1981: A New Beginning

All this year at my Facebook page, I have been taking a daily trip back in time to the 1980’s. Each month I am highlighting a different year chronologically.

This month have been featuring the music, tv, movies, and important events of 1981. You can also follow this little mini-series of articles on each year of the “1980’s'” by clicking on to that ‘label’ below this article.

As we all know, a new decade does not actually technically begin in a year that ends in a zero, it begins with the year ending in (1) one. So while 1981 might be the 2nd year of the 1980’s, it’s the first year of a new decade and marked a beginning in a couple of different chapters of my own life.

In late September of 1980, my little young family had moved into an apartment in South Philly. 1981 would be the first and only full calendar year that we would live there. It was an interesting year at what became simply known as ‘the apartment’ in our little circle of friends. We had many a Friday night party at the place in the early months of the year, but as the summer drew on things got a bit more crowded.

In another development of those early months, the news came to us that a new addition was expected in the Veasey clan. Having given birth to Chrissy the previous February, we learned that Anne was pregnant again. Given that she was due at the end of July 1981, it appeared that this was a post-World Series baby conceived in the immediate aftermath of the Phils’ first-ever championship at the end of October.

So leaping forward, on July 30th, 1981, Kelly Anne Veasey came into the world. We had planned all along to actually name her ‘Kerry’ rather than ‘Kelly’. But another young couple who lived on Anne’s parents block in Prospect Park, PA, were due at the same time. They gave birth just before us, and named their new daughter ‘Kerry’. That killed it, we weren’t going to be seen as copy-cats. So ‘Kelly’ it was. A fine Irish name.

Kelly’s sister Christine had been almost too good to be true as a baby. She was quiet, happy, mostly healthy, slept through the night. A dream for a young couple who already had enough on their plates. Kelly – not so much. She was sickly for much of her first year, puking up everywhere and crying incessantly. We were paying the price for the good luck the first time around.

Kelly would grow out of that illness and crying period quickly the following summer, and would go on to be a wonderful, happy, care-free joy to be around for anyone who knew her. Well, maybe except for the whole pulling-out of her sister’s hair episode. She remains that lovable way to this day. But as for that first year? Well, for the sake of the love that I have for her today, I’ll pass on further commentary.

I began to get a little more responsibility in my job at First Pennsylvania Bank as well. In those days my work mostly consisted still of duties as a Messenger Clerk, and I was also getting involved in bond reconciliation and cremation procedures. It wasn’t much, but for a kid who was still a teenager it was good, steady work with a small but livable paycheck. Most importantly for my young family, the job came with a good health care plan.

In the spring of 1981 an old friend from my Two Street neighborhood who also was working for the bank, Bob Bergmann, got me started in a venture that would change my life. Bob remembered me as a good ballplayer as a kid, and so he recruited me for a men’s softball team for which he was playing in the bank’s large intra-mural program.

I joined up with the team called the Pirates managed by the head of the bank’s mailroom, Rich Quick. The team had a couple of strong hitting stars in a big lefty 1st baseman named John Dunn and a fast, strong, young outfielder named Fran Mehaffey. We were expected to contend, but fell short of those expectations. The personalities on the team never seemed to mesh, but the experience did get me back into athletics on an adult level and would expose me to my future as a ballplayer.

The fall after that season was finished, I was approached by a man from another area of our Trust Department by the name of Ed Markowski. Ed had been around the bank for a long time at that point, and was the head of a team known as ‘Pennamco’ which was usually a .500 team in the bank league and which had a large number of older players.

Their team was trying to get younger, and Ed recruited me, as well as a number of other younger guys, to play for them the following season. I hadn’t been real happy with the Pirates experience, but loved playing again, and so I joined Ed’s team. We would eventually go on to become the Brewers softball team, and the rest is a history that you will read in future months.

Out in the real world at large, 1981 saw the changeover from the national malaise of the Jimmy Carter years to the new hope of the Ronald Reagan presidency. As I have said before, I was a card-carrying fully indoctrinated liberal Democrat at the time who thought that Carter was a brilliant man and that Reagan was a dunce. I couldn’t understand how the country had voted him in to office. How time would prove me wrong.

Reagan was sworn-in to office on January 20th as the 40th President of the United States. Just minutes later, Iranian officials released the 52 American hostages which they had been holding captive in that country for more than a year since a militant Islamic regime had taken power, ending what had become known as the ‘Iran Hostage Crisis’.

A week later the entire Philadelphia region was abuzz as for the very first time our own Philadelphia Eagles had advanced to play in the Super Bowl. On January 11th, the Birds had sent the rival Dallas Cowboys packing with a thrilling 20-7 victory in the NFC Championship game. Under their brilliant young, driven head coach Dick Vermiel, the Eagles were led by quarterback Ron Jaworski, running back Wilbert Montgomery, veteran wide receiver Harold Carmichael, and a tenacious defense led by linebacker Bill Bergey.

