Why I joined the NRA, and why you should too

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The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871

The gun debate has once again heated up in America in the aftermath of the recent Parkland, Florida school shooting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From 1998-2003, famed American actor Charlton Heston served as president of the NRA. At the organization’s 2000 convention, Heston picked up a replica of a flintlock long rifle and stated:

“So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!’


Heston repeated the phrase at the end of each NRA convention over which he presided. When he announced his retirement in 2003, he concluded by repeating “From my cold, dead hands.

The NRA sponsors programs on firearms safety, including hunting safety. It trains firearms instructors and issues credentials for same. It hosts and sponsors a number of shooting competitions. The organization publishes at least a half-dozen regular periodicals as well.

Their own “brief history” of the organization at the official NRA website reveals both the size of its membership and its primary modern activities:

“While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the NRA has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world. But our successes would not be possible without the tireless efforts and countless hours of service our nearly five million members have given to champion Second Amendment rights and support NRA programs.”

I first fired a gun as a small boy of about 10-11 years old when my father gave my younger brother and I a brief lesson in the woods of the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania. Dad was a Philadelphia Police supervisor at the time, and showed us how to safely use his service revolver.

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

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

Over the years, I considered joining the NRA, but it was never enough of a priority that I actually took the time or effort to follow through. That finally changed due to the events of this past week.

I finally logged on and joined the NRA, which you can do at that just passed link, due to principle. Seeing the organization and its spokespersons come under a ferocious attack by political liberals was the last straw.

In the most public attack, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch appeared at a “town hall” sponsored by liberal cable news outlet CNN in the aftermath of the Florida murders. 

Madeline Osburn for The Federalist reported that as Loesch and her security detail walked toward the stage, audience members shouted at her phrases like, “murderer,” “child killer,” and “burn her.” For the record, Loesch has never killed anyone.

Per Matt Vespa with Townhall, in a subsequent interview Loesch stated that she and the organization were accused of being child murders for supporting Second Amendment rights.

In recent days, a number of companies withdrew support or cut relationships with the NRA in various ways. For instance, car rental companies Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz each eliminated discounts for NRA members.

Meanwhile, as I pointed out earlier, the killer in Florida was not an NRA member. But these American businesses withdrew their discounts and other support due simply to pressure from liberal organizations and individuals. 

The effect of the moves was to hurt individual NRA members more than the actual organization. Again, those individual NRA members had nothing to do with Parkland or any other school shooting.

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution was part of the original ‘Bill of Rights’, the first ten “amendments” or updates, changes, and additions to the original Constitution.

Passed by the U.S. Congress on September 25, 1789, that 2nd Amendment reads as follows: 

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Nelson Lund and Adam Winkler at the Constitution Center website explain that “the Amendment was easily accepted because of widespread agreement that the federal government should not have the power to infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms, any more than it should have the power to abridge the freedom of speech or prohibit the free exercise of religion.” 

In my own first response to the Parkland shooting, published one week ago today, I called on Americans who care about any particular facet of the gun debate to engage in what I believe to be necessary conversation.

“We need to talk. We must be able to find a way to make the Parkland’s, the Columbine’s, and the Sandy Hook’s more difficult, and even more rare than they are already. About that, there should be no debate.  Let’s talk. Not shout one another down. Let’s open our ears, minds, and hearts. Let’s not be afraid to start the conversation. As with most things, we may not end up with everything we want. But together for once, let’s come up with some answers.”

However, talking is not enough. We also must be willing to back up our beliefs and a verbal or written intellectual expression with action. That was why I chose to finally join the NRA this week.

Wayne LaPierre has been the NRA’s executive vice-president and chief executive officer since 1991. In his speech at CPAC 2018 this past week, LaