some as 'The Apocalypse' or the 'Revelation to John', the book is filled with symbolism as it unravels the end of times for man's journey here on the planet Earth which began in the Garden of Eden.

The symbolism of the book can likely be attributed to two parts. The first part is one that I believe to be mystical revelation in which God reveals future events to John of a spiritual or heavenly nature with symbols that he can understand and which are left to our interpretation for their exact meaning and nature.

The second part is one that I believe comes from John's attempts to describe future people, places, media, weaponry, technology and events in ways that are understandable to him based on the world of his time. For instance, John describes in Revelation 9:19 what I believe to be tanks as horses. When you read the passage and a few just prior, it is easy to follow this logic.

The Book of Revelation is about two main principles. As the New American Bible describes it "the triumph of God in the world of men and women remains a mystery, to be accepted in faith and longed for in hope." This means that we need to accept with faith that God has a plan for humanity, and that the culmination of his plan for humanity is nothing to be feared, but rather to be longed for.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Islamism Series: The Two Jihads

Back in April of this year, local Philadelphia Bulletin writer Herb Denenberg pointed out that the War on Terror (or the 'contingency operation' or whatever other soft-sounding name the Obama administration wants to rename it today) needed to be fought on two fronts.

Fail to fight battles aggressively on either front, and we are in danger of ultimately losing the entire war.

Denenberg opined that al Qaeda and other radical Islamist terror organizations and their sponsor states were fighting the war on those two fronts: the 'Explosive Jihad' being carried out by the terror organizations through bombings, beheadings, and other planned mass attacks and the 'Stealth Jihad' being carried out by the slow manipulation of populations, politicians, universities, and cultures.

That 'Explosive Jihad' has again blasted into the American news headlines in recent days with the FBI raids in the New York borough of Queens.

The Feds uncovered the first proven al Qaeda cell operating on U.S. soil since the 9/11 attacks, and moved quickly to take them down with raids in New York and Denver. Complete plot details have not been released, but as reported in the New York Daily News, this was "the real deal" and not some informant-based action.

These raids follow on the heels of the May foiling of a major plot to bomb a pair of New York synagogues and then shoot down an airliner with a Stinger missile. That plot was foiled when the New York-area Joint Terrorism Task Force uncovered and infiltrated the scheme.

The NYJTTF supplied the cell with phony plastic explosives. When the terrorists planted these fake bombs, the Feds moved in and made their arrests. The Daily News reported also that one of the suspects, Abdul Rahman, stated "I hate those motherfuckers, those fucking Jewish bastards. I would like to get a synagogue."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Deh-rek Jee-ter!

As shortstop Derek Jeter stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of last night's game between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles his hometown fans were ready. They had braved this windy, rainy Friday night in order to be in the stands at the new Yankee Stadium in order to watch history be made.

This would be no ordinary baseball history, but would mark a truly significant accomplishment. With just one more hit, the Yankee team captain and longtime leader would pass the immortal legend Lou Gehrig and become the all-time hits leader of the New York Yankees.

Let that roll around your mind for just a minute. This is the New York Yankees that we are talking about here. The single most iconic franchise in American professional sports history. Winners of 26 World Series championships. Playing in the spotlight and the crucible that is America's largest sports market.

The players that Jeter had to pass in order to reach this point represent a true Who's Who of baseball history: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, Bernie Williams. Jeter had passed them all to tie Gehrig at the top of the Yanks' career hits mountain with 2,721 base knocks.

Derek Jeter began his career when he was selected as the 6th overall pick in the 1992 MLB draft by the New York Yankees. The Yanks earned that high pick because they were in the midst of one of the worst stretches in the history of the storied franchise, suffering through their fourth consecutive losing season, intolerable in America's largest market with some of the most demanding (and spoiled) fans, and with a still cantankerous George Steinbrenner pushing the buttons of ownership.

Jeter was a skinny shortstop who batted just .202 in his first minor league season, but in 1993 he became the top prospect in his league, and by 1994 was honored as the Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America, the industries leader in such evaluations. In 1995 he got a cup of coffee with the big league Yankees when he was called up to cover for an injury, but was quickly returned to the minors. It would be the last time he was demoted.