The Eagles went into the Super Bowl as the favorites against the AFC’s Oakland Raiders. I remember the exciting buildup to the game both in the local media and among my own young circle of friends. We planned a big Super Bowl party that Sunday to match the bash we had enjoyed just months earlier when the Phillies won the World Series. A keg of beer was on ice in my kitchen, food was brought by all of the group, and the party was just getting ready to start.

It all came crashing down really, really fast, for both myself and the Eagles. A short time before the game was to begin, I got a phone call from my step-grandmother Kay. She was telling me that my grandfather Ray, the man who I grew up knowing simply as ‘Pop’ and who lived just a half block from my apartment, was having some physical problems.

I quickly left the apartment and the party and went to Pop’s house, and found him there mostly unresponsive. At Kay’s direction and with her help, we loaded him in to Pop’s car and I drove to the hospital. It was here in a hospital E/R where my grandfather was being diagnosed with and eventually treated for what turned out to be a stroke that I watched the Super Bowl.

By the time that we got Pop checked-in and I had a chance to check a TV for an Eagles update, the rout was on. The Raiders had scored two early touchdowns on passes from veteran quarterback Jim Plunkett who would go on to be named the MVP as the Raiders became the first NFL Wildcard team to win a Super Bowl in what ended up as a 27-10 Oakland romp.

Pop ended up recovering from that stroke and he lived for more than another decade. He was a great guy who was very close to my family while I was growing up, never living more than a block away from my mom. She was sick at the time, and he took on a lot of her care in the 1970’s and into those early 1980’s before I took over that role. It’s after him that I wanted to be called ‘Pop’ by my own grandkids when Elysia was born in 2002, and so I am.

Despite the Eagles upset in the Super Bowl, this was a time of unparalleled cumulative success for Philadelphia pro sports teams. Within the same calendar year of 1980-81, the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and 76ers all appeared in their respective title games or series. The Phillies would win that 1980 World Series, the Flyers won Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. The Eagles won that 1981 NFL Championship game, and the Sixers would go on to win the 1983 NBA Finals. It was the only way that I really knew. I thought we were supposed to always win like that. I would learn differently soon enough.

On March 6th of 1981, iconic CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite signed off the air following his final news broadcast. In those pre-cable days, network news anchors were considered the kings of the news media, and none was bigger or more popular at that time than Cronkite. He had been guiding the country through difficult news times for decades, including the Kennedy assasination. He signed off just before nearly having to repeat that terrible broadcast.

On March 20th, President Ronald Reagan stepped out of the Washington Hilton Hotel where he had delivered a morning speech and moved towards the open door of his waiting limo. With a full phalanx of Secret Service officers around, a lone gunman suddenly rushed forward and shot Reagan at point-blank range. Though he was seriously injured, his lung collapsed, and he nearly died, Reagan recovered relatively quickly.

Press Secretary James Brady was not so lucky. Also shot during the hail of bullets, Brady had been struck in the head. He became permanently disabled, and the shooting would lead to the various measures and efforts to restrict handgun access and violence. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr, had been obsessed with actress Jodie Foster, and claimed that the shooting was in part inspired by her role in the film ‘Taxi Driver’ and to gain her attention.

On April 12th, the United States moved into a new era in space exploration with the launch of the first-ever Space Shuttle. The shuttle ‘Columbia’ lifted off on the 20th anniversary of the first human space flight, moving America back into space after almost a decade away.

On May 13th, the danger for world leaders reared it’s ugly head once again as a Muslim assassin shot the wildly popular Pope John Paul II at close range in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope would go on to recover from his injuries as Reagan had, and eventually would both meet with and forgive his would-be Turkish assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca.

On June 5th in Los Angeles, five homosexual men were reported by the Centers for Disease and Control as having a rare pneumonia-like illness that had seriously compromised their immune systems. The men became the first officially recognized cases and victims of AIDS.

A week later, on June 12th, Major League Baseball players began a strike that would cancel almost 40% of the regular season schedule and eventually result in the first and only split-season format in MLB history. Nine days later, Wayne Williams was arrested in Atlanta. He would be eventually charged in the murder of 30 people in what was known as the ‘Atlanta child murders’.

The eventful year continued when on July 7th, President Reagan nominated the first-ever woman for service on the Supreme Court of the United States. Sandra Day O’Connor would eventually be confirmed and serve on the highest court in the land for a quarter century. On July 27th, a young boy, Adam Walsh, was kidnapped from a Sears store in Florida. His murder would spur his father to eventually form the ‘America’s Most Wanted’ program.

Two days after Walsh’s disappearance, most of the world was focused on the massive, ornate celebration of the wedding to end all weddings. On July 29th in England, Lady Diana Spencer married Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince Charles, in front of a worldwide television audience.

1981 has already given us enough of note? Not so fast. On August 1st, the now-legendary and iconic vision of the astronaut planting a flag on the moon appeared across cable services for the very first time to herald the launch of MTV, the Music Television Network. Two days later, the nation’s air traffic controllers would go on strike. Two days after that, President Reagan fired all 11,359 of them in the greatest labor-busting move in U.S. history.

The 2nd half of the year seemed to slow things down from the explosiveness of the first half, but it did serve to supply one major end-of-an-era moment. On December 11th, boxing legend Muhammad Ali stepped in to the ring and fought against Jamaican-Canadian heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick. Berbick had lost a hard-fought 15-round decision to champion Larry Holmes months earlier, and on this night he dispatched the great Ali in what would prove to be the final fight in the career of the man simply known as ‘The Greatest’.

1981 was a year of fighting on many fronts. Fighting through barriers, fighting through disaster, fighting through change on numerous fronts. The 1980’s were now fully underway with Reagan in the White House, Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, the Cold War coming to a head, radical Islam beginning it’s march, the Space Shuttle program launched, and both MTV and CNN changing how we view it all.

BORN 1981: Kelly Veasey, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Serena Williams, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce Knowles, Natalie Portman, Jessica Alba, Josh Groban, Eli Manning, Jennifer Hudson, Howie Day, Elijah Wood, Julia Stiles, Hayden Christensen, Justin Morneau, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Anna Kournikova, Jake Peavy, Adriana Lima, Roger Federer, Carl Crawford, Tila Tequila, Ivanka Trump, Barbara & Jenna Bush, Natasha Bedingfield, Amy Lee

DIED 1981: Bill Haley, Natalie Wood, Richard Boone, Joe Louis, Bobby Sands, Bob Marley, George Jessel, Harry Chapin, Adam Walsh, Paddy Chayefsky, Lowell Thomas, Anwar Sadat, Moshe Dayan, Edith Head, William Holden, Jack Albertson, Hoagy Carmichael

USA Owns the Winter Olympics Podium

Going into these current Winter Olympics games the host Canadians had built their national program up with the motto “Own the Podium!” for years. But as the games wind down it hasn’t been the hosts but their southern American neighbors who have actually dominated the medals podium.

The current medal counts with just a couple of days of competition remaining show the United States with 8 gold, 12 silvers and 12 bronze for a total of 32 overall medals, six more than the 2nd place Germans. Noway is in 3rd place with 19, the Canadians are at 17, and the traditional power from Russia sits with just 13 medals.

It hasn’t always been this dominant for the American team at the Winter Olympics. The cold weather games highlighted by competitions in alpine skiing, ice skating, hockey, bobsledding and other competitions across ice and snow have taken place since Chamonix in 1924.

The overall Winter Olympics medal leader of all-time with 603 is Norway. The rugged western Scandanavian nation with great mountainous regions is one of the farthest north in all of Europe. It’s hardy and talented athletes are the only in the world to have earned more than 100 gold medals, standing at 106 as of today.

The USA team has accumulated the 2nd most medals in Winter Olympics history with a current total of 491, and their 87 gold medals are also 2nd all-time. But recent years had not been kind to the U.S. winter contingent.

At Nagano, Japan in 1998 the U.S. finished 6th with just 13 overall medals, the same total and the same finish as they had four years earlier at Lillihammer, Noway. In 1992 at Albertville, France the total had been just 11 for a 6th place finish. The last time that the Winter Olympics were held in Canada, at Calgary in 1988, the U.S. team won just 6 medals, tied for 8th place overall. They had won 8 medals at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in 1984, tied for 5th.

In the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York in 1980, the Americans won a total of 12 medals, finishing 3rd overall. This was the best the team had done in two decades until they came home once again at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. This was the true coming out party for the team. That year the team finished 2nd with 34 total medals, just one behind the Germans.

Four years ago, at Torino, Italy in 2006, the total slipped to 25, but that was still good enough for 2nd to the Germans 29 total. In these current Vancouver games the Americans have finally overcome the German squad, leading them by a 32-26 count with just a couple of days remaining.

The stars for the American men have included the new team all-time leading medalist, speedskater Apollo Anton Ono, as well as his gold medal-winning teammate Shani Davis, skiers Bode Miller, Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong, figure skating champ Evan Lysacek, Gen X ski-boarders Shaun White and Seth Wescott, and the hockey team led by goaltender Ryan Miller.

The talented women’s team includes downhill skiers Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, Gen X skiers and snowboarders Shannon Bahrke, Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter, bobsleigh bronzers Erin Pac and Elana Meyers, and the women’s hockey team which finished with the silver medal. Meryl Davis teamed with Charlie White to take the ice dancing silver.

