GOP’s Man is Steele

In the 2nd most important political moment of the month, the Republican National Committee yesterday elected former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele as our party Chairman.

The 50-year old Steele, elected on the 6th ballot after a spirited 3-man battle, becomes the first-ever black American to hold the top position within the Republican Party national governing body.

Steele, who has been charged within the party by some of his rivals as being a closet social liberal immediately set the tone by stating unequivocally that “Conservative principles have made us the strong and proud party we are.”

Only the most ideologically far-right wing members of the party would try to make a case for him being anything other than conservative, as Steele has always espoused solid conservative principles even as he has occasionally taken more moderate positions on particular issues.

His election shows that the majority of the party wishes to retain those conservative values while also being unafraid to show moderation when situations warrant, not for political expediency, but out of common sense.

It’s time for something completely different and we’re going to bring it to them,” Steele said in referring to the Republican Party and its relationship to all Americans. “We’re going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community.” 

Michael Steele is a family man, he and wife Andrea have two sons, Michael and Drew. Steele was born in 1958 at Andrews Air Force base and grew up near Washington, D.C., and interestingly enough has a sister who was once married to former boxing champ Mike Tyson.

Always studious and a leader from an early age, Steele was named to the National Honor Society in high school and elected his class president. He won a scholarship to the prestigious Johns Hopkins University and was elected as the freshman class president there.

He received his degree in International Relations in 1981, and then his life took a very interesting turn. He entered the seminary and for three years studied for a life in the Catholic priesthood at Villanova University, serving for a short time as a teacher at Malvern Prep. Ultimately this was not his calling.

Steele entered the Georgetown University Law Center and obtained his law degree there, and as he entered into private practice he also began to become involved in Republican political activities.

In 1995, he was selected as the Maryland Republican Man of the Year, and he went on to serve in delegate positions with the RNC at both the 1996 and 2000 national conventions. In 2000, he was elected as Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, and in 2002 as the Maryland Lieutenant Governor under Governor Robert Ehrlich, becoming the first African-American to hold these positions.

Steele then ran for a Maryland U.S. Senate seat in 2006, only to be wiped out in a 55-44 margin by Democrat Ben Cardin as opposition built against the policies of President George W. Bush. He recovered in February of 2007 when he was elected to be the chairman of GOPAC, the Republican Party’s largest political action committee.

Steele is considered to be a likely candidate for either the Maryland Governor position, or a Senate seat in the 2010 elections. As the head of the RNC, Steele will have tremendous influence in the direction that the Party takes in moving forward.

On the Iraq War his position has been that we need to withdraw and allow the Iraqis to control their own destiny, but that we should set no firm timetable for this withdrawal, and instead allow circumstances and conditions on the battle fields determine how and when this should happen.

 On energy policy he has called for rescinding the gas tax, and for greatly increasing research into alternative fuels. On taxation he has called for further tax cuts, making those now in place permanent, repealing of the death tax, and adherence to “sane spending guidelines.” 

He has not been in favor of socializing health care, but instead has favored increased access to quality health care through Health Savings Accounts and other methods.

Not unlike the original ‘Man of Steel’ (Superman), the GOP’s new leader faces a daunting assignment against a difficult foe as he tries to lead our Republican Party back to power at both the state and federal levels.

Steele has shown himself to be a strong, intelligent, articulate, principled leader during his lifetime. Michael Steele has all of the tools and talent to lead the Party back to prominence, but it will take the combined efforts and cooperation of all Republicans and conservative thinkers to make it happen.

It’s easy to root for Kurt Warner

He is 37 years old now, which is getting pretty long in the tooth for an NFL starting quarterback.

He is also a decade removed from his first trip to the Super Bowl, when he led Dick Vermiel’s Saint Louis Rams to victory and was named the MVP of the Super Bowl. He also won the first of two NFL MVP awards that season.

The Midwest boy, born and raised in the Iowa corn fields, grew into one of the most accurate passers in the history of the National Football League. But perhaps more importantly, Kurt Warner grew into a leader of men, and a strong, positive example for mankind.