By 1996, Jeter was awarded the starting shortstop job for a Yankees team that was beginning to emerge from those losing seasons. He began that first full season by homering on Opening Day, and ended the regular season being named as the American League Rookie of the Year. To cap it all off, he led the Yanks into the playoffs and to their first World Series title in nearly two decades.

Jeter would go on to become perhaps the single most vital player as the Yankees returned to the World Series in 5 of the next 7 seasons, winning 3 more titles. In the 2000 season he became the first player in Major League history to win both the All-Star Game and the World Series MVP awards as the Yanks beat the cross-town Mets in the game's first 'Subway Series' in 45 years.

All during this stretch of team excellence, and on through the first decade of a new century, Derek Jeter continued to play outstanding shortstop defense, pile up the hits, and lead the Yankees to excellent seasons. He won three Gold Glove awards for fielding excellence at the demanding shorstop position, creating a hallmark 'jump throw' from the shortstop hole that has created an entirely new term for such plays as being "Jeterian" in nature.

Having signed a 10-year, $189 million dollar contract in 2001, Jeter was set financially for the rest of his life. In the 2003 season he was named as the Yankees official team Captain, a ceremonial title but one that carried significant leadership acknowledgement. He is a 10-time all-star, and a 4-time Yankees team Player of the Year.

In his personal life, Derek Jeter has provided the fans and more importantly the tabloid writers of New York with repeated material over the years as the confirmed bachelor has had relationships with and dated a laundry list of celebrities: Mariah Carey, Scarlett Johannson, Gabrielle Union, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Minillo, Jessica Biel, Minka Kelly, and even a former Miss Universe, Lara Dutta.

So as their beloved championship-winning, celeb-dating captain Derek Jeter stepped to the plate for his first at-bat last night, tied with Gehrig, the fans roared and the flashbulbs popped. Jeter would be up against driving rain as the game began, as well as a fireballing rookie phenom pitcher for the Orioles by the name of Chris Tillman. As Tillman delivered and the flashbulbs popped in anticipation, Jeter swung through the kid's fastball and struck out.

The complete anti-climax of the moment was replaced by a question: would these fans even get a chance to see history on this night? As hard as it was raining, there was a chance that Jeter wouldn't even get to bat again if the game did not go on. But the teams continued to slog through the same rain that was canceling and delaying games in other venues, the same rain that the Phillies were playing through a few hundred miles to the south.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, with the Yankees on top by a 3-1 score and the rain having trailed off somewhat to a light drizzle, here came Derek Jeter strolling to the plate once again for his 2nd at-bat. Quickly, Tillman again tried to bust Jeter inside with his explosive fastball. This time, Jeter was ready. Using his patented "inside out" swing, Jeter sliced the ball on a line drive past the first baseman and into right field for a clean single.

As he rounded first base and stopped there, Derek Jeter was the new all-time hits leader for the most legendary baseball franchise of all. He was quickly surrounded by his teammates in congratulations as the game was stopped just momentarily. The fans roared their approval as flashbulbs continued to pop, and the crowd began what has become a regular chant over the past decade: "Deh-Rek Jee-Ter! Deh-Rek Jee-Ter!" they chanted over and over.

Now in his 15th year of Major League Baseball, all played with that same New York Yankees franchise, Derek Jeter is putting together one of his best seasons ever at age 35. He is 4th among all American League hitters with a .331 batting average. He is playing shortstop as well as he has ever played it. And he has those Yankees back on top of the American League east division standings, appearing poised for another playoff run deep into October with their captain leading the way.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where Were You?

I've already heard it asked in my office, on the radio, and in a couple of other venues this morning: Where were you when you first heard about the attacks on 9/11? The answers have been numerous, from people sitting in their cars in traffic, to folks working as police officers here in Philly, to folks who had the day off and were watching it all on television.

Being a police officer who has worked the 'Last Out' shift for a few years, meaning that I worked a steady shift of overnight hours from approximately 11pm until 7am, I have often speculated that there must have been at least some officers of the NYPD who worked overnight and had just gotten home and in bed by 8am or so on the morning of September 11th, 2001. I was usually in bed by that time after working that shift myself.

I can imagine such an officer sleeping away their day, perhaps with their cellphone off or on 'silent' and with their home phone ring turned off. Again, this was my habit after working overnight. The last thing that I wanted to have happen was for anyone to wake me up for anything, let alone for some random call from work to reach me. Who could ever imagine receiving the call that those officers may have missed and later found on their answering machines?

Imagine those officers working all night, getting home on a typical Tuesday morning, and then waking up at around 3pm before finally hearing from some source: a phone message, the news on television or radio, some friend or neighbor in person telling them what had happened. Of course your first call is going to be in to your work place, and then begins the likely process of getting ready to head in to work, possibly having to make some special travel arrangements to get there.

All of that is speculative, but it takes no stretch of the imagination to consider that there were probably hundreds of such officers in New York city on that fateful day. Where was I that morning? I would imagine it's pretty typical, and typically uninteresting. I was assigned as a Detective with the Northeast Detective Division of the Philadelphia Police Department at the time, but was on a scheduled day off.

At about 7:15am I had left our home in the Somerton section of Philadelphia to drive our daughter Melissa to school. She had just begun her sophomore year at Archbishop Ryan High School in the Far Northeast section of the city, and it took me about 35 minutes to get her over to the building and out of the car, and drive back to our house.

I had been logged on to my home PC before we left, checking my email while waiting for Melissa to finish getting herself ready, and was listening to Philly's local "smooth jazz" radio station. It was such a beautiful morning when we left, and the mood with the jazz music was so mellow, that I left it playing so that I could return to this same atmosphere.

I got back and things were just as I had hoped. The day was still blossoming in gorgeous style with mellow temperatures and a high, clear blue sky. The jazz music was keeping that atmosphere just as mellow inside my house, and I sat back down to the computer. Many mornings would find me turning on and following Fox News, but this morning the music was so perfect for the day that I just left it play and kept out the news of the world.

At about 9am, my home phone rang, and it was my wife Debbie calling. She had a bit of an excited tone to her voice as she quickly asked "Are you watching TV?" I told her that I wasn't, and she replied "Well turn it on, they just bombed our embassy!" I told her okay, and we quickly hung up the phone. But I didn't turn on the TV right away. She called back a couple minutes later and said "Do you have the TV on?" When I told her that I hadn't turned it on yet, she more insistently told me "Turn it on!"

So I grabbed the remote and clicked on the television, wondering what could be upsetting her so much about one of our embassies being bombed. Not that it wouldn't be a big story, but I just didn't understand why she would be calling from her work about it. As the screen came in to view there on Fox was a picture of the first Twin Tower in the minutes after it had been struck. I told her "That's not an embassy, it's the Twin Towers, and a plane hit it" She just told me to keep it on, that they were talking about a possible terrorist attack, and we again hung up.

As I sat back and watched those early confusing moments, something almost unreal happened on the screen. While they were talking about a plane hitting the tower, and speculating on the nature of that crash, suddenly there was another jet coming in to view in the picture. In the split second that it took for the mind to go from "What the heck is a plane doing flying that low when one already hit the tower" to "Oh my God!" the second plane struck the second Twin Tower.

At that immediate instant it became clear that this was no accident. There was no doubt that this was an attack. Now the question was, what next? I clearly remember stopping right there and saying a prayer.

The rest of my day was filled with following the developments on Fox News and the other news channels. My wife was let out early from her work, and on her way home she picked up our daughter from school. I found that my other two older daughters were safe, and closely followed things to see if Philadelphia would ever become involved or our officers mobilized. Neither ever happened.

That is forever how I will remember that day, that moment. The incredible peace and tranquility of that morning suddenly ended by the phone call, and then that incredible moment on television of the second plane as it hit the World Trade Center. Eight years later it still is as clear a memory as the sky was on that Tuesday morning. I imagine that it will forever remain that crystal clear, and I hope and pray that there is never another day like it, or worse, in our nations future.