There remain about a dozen and a half medals still up for grabs over the final three days of these games, and the American team has a chance to continue to add to it’s leading totals, particularly in short-track speedskating and downhill skiing. In addition, the USA men’s hockey team puts it’s unbeaten record on the line in the semi-finals vs. Finland this afternoon. A win could set up a sensational gold medal rematch with Canada on Sunday.

All in all it has been a spectacularly successful Winter Olympics in Vancouver for the United States Olympic Committee and Team USA. The host Canadians have been frustrated by not only the medal count, but the embarrassment and tragedy of some poor snow and fog conditions, torch malfunctions, equipment failures, and a death due to an unsafe luge track. Instead it has been the Americans who for the first time have truly owned the podium.

City’s Main Problem: Liberals

In the Sunday, February 21st, 2010 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer an article was published at the very top of page two titled “City’s main problem: poverty” written by Karen Heller.

In the article, Heller proceeds to lay every ill that befalls the city of Philadelphia – and that’s plenty of ills – at the very feat of this fearsome monster known as poverty.

The city budget shows 62% of resources go towards fighting crime and social needs? Poverty is the culprit. Michelle Obama visits Philly to campaign against obesity because too many parents shove McDonald’s down their kids throats? Poverty. Teachers are overworked? Poverty. School violence is tolerated? Poverty. Health rate is poor, and kids don’t take education seriously? Poverty.

The problem, not with the city but with Heller’s article, is that she simply cries “poverty” at every opportunity. She makes the typical liberal mistake of failing to see the forest for the trees. The problem is not some general epidemic of poverty. Philadelphia’s problem is an epidemic of liberalism.

That’s right, little kids go without food because of the political philosophy and ideology of liberalism. Little kids get fat in some cases because of the exact same ideology. Kids don’t stay in school, don’t want to stay in school let alone advance further, because of it. Violence is greatly increased because of it, and health problems are magnified because of it.
But where Heller stops, I am going to plow on. She says that poverty is the problem and then makes only a couple of small general comments as to how to deal with the situation. The answer to her view of poverty as the problem is “the city must reduce the poverty rate in order to succeed.”

Fine enough principle on it’s own, one that I won’t argue with. Among the many symptoms of entrenched liberalism is more widespread poverty than needs to exist.

So how to reduce that poverty rate? Her answers are to “attract new residents to revitalize neighborhoods” and “moving families..to self-sufficiency and security.” She also states correctly that Philly needs to address it’s dismal educational system.

What the obviously liberal Heller has written here is what is known as a ‘fluff’ piece. It is full of statements and commentary that will have her co-workers at the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the single most liberal newspapers in a country full of them, patting her on the back. It will have her friends and family saying things like “right on, Kar, you got that right. Good job!” It will make her feel better.

But it will have done nothing at all to address the problem. That is because the real problem has not even been identified in her piece. The city’s main problem: liberals.

For decades now, liberal Democrats have been increasingly in charge of the city of Philadelphia. The Democratic Party has controlled City Council and the Mayor’s office since the start of the 1950’s.

The Democrats have been the decision makers. Liberals have been the unchallenged and all-powerful ideologues whose programs, ideas, and policies have taken the city in the direction that it has gone – straight down.

Here are just a few of the things that Philadelphia does not need to be doing.

It does not need to spend a dime on a homeless shelter. It does not need to spend a dime on feeding a hungry person. It does not need to indoctrinate students in the classroom in it’s liberal ideology. It does not need to allow students who refuse to behave to continue in school. It does not need to provide free health care to anyone.

Wow, what an uncaring, unfeeling, insensitive, inhuman I must be in order to believe all of those things, right? Wrong, Mr. and Ms. Liberalism.

My belief is not that man must stand by and watch the suffering of the inevitable folks who will fall between the cracks of opportunity do to reasons beyond their control, such as a physical or mental handicap or some sudden disaster. My belief is that it is not the City of Philadelphia’s responsibility to address those issues.

When given the opportunity, mankind will respond charitably to his fellow man. The story has been told of a locality in Texas back in 1887 where a couple of consecutive seasons of drought had left the farmers in bad shape and facing poverty. The local government put out the call to Washington for some emergency subsidies for the farmers.

The plight of the poor farmers was passed by a misty-eyed congress before being vetoed by President Grover Cleveland. In one of the single greatest acts by any President, Cleveland defended his veto in the exact same manner that must be embraced by Philadelphians today.

Let me quote exactly a couple of key paragraphs of his veto speech:

“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.”

“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

So President Grover Cleveland literally said what the liberal Democrats of Philadelphia and all over the country have no ability to say. He said what every parent learns is one of the single most valuable words that they must early on begin to say to their children. He said the very thing that many of us need to begin to say to ourselves. He simply said “No“.