That’s a mouthful to say about a football player, but the Arizona Cardinals quarterback is far from being your normal high-profile athlete. First, that football career.

Kurt Warner stayed home and played college ball at Northern Iowa. He was not able to win the starting job there until his senior year when he was named the Gateway Conference Player of the Year.

Still, the NFL did not come calling. Warner went undrafted in 1994, and so he went to work at a grocery store.

In 1995 the local Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League offered him a contract, and over the next three seasons he played well enough that he was considered the best quarterback in the AFL.

Officials with the Saint Louis Rams noticed, gave him a tryout, and signed him to a contract for the 1998 season. Warner spent that 1998 season riding the bench and went into 1999 expecting to again be a backup.

But an injury to starting quarterback Mark Bulger gave Warner an opportunity, and just as he had at Northern Iowa and with the Barnstormers, he made the most of it. Warner went on to an MVP season with the Rams, passing for more than 4,300 yards with 41 touchdown passes.

Warner was named the NFL MVP, led the Rams to victory in only their second franchise Super Bowl appearance (their first in St. Louis), and was named the Super Bowl MVP as well.

In both 2000 and 2001 Warner was again one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and he won his second NFL MVP award after that 2001 season.

Then the career wheels fell off. Nagging injuries drove Warner to the trainer’s room and to backup status. He left the Rams for the Giants, and then moved on to Arizona, all the while becoming more and more viewed as an aging, injury-risk, backup-type quarterback who was now just a shell of his former greatness.

Coming in to the 2008 season, Warner was expected to be backup to young phenom Matt Leinert. But it was Warner who was healthy and shined in the preseason, and it was Warner who was named the starter by coach Ken Whisenhunt.

He was phenomenal, passing for over 4,500 yards and 30 TD passes. He led the Cardinals to their first NFC West championship, and now will lead the Cards franchise into its first-ever Super Bowl on Sunday. Warner has thus gained a trip to the Super Bowl for both the city of Saint Louis and their former longtime Cardinals team. He may very well win his 3rd NFL MVP award.

With this season and his latest trip to the NFL’s biggest stage he has likely cemented his place in the Hall of Fame.

But all of that only tells a part of the story, for it is Kurt Warner’s personal life that has so endeared him to teammates and fans alike. Let’s go back to those days when Warner was undrafted and stocking groceries for a year, prior to the AFL giving him his first shot at pro football.

The story is told like this. Kurt was a stock boy at the supermarket when one day a new voice came over the loudspeaker asking for a ‘carry out’ at register four. Kurt was almost finished, wanted some fresh air, and decided to go answer the call.

As he approached the checkout he noticed a new girl working there. As the girl smiled at him he thought how beautiful she was, but also that she was older. Turns out she was 26, while Kurt was only 22 at the time.

He found out that her name was Brenda, and after work he offered her a ride home, which she accepted. When he dropped her off Kurt asked if he could see her again outside of work. She said that it wouldn’t be possible, but he pressed her and she responded that she had two small children.

Kurt was unfazed and volunteered to pay for a babysitter, and so Brenda agreed to a Saturday night first date. However, when Kurt arrived she told him that she wouldn’t be able to go because the babysitter had called and cancelled at the last minute.

Kurt was again unfazed and told her that they could take the kids out with them. She again said that it wasn’t possible, and again Kurt pressed her for a reason.

As Brenda called out, her cute-as-a-button daughter came running, and Brenda went to get her other child. She came back with him: a wheel-chair bound son who was born with Downs Syndrome. “I still don’t get it, why can’t they come out with us?” Warner asked.

Brenda was amazed, believing that most men would have seen this as their opportunity to bow out gracefully but quickly. After all, her husband had left when he found out about the disability and it’s responsibilities.

But Warner wasn’t like most guys. They went out together that night, and any time that the son needed help, Kurt was there to provide it. Brenda and Kurt fell in love, were married a year later, and Kurt adopted her kids.

Where did Kurt Warner get this fortitude, this maturity? It turns out that Kurt Warner is an open, out of the closet, wear it on his sleeves Christian.

Kurt Warner, you see, has been touched by the Holy Spirit and has never been ashamed to talk to anyone about his love of Jesus Christ.

His teammates on the Arizona Cardinals, as with anywhere else that he has played, have always been both moved and inspired by the depth and openness of his faith. Many of them have come to the Lord and been saved by his direct example and his willingness to share his beliefs with them.

So as you can see, there are many more reasons to be a fan of Kurt Warner than simply because he is a great football player. Despite the fact that he beat my Philadelphia Eagles to get here, on Sunday evening I will be rooting for Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals to win the Super Bowl over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When you know the whole story, it’s easy to root for a guy like that.

Lost Opportunity to Teach Charity

Two small private schools that were little-known outside of the Dallas, Texas area were thrust into the spotlight last week. The Covenant School girls basketball team put a whuppin’ on the girls from Dallas Academy, a whuppin’ to the tune of 100-0.

You read that right, Covenant scored 100 points in a high school girls game. That might be worth talking about under some circumstances. Most girls basketball contests end with the winner scoring in the 40’s or 50’s. Scoring 100 points shows that you either have an outstanding club, or the other team was really bad (at least in comparison), or some other freakish thing occurred such as a multiple overtime game.

In this game, we can blame some of the above. Covenant is a Texas state-championship contender, Dallas Academy is not very good, and there was indeed something freakish afoot here. But that freakish event was not some multiple overtime thriller in which one team scored those 100 points and the other scored in the 90’s.

No, in this one, Dallas Academy scored zero points. None, nadda, zilch. They came up empty. They put up a donut. Nothing on the board, no balls through the hoop.

Think about how hard this 100-0 thing is to have happen. There are 48 playing minutes in a regulation girls high school basketball game. Each basket is worth two points. To score 100 points, Covenant was scoring at better than a basket per minute throughout the game. Meanwhile, Dallas Academy did absolutely nothing.

I overheard someone commenting on this game, that it would likely never happen in a boys game. Their reasoning was that at some point boys simply wouldn’t have taken it any more, and there would have been a physical penalty inflicted on the leading team by the losers that would have slowed down the pace, or ended the game.

Yep, he was talking about fighting. It isn’t right either, but his point was that at some point the losing boys team would have taken matters into their own hands and let the winners know that the embarrassment had gone too far.

At 10-0 you are off to a good start. At 20-0 you have taken complete control of the game. At 30-0 you have almost no chance to lose, especially at the high school level.

At that point, and arguably far earlier, you have shown that your talent level is no match for the other squad. You probably have already gone to your ‘bench’, meaning you have put in your backup or substitute-level players and they have continued the dominance.

At some point around this time, any further building of your lead has a simple phrase in the sporting world that describes what is happening: piling on.

This is where Micah Grimes got it all wrong. He is the Covenant girls basketball coach, and his response was that “it just happened.” Pardon me, Mr. Grimes, but something like a 100-0 sporting event between young girls can never ‘just happen’. Rather as the coach you allowed it to happen.

This was a teaching moment that someone in charge of our kids is supposed to take advantage of and use to better their lives. Long after the embarrassment of being on the winning side of a 100-0 game subsides, the lessons of a 50-0 victory could have been felt, perhaps for the rest of the lives of some of the girls involved. This was a moment to teach the virtue of charity, the generosity and helpfulness for the needy or suffering, the gift for a public benevolent purpose, the idea of benevolent good will.

Grimes was in control. He controlled what was said to the girls on the sidelines. He controlled their playing time, both in this game and in future games. He had the ability to put on the brakes.

What could he have done? He could have told his girls to walk the ball up the floor on every possession. He could have told them to play soft defense and allow the Dallas Academy girls to setup plays and take shots. He could have pulled a couple of his key on-court leaders aside and made sure that the girls stayed with this program on the floor.

There are ways to handle this type of situation without making it look like a joke or a Harlem Globetrotters game. The fact is that the result was already settled, all that remained at a certain point was to determine the final score, and to determine how this level of a blowout would be remembered.