"The British are Coming!" "Remember the Alamo!" "A Date Which Will Live in Infamy" "9/11"

All of these phrases are now burned by history into the collective American consciousness, automatically bringing us back to times when our nation was under attack right here on our own soil.

However, the first three are actually a bit misleading in that regard. Neither the British attacks in the Revolutionary War, the Mexican attack in Texas, or the Japanese attack in Hawaii happened in an official state of the Union.

In the first, the United States was not a fully formed, world recognized, independent nation, but instead was fighting for some type of independence from the British empire. It shouted a warning among the American colonists that British troops were approaching, and is usually specifically related to the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

It also hearkens us back to a time when British 'red coats' were firing on Americans, burning homes and businesses, and marching across the land that we now know as the United States of America.

The battle at the Alamo mission also was not fought on what was then technically United States soil, but was fought between the Republics of Mexico and Texas in the aftermath of the Mexican revolution. It was a decade before Texas would officially become a U.S. state.

The Texan forces fighting for their independence from the Mexican government where vastly outnumbered, yet fought off the Mexican troops valiantly before finally being overrun and massacred. The incident rallied Texans to eventual victory, and ultimately to statehood.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Lie!

Congressman Joe Wilson had enough of the lies, and could no longer contain himself.

The Republican from South Carolina had sat patiently in his chair while trying to endure 45 minutes of President Barack Obama droning on about extending his Socialist vision of America into the health care industry.

But then Obama told one lie too many for Wilson during last night's nationally televised attempt at indoctrination and bullying.

The President let slip that his proposed government option would not cover illegal aliens. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back for the Congressman.

"You Lie!" shouted Wilson.

If you were watching on television, you heard it plain as day.

The uproar in response was immediate and boisterous as various members of Congress either gasped in astonishment, hollered their disapproval, or mildly cheered the outburst. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, seated immediately over Obama's left shoulder, shot an icy stare in Wilson's direction.

Obama was also stunned by the outburst and momentarily glanced away from his teleprompter, causing him to stumble and mumble a weak "That's not true" as a response.

Unfortunately for Obama, Pelosi and the Democrats, particularly the ultra-liberals on the far left who are pushing the President further and further towards that Socialist disaster, Joe Wilson was the only one actually speaking truth.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Freedom of Speech

Does the U.S. Constitution protect your right to say anything you want, whenever you want, anywhere you want? Some people think that it indeed does, or that if it doesn't allow that, it should.

Most understand that while we are free to speak our minds most times, there are limits. You can't just yell "fire" in a crowded movie house, to use an old example.

There is actually no universally accepted definition of 'Freedom of Speech' that is applied within the United States of America. The idea is not clearly defined even within the Constitution itself. Issues relating to free speech have been debated and the courts have ruled on these issues almost since the Bill of Rights was added.

That 'Bill of Rights', for those who may require a brief civics lesson, are the first ten 'amendments' to the originally approved U.S. Constitution.

The very first amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

As explained in "The Heritage Guide to the Constitution":
"The Founding generation undoubtedly believed deeply in the freedom of speech and of the press, but then, as now, these general terms were understood quite differently by different people. Many people did not think about their precise meanings until a concrete controversy arose, and when a controversy did arise, the analysis was often influenced by people's political interests as much as by their honest constitutional understanding."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stretch Drive Arrives in MLB

Today is September 1st, which marks the beginning of that most important time in a Major League Baseball regular season known as the 'Stretch Drive' to fans of the sport. The 'dog days' of August are over, in just three weeks summer will officially end, and this coming weekend is Labor Day here in the United States.

The 'Stretch Drive', or simply 'the Stretch' refers to that final stretch of games before the playoffs begin. It marks the final 2-3 dozen games of the regular season, a time when divisional rivals often square off against one another in what are frequently winner-take-all games and series that can determine the eventual playoff teams.