But he didn’t just say that “no” to win some political battle, he said that “no” because frankly it was the right thing to say.

What was the result of his decision? Dead farmers? Far from it. As he rightly predicted, the call went out around the nation for private donations to help the farmers. This call resulted in the appropriation of ten times the money that had been requested from congress. And not a dime of forced expense on the general American public, not a single tax levied.

Karen Heller is wrong. She has pointed at a symptom rather than the real problem. The problem is not poverty, it is liberalism.

Philadelphia needs to have the strength to begin finally to say “no” to the Democratic Party as it is now constituted. It needs to begin to say “no” to the nanny state that has led to our inevitable and continued decline.

If we don’t have the strength to say “no”, if leaders do not emerge who will stand up and then be supported in saying that “no”, then Philadelphia will never, ever recover it’s former greatness.

So specific answers start with stopping funding social welfare programs cold. If we are to spend any money on a social program, I would make it on an on-going publicity campaign with billboards, TV and radio ads, all positively encouraging people to make good choices in their lives. Stay in school, turn away from drugs and drink, go to church, become or remain sexually responsible, keep families intact.

I would do whatever is necessary to turn our schools around. That would first happen with security. Difficult decisions need to be made to eliminate the unrepentant criminals who commit assaults, robberies, and drug dealing on our school grounds, no matter their age.

Expulsion for the absolute worst cases. Transfers to disciplinary schools for those who may simply need a period of behavior modification before possibly returning to the general student population.

The second thing that needs to happen is that the curriculum needs to be addressed. Philadelphia school children need to be taught the fundamentals of education as the primary goal of our school.

Math, science, reading, writing, and wait for it – civics. They need to learn and understand America’s historical importance as a nation, the good and the bad, with an emphasis on the incredible good that our nation has done since it’s founding.

Next I would empower teachers to take charge of their classrooms again, having their backs when they need it in controlling the room and maintaining that control. I would also ensure that those teachers are allowed and encouraged to emphasize their role as educators, not social workers and not substitute parents.

At the same time, I would not tolerate the small number of teachers who simply will not or do not enthusiastically do their jobs. Out on their cans, union or no. Take us to court if you must. And if some court returns them to their jobs, we’ll bury them in an office outside the classroom.

Where violence and other crime occurs on the streets, deal with it. Support our law enforcement officers and officials in any way possible. Zero tolerance.

Let’s face it, some sections of the city are simply out of control, and you cannot begin to rebuild them and, as Heller says “attract new residents” without first gaining control and then maintaining it over time.

Arrest criminals, and put them in jail. If they get out and commit further crimes, put them back in for even longer. And keep them in for the length of their sentences.

If we are unwilling to fight this fight on a daily basis, to win this war over time, and spend what it takes to at least keep up with it year after year, then we will lose.

Any alleged ‘war on crime’ or ‘war on drugs’ will never end. But we need to fight it every hour of every day. Just as with the teachers, if some cops don’t know professional limits and abuse their power, out on their cans. The good ones will be happy to see them go.

Finally, emphasize parental and familial responsibility in public. From the stump speeches of politicians to the teaching in our classrooms to our public service announcements and community outreach, strengthening and maintaining our families and the responsibility level of parents has got to become paramount.

You can never force someone to become a good parent. But you can tap them on the shoulder and let them know that it is just as easy to hand their kid a celery stick as it is a cupcake. It is just as far a walk to the supermarket for some soup, vegetables, fruit as it is to McDonald’s for some fries and a Big Mac. Obesity is not the result of poverty in most cases, it is the result of bad decisions.

Those same bad decisions are the reasons for the vast majority of other childhood problems, many of which in a large portion of Philadelphia’s communities lies directly at the feet of non-existent or irresponsible fathers. Many men need to begin to take their familial responsibilities much more seriously.

At the same time, many women need to respect themselves more and develop more of a sense of self-worth. Most of this comes from your own strong family situation. If you don’t have a strong family to learn from personally, you need to find good examples in your community and work from those.

The city needs to find a way to encourage its residents to return to church. Return to the basic values and teachings that God gave all of mankind in the Bible. The long-held liberal notion of a “separation of church and state” is quite simply a crock.

America has shown that it has been our embracing of Judeo-Christian values that has separated us from other nations and governments in history. We need to return to that root strength, not run from it. We need to embrace and advertise that resource, not hold it at arms length.

Liberals will see my ideas resulting in armies of homeless people, drug addicts, and student truants roaming the streets. They will see exploding crime rates adding to the problems of Philadelphia.

This has been the liberal cry for decades. Yet their own answers have proven both soft and ineffective, as anyone with a spine could have predicted. It is time we began to walk a hard, straight line here in Philadelphia.