Grimes should have taken this opportunity to speak to his girls about these very ideas of charity, generosity, good will, benevolence, and sportsmanship. He could have built his halftime speach around it. He could have reinforced it at every stoppage of play.

He easily could have made the girls understand that they were in a unique situation, one that they may never be in again in their playing careers. He could have let them know that this was a one night reduction in their playing level intensity. There was obviously no real competition available to them here.

He was wrong to say that it just happened. He allowed it to happen. In fact, he directed it to happen. He had his team keep up full pressure until the 100-0 mark had been achieved. From attendee accounts it was very obvious that the score was something that was seen as a goal as the game unfolded.

Afterwards, coach Grimes felt no guilt or shame. The school, on the other hand, got it right. They fired Grimes in the immediate aftermath, the same day as the game, and issued a public apology.

For his part, Grimes remained steadfast in disagreeing with the apology and saying that “Although a wide-margin victory is never evidence of compassion, my girls played with honor and integrity and showed respect to Dallas Academy.” 

He got the first part right about a lack of compassion. But his team lost it’s honor and integrity as they continued to effectively kick a person lying on the ground. How they showed any respect at all to Dallas Academy is beyond me.

This was not a professional game where players are paid and must accept the consequences of any game. This is a high school where athletics are supposed to be only one part of a learning process for the kids involved, from players and cheerleaders to spectators and even disinterested students.

Micah Grimes may have been just a coach at Covenant and not have had the official title of teacher, but he failed in that a big part of the job of every high school athletic coach is exactly that – teacher. He missed a huge opportunity to teach his girls, and his school, about charity.

For the resulting magnitude of that failure, Grimes deserved to lose his job, and no high school should consider hiring him until he admits his mistake, shows that he truly understands its ramifications. Grimes must apologize to all involved, and takes steps to prove that he is ready to move forward with an adjusted mindset.

There is never a need to sacrifice charity and compassion simply for winning a sporting event.

Octuplets? That’s How Many?

There is nothing like a new life being welcomed into a family to bring up the spirits of everyone involved.

My niece Cheri Clegg, my wife Deb’s sister’s daughter, was admitted to a hospital over in New Jersey today in order to have her 3rd child.

Cheri was overdue and has been in our thoughts and prayers, and we are very much looking forward to meeting the new entry into the family.

It was just six months ago that my eldest daughter, Christine, brought my grandson Reznor Lloyd into the world.

It is blessed events like these that grow and sustain a family, and we look forward to even more grandchildren, nieces, and nephews in the future.

Just yesterday, at the Bellflower Medical Center in California, a woman gave birth and her family also grew. Why the interest in a California family welcoming a new birth? Well, that birth involved the family welcoming not one child, but multiples. No, not twins, not even triplets.

Nope, not quadruplets, quintuplets, or sextuplets. That would be six, by the way. Do you even know what they call a 7-baby birth? I didn’t, I had to look it up. That would be septuplets.

But no, Natalie Suleman, the California woman, had even more. She gave birth to what might end up as an American first should they all survive. They are only the second set of octuplets to be born alive in this country’s history.

The first set was born to a Nigerian-born American citizen Nkem Chukwu and her husband in December of 1998 in Houston, Texas. In that birth, one of the babies, the tiniest, died of heart and lung failure at one week old.

The other seven children survived despite being born three months premature. All are healthy, happy 10-year olds now. Can you imagine what that family went through, and still goes through, in raising ten children of the same age all at once?

I had two little girls when I was 19 years old, and I thought that I had it tough. This octuplet thing is beyond anything that most any of us could ever fathom.

In this latest octuplet birth out in California, the eighth baby was a complete surprise even to doctors and hospital staff, who had been preparing for weeks for the arrival of what they all believed would be septuplets. That eighth baby was not discovered until well into the birth process, which was by Cesarean section.

Dr. Richard Paulson is the director of the fertility program at USC and stated “When you hear about someone having octuplets, it’s almost always the case that they took fertility medications“.

In many cases of fertility drug-induced multiple births, couples make a life or death decision involving their children and opt for what is known as ‘selective reduction’ of the unborn babies, reducing their number to a level of what they and their doctors determine to be manageable risk. The other babies are effectively aborted.