If your team wants to participate in the playoffs, now is the time to turn it on. For fans here in Philadelphia, these are unusual days indeed. Manager Charlie Manuel and the defending World Series champion Fightin' Phils begin tonight's series with the San Francisco Giants holding a 7 1/2 game lead on the 2nd place Atlanta Braves. That lead is 9 games when you consider the all-important 'loss' column.

The team's 'Magic Number' for clinching their 3rd straight National League East Division crown is down to a manageable 26 games. This means that any combination of Phillies wins and Braves losses totalling that number 26 will give the Phils the NL East again, and punch their ticket into baseball's post-season.

The Phils have been playoff contenders for most of this decade, and in the past two seasons they have been able to run down the New York Mets from behind. The Mets led going into September both years, by 2 games last season and by 3 games in 2007. In fact, in each season the Mets actually built their leads up even higher only to play poorly and watch the hot Phillies shoot past them in the final two weeks.

This particular year, each of baseball's divisional leaders enter the month enjoying somewhat comfortable leads. The Phils have that 7 1/2 game cushion in the NL East. In the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals have an even bigger lead of 10 1/2 games, the largest lead in all of baseball. In the NL West, the LA Dodgers lead is at 5 1/2 games over both Colorado and the Giants team that the Phils meet tonight.

Over in the American League, the Yankees hold a 6 1/2 game lead. In the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels enjoy a 6 game lead. In the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers hold the smallest edge, just 3 1/2 games up on Minnesota. Winners of these division titles receive entry into the post-season, but it's not the only way. You can also make it as a 'Wildcard' team. Each league sends the 2nd place team with the best record into the playoffs, joining the three divisional winners.

In this year's current Wildcard race, the Boston Red Sox hold a 4-game edge in the American League over Texas and a 5-game lead on defending AL champion Tampa Bay. In the National League, Colorado and San Francisco are tied, with Atlanta just 3 games back and Florida still in the race at 4 games out. Any one of these teams can get hot in September and either clinch that Wildcard spot, or even rundown one of the divisional leaders from behind.

The bottom line is that while every game matters, with games held way back in April counting just as much as today, the games of September take on a greater urgency. The schedule is drawing to an end. Teams are running out of chances to get hot and makeup ground if they are behind. Teams moving towards a title can perhaps sense the end and pickup the pace in order to put their divisional rivals away.

Another unique aspect of big league baseball 'down the Stretch' are the expanded rosters. On September 1st of each season, MLB clubs are permitted to add as many players as they like from their minor league systems to the parent club. During the rest of the season, teams have been restricted to playing with a 25-man 'active' roster which does not include injured/disabled players. This means that each game there are 25 players available, with usually an 8-man starting lineup, an 11 or 12-man pitching staff, and 5-6 players on the bench as substitutes/reserves.

With the expansion of rosters on September 1st, teams will often bring up a handful of players from their minor league systems to bolster the big club for that 'Stretch Drive' period. They usually promote 1-2 extra catchers, 2-3 extra pitchers, and perhaps a particular position player who offers a special skill, such as speed or strong defense. Some teams see this as an opportunity to reward a minor leaguer for having a strong season down on the farm, or give a veteran player another shot at the big leagues. In any event, Managers of contending teams often end up with increased player assets as in-game options with which to maneuver.

Tonight's game between the Phillies and those San Francisco Giants, which my wife and I will be attending, will showcase all of 'Stretch Drive' baseball's best elements. A champion Phillies team trying to remain in charge of it's first place standing. A contending Giants team battling neck-and-neck for a Wildcard playoff berth, and possibly even to catch the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. All of it with expanded rosters in front of a sellout crowd in one of baseball's most beautiful ballparks on a perfect weather night.

It's time for 'Stretch Drive' baseball in the Major Leagues. A few teams will strongly position themselves for the playoffs in the coming final weeks, hopefully including another run by our Phillies. A couple of others will battle tooth-and-nail down to the wire of the final week to get into the post-season. Perhaps one of those currently comfortable division leaders will collapse, ala the Mets of the past two seasons. In any event, it will all provide plenty of drama leading in to the ultimate excitement of October baseball.