While we slice social programs and increase law enforcement and quality of life measures, we also need to decrease the Philadelphia tax burden. We need to drastically overhaul Philadelphia’s tax policies with the stated goal of making the City of Philadelphia the single most attractive place in the entire nation for a business to locate itself. We then need to aggressively market that new-found status and begin to bring business, and thus jobs, back into Philadelphia.

Lower taxes and increasing the quality of life here in the city. These are the things that will accomplish what Heller calls for in her piece. They will never, ever be accomplished by appropriating more money from Philadelphia’s already overburdened tax payers, or from the already overburdened Commonwealth, or from the already over-socialized federal government.

The ideas that I have put forward today go far beyond the simplistic approach made by Heller and the Inquirer. There is zero chance that my ideas would ever be supported by Philadelphia’s talking head politicians or it’s liberal media. The only way that such a change would be possible would be for some distinctly charismatic and articulate individual to step forward and lead Philadelphia in this direction.

I guess in short what Philadelphia really needs is an effective alternative to the liberal Democratic Party that has ruled the crumbling roost for this last half century. It needs an effective, strong, alternative, conservative Republican Party to emerge and become a realistic challenger.

That has to start from the grass roots, but it also needs an effective leadership with an uncompromising vision that is a true alternative to the city’s main problem: liberals.

Smerconish begins to show his true stripes

Embed from Getty Images

Smerconish interviewing President Barack Obama


An article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, as politically liberal a rag as exists anywhere in America today, titled “Sorry, but for me, the party is over“, written by local quasi-celebrity Michael Smerconish was published in that paper’s Sunday, February 21st edition ‘Currents’ section.

In this article, Smerconish reveals what every true local Philadelphia Republican has known for more than a year.

The man who has billed himself as THE local Republican voice, who glommed onto the popularity of programs such as Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor“, and who attached themselves at the hip to commentators such as Sean Hannity, is in fact not a Republican after all.

The article, which carried a secondary headline where it continued on page C3 titled “Parting ways with the party, after 30 years”, reveals that Smerconish recently had an epiphany of sorts. And he had it while standing in line at, of all places, the DMV.

The Inquirer, of course, then bent over backwards to advertise this alleged political change away from conservatism. But is it really a change at all?

Smerconish goes to get his license renewed and the clerk asks him at one point as to whether he would also like to change his voter registration party affiliation.

Why this is an appropriate question for some clerk at the DMV to be asking in the first place is never revealed, nor ever fully explored by the allegedly dogged journalist.

Smerconish then goes on to reveal that this was his “hallelujah” moment. One can imagine a mystical light shining down on him from above and revealing that he is actually not a Republican, nor is he a Democrat, but instead he is that most cherished of ideals. He is an “Independent” thinker, beholden to no party values! Hallelujah!

He has the clerk switch his voter registration status from ‘Republican’ to ‘Independent’, leaving behind his party of the past three decades. Smerconish writes that in doing so he is better reflecting his personal values. He claims that actually, he is “not sure if I left the Republican Party or the party left me. All I know is that I no longer feel comfortable.”

Now let me state before I go on that I myself have switched my formally registered political affiliation a few times over the years. As I have explained in full detail before here at this blog, during my 20’s in the 1980’s I was a fully-indoctrinated liberal Democrat.

It was at some point during the first Clinton administration where I had my own ‘hallelujah’ moment, realizing that my values and positions had evolved to conservative ones. I made the switch to Republican and have not looked back.

During the time that I was a registered Democrat, however, I switched my party affiliation from Dem to Republican a couple of times. Each time I did so at the request of, and specifically for, my father.

My Dad was involved in the political process and publicly supporting Republican candidates such as John Egan for Mayor of Philadelphia. I would always switch back to Dem following the election cycle, and remained so until making the permanent switch during the mid-90’s.

However, unlike the spineless Smerconish, I did not ever try to paint myself with the brush of mediocrity that is the act of being a registered Independent. Smerconish tries to make himself out to be some sort of victim to the system. “Where political parties used to create coalitions and win elections, now they seek to advance strict ideological agendas.”

Malarkey! Political parties have existed in America since the earliest decades of our founding, particularly in the years following George Washinton’s first Presidency.

From those early parties like the Whigs through to Teddy Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” Party to today’s liberal-dominated Democrats, political parties have displayed polarizing differences in their platforms and in their personalities.

Smerconish tries to defend his decision by pointing to a handful of examples of party inclusion of disparate ideas and visions. In every party there will always be individuals who are slightly moderated from the main party platform and ideals. But you rarely, if ever, can find a full-on conservative Democrat or a full-on liberal Republican, especially among the politicians.

That may prove Smerconish’s point, that the parties are indeed ideological, but the fact of the matter is that situation has been in existence since those early years of our Founding Fathers. It didn’t suddenly happen in the last election cycle. It didn’t slowly develop in recent decades. Political party ideology has been around forever.