So despite the obvious challenges and risks, to hear of a couple taking all of their babies through to the birthing process is both encouraging and inspiring.

Both over the next few days and on into the future, this family is going to take on many challenges and is going to need as many prayers as possible from the wider human community, so take the time to say a little prayer for them. Octuplets? That’s eight babies, in case you didn’t catch the idea yet. God bless them all.

Islamism Series: Fort Dix and Beyond

Two headlines blared across the tops of the front pages of Philadelphia’s two major newspapers within the past four days.

The Bulletin was first when last Thursday their front page headline read “Islamic Terrorists Forming Cells in US“, and the Inquirer followed suit on Sunday when in reference to the Fort Dix case the headline read “They were going to do it“.

Here are the cold, hard facts for everyone who has not yet caught on to what this ‘Islamism Series’ is all about: organized Islamic forces with the full backing of some Arab nations and with the tacit support of others are at war with the West. They see the United States, Great Britain, and Israel as their main enemies in this war.

The war did not end with the election of Barack Obama, just as it did not begin with the election of George W. Bush. It will not end with the closing of Guantanamo Bay. It will not end with the withdrawal of American troops from the Middle East. It will not end with the death or capture of Osama bin Laden.

The leadership and forces of Islam have made it abundantly clear how this will end: with the end of our civilization, or theirs. Their dream is to reestablish what they call the Islamic Caliphate under Sharia Law, that Islamic rule by Muslim religious, legal, and cultural laws.

To begin this process they want to destroy Israel and take control of the entire Middle East. Then, united under a leader they will call the Caliph, they wish to spread their influence and ultimately their control to the surrounding regions of Europe and Asia, spread down into Africa, and ultimately the world over, including here in America. They have vowed to see the Islamic flag flying over the White House.

The Inquirer story spoke in reference to the Fort Dix case wherein “five foreign-born Muslims…had intended to carry out an attack on the Army base” (at Ft. Dix, New Jersey.) Jurors interviewed by the Inquirer stated that “the defendants had taken serious steps toward an armed attack on the Burlington County base.”

The details of the plots made by these men to attack an American military installation here on American soil are frightening enough. But what perhaps is more frightening is the scene inside the courtroom each day, when jurors stated that “large extended families” of the men were regularly present.

One must wonder as to the feelings regarding the United States and the West of these family members and friends, now living here in America and raising families with these same beliefs.

The Bulletin article of Thursday, January 22nd spoke to intelligence sources who claim that the terrorist group Hezbollah is expected to be a major threat here in the United States by 2014. If the idea that this is five years away gives you any comfort, consider this: do any of you plan on not being alive five years from now? Didn’t think so.

The article states that an official government report has concluded that the Iranian-backed Islamic terror group “has been forming sleeper cells throughout the United States” that could become operational at any time, and that this threat should be much more potent within those next five years.

For those unfamiliar, a ‘sleeper cell’ is a group of people who live and blend in with our culture, right in our own neighborhoods and work places. But these individuals, despite their outward appearances and actions, are prepared to join together and attack America whenever they are called upon to be activated to such a purpose.

They basically lay low in the weeds waiting for orders. Those orders might not come for months, years, even decades. When they finally come, the attack could be anything from a major nuclear, biological, radiological, or chemical one against a large target such as a sporting event or a downtown area, to one by more conventional methods such as the use of guns, knives, and grenades at a shopping mall or at a school.

The one thing that these recent articles at the front of Philadelphia’s own major newspapers highlights is that Americans of all parties, affiliations, and ideologies need to understand exactly what is going on in this war.

The Philadelphia police department and all police officers within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania received training in 2008 that introduced them to the ideas, practices, and plans of these groups in a course titled ‘Radical Islam’, so law enforcement is very much aware of the dangers.

From the Fort Dix case and prior, and that Hezbollah 2014 threat and beyond, this blog will continue with important and timely articles of interest.

NOTE: Simply click on to the ‘Islamism Series’ tag below to read all entries in the series.