The fact is that Smerconish began broadcasting full-time in the early years of the George W. Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He took up the Republican mantle fully, supporting most Bush policies and positions vocally and publicly, including the use of torture on terrorist suspects.

Over the next half-dozen years, Smerconish became a quasi-celebrity, his public conservative positions landing him gigs as a guest host for O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and his largely conservative writings leading to New York Times best-sellers. Smerconish made a lot of money and gained a measure of celebrity in these years thanks to what were perceived to be his intact, well thought-out, mature political and social positions.

But what also was going on is that Smerconish was doing all of this while working at a local Philadelphia radio station. He was not a nationally syndicated host with a vast network of listeners supporting him, he was broadcasting in one of the most liberal cities in America. His stated positions made him a number of political enemies, and shut him out of a number of local sources.

Realizing over time that he was not going to break out nationally as had people like Beck and Hannity, Smerconish saw himself stuck in Philly and treading water. Then suddenly it happened, the savior, Barack Obama, came along with his glib tongue and his two faces.

Smerconish began earlier than most to sense the momentum of the Obama campaign, and the alleged Republican talk radio host did the unthinkable in endorsing Obama for President.

It was in this moment that those of us who had suspected for years that Smerconish was simply a charlatan opportunist, using 9/11 and the Republican Party popularity of the early part of the last decade to his advantage, got our proof of that as fact.

There is no way that anyone who took any time to evaluate a politician’s actual record before endorsing them, as a public personality with a radio talk show in a major market should, could ever find anything other than the facts. Those facts were that simply from his voting record and previous public associations, Barack Obama was one of the most, if not the single most, liberal members of the United States Senate.

Michael Smerconish threw in with Obama because he saw the momentum switch, believed strongly that Obama was going to win, saw that Obama was articulate and intelligent, and further believed that the sun was setting on the ideology of conservatism. Smerconish basically glommed on to the next big thing to maintain his local audience relevancy.

In the beginning it was actually a good thing to say that he was a Republican who was supporting Obama. In that way, Smerconish could actually try to portray himself as not being ideological himself, despite what was out there in the public purvey for the past half dozen or so years.

But as time has gone on, Smerconish has become more and more enamored with the Obama celebrity himself, tossing aside the substance of the issues for increased access to the administration.

Thanks to his position as ‘the Republican talking head who supports Obama’, Smerconish was actually given the first live radio broadcast, interview, and listener question-answer session from inside the White House with the new President in August of 2009.

A man whom I happen to admire, Glenn Beck, has been an outspoken registered Independent for some time now. But with Beck there is a major difference. He legitimately sees and eloquently expresses his own ideology of American exceptionalism, pointing out with detailed precision how leaders of both parties have been led astray by political and social ‘progressivism’ and calling for a return to the Constitutional direction of the Founders.

Whatever their motivations, I still believe that whether it be in Beck’s principled stand against progressives or in Smerconish’s unwillingness to publicly embrace either his change to liberalism or that he has no political backbone, registering as and championing oneself as a registered ‘independent’ is a bit disingenuous.

There is no doubt that Beck’s conservative lean would, for example, find him in the voting booth ever pulling the lever next to the name of any current Democrat, while there are any number of Republicans who share his basic ideals.

In contrasts to Beck’s independence status, Smerconish is simply a fraud. He is an opportunist who now sees his best opportunity at continued celebrity by casting in with Obama and his liberal followers. Smerconish is waiting for this type of characterization. He is waiting for it and expecting it so that he can use it as well. He is waiting for conservatives to let loose on him for his alleged betrayal.

No, this indictment of Michael Smerconish and his allegedly changed political positions and resulting party registration change do not stem from feelings of betrayal. They come from a long-held belief that the man is all about himself, not any true, bedrock values or political positions. He has no political backbone whatsoever, and has only proven his irrelevancy with this registration switch. That is one man’s opinion based on what I have seen and heard.

It is also my opinion that this move to alleged ‘independence’ is only itself a temporary move. Right now, Smerconish senses the unsure direction of the future political winds as Obama’s plans prove to be the socialist failures that many of us predicted.

I predict here that Michael Smerconish’s political independence itself will not last, and that it is only a matter of time, and more security in the direction of those future political winds, before the big ‘R’ is back, or before the big ‘D’ takes a permanent place on his voter registration.

For local Philadelphia morning drive-time radio listeners, you do indeed have a choice. The intelligent, articulate, personable Bill Bennett can be heard by sliding your radio dial over to 990AM weekdays from 6am-9am. There, Bennett’s ‘Morning in America’ program is a part of the “intelligent, conservative talk” that local station WNTP offers each weekday.

The one thing that Bill Bennett will never be accused of by anyone is being spineless, and you won’t ever see him change his political affiliation for career or financial expediency.

Rock & Roll Heaven: Ty Longley

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Members of Great White perform tribute to Ty Longley


Seven years ago tonight one of the greatest tragedies in music history happened. At about 11:05pm on what was a Thursday night, the band ‘Great White’ took the stage at a Rhode Island club known as ‘The Station’ and began to play the opening strains of their song “Desert Moon”.

For 99 of the bands fans, and one of it’s own members, what appeared to be the beginning of a night of great music would instead turn out to be the final moments of their lives.

As Ty Longley blasted into the opening chords of “Desert Moon” with his bandmates, the 31-year old was enjoying all that the rock and roll life had to offer. He was young, playing the music that he loved in front of enthusiastic fans for a living, and had a beautiful girlfriend who was expecting the couple’s first child.

The Sharon, PA native Longley had joined Great White just three years earlier, well after the band had enjoyed their greatest success during the big-hair ‘glam rock’ days of the late 1980’s.

Back then the song “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” was heard across radios everywhere and the accompanying music video was an MTV staple. By that fateful night in 2003, the band was struggling for survival.

Great White had formally broken up during the period of 2000-2001, but original members Jack Russell and Mark Kendall decided to put on a tour together. Doing classic Great White songs and some of Russell’s solo work, the band actually billed itself as “Jack Russell’s Great White”. Some of the original band’s fans simply referred to them as ‘Fake White’, and it was this group that Longley joined as a guitarist and keyboard player.

Along with Russell, Kendall, and Longley the band on the night of February 20th, 2003 consisted of bassist Dave Filice and drummer Eric Powers. The group exploded into “Desert Moon” to the roar of their fans at the small club, both literally and musically.

As the band began to play, tour manager Daniel Bichele set off some pyrotechnics for dramatic effect. The display was intended to look like a shower of sparks flying off in every direction, principally around the rear of the band by the drummer area. As the sparks flew off, they struck soundproofing foam that was on both sides of the drummer’s alcove, and a small fire began which many thought was part of the act.

The fire quickly got out of control, spreading to the ceiling and sending smoke billowing through the club. The band continued to play for a minute, not knowing what was going on, when they suddenly realized something was wrong. As they stopped playing, Russell commented “Wow, this ain’t good” and fire alarms began to blare in the club.

Realizing now that there was an emergency situation, the band and their crew starting fleeing towards an exit off to the side of the stage as the crowd began to stampede towards the main entrance.

Crushing one another in the small entry way, many from the audience were trapped. Of the 462 fans in attendance, 99 died and another 130 suffered varying degrees of injuries.

Ty Longley and the band had apparently escaped out the side exit to safety, and to this day a couple of the band members have no idea how he died.

However, witnesses say that Longley was out safely, but then went back into the club to retrieve his guitar. That would prove to be a bad move, because the fire spread so rapidly and the smoke grew thick and overwhelming quickly. Any action other than immediately exiting and staying out was a fatal act.

Just four days earlier, 21 people had died in a similar nightclub stampede at a club known as ‘E2’ in Chicago. As an ironic result, on the night of February 20th, local station WPRI-TV of Providence was at The Station to do a report on nightclub safety.

Their cameraman and reporter captured most of the tragic incident live as it happened and released footage to national news media in the immediate aftermath. The cameraman, Brian Butler, later said: “I never expected it take off as fast as it did. It was so fast. It had to be two minutes tops before the whole place was black smoke.”

There were some claims that Butler and reporter Jeffrey Derderian were obstructing the escape routes for some by trying to record the incident. WPRI was among the numerous targets of law suits and criminal complaints in the aftermath.

Bichele and the club managers all eventually received prison sentences, and all have subsequently been released. The club itself is now an empty lot where surviving family members and friends still leave crosses and other memorial markers and items.

While the fire at The Station was not the worst of it’s kind in U.S. history, it was one of the worst, and it was the worst in recent history.

The tragic lesson for fans who attend concerts, especially at small arenas, is to make sure that you know where the emergency exits are located. There were apparently at least three under-utilized emergency exits at The Station that night as fans streamed for the main entrance at which they had entered.

As for the band, it took awhile but the original Great White got back together and is performing now. In the immediate aftermath, some of the bands shows were shut down by protesters. The band took to observing 100 seconds of silence for awhile, but has moved on from that practice, as well as the refusal for a few years to play “Desert Moon” on stage.

Acey Ty Christopher Longley was born to Ty’s girlfriend Heidi Peralta on August 12th, 2003. Family, friends, and band management set up various funds in his name over the years, with a trust known as the ‘Baby Longley Fund’ having raised money from benefit concerts and a Ty Longley t-shirt.

Ty Longley himself and the 99 fans of both the band Great White and music in general have been lost forever to Rock and Roll Heaven.

NOTE: this is a continuation of the “Rock and Roll Heaven” series, all entries of which can be enjoyed by clicking on the Tag below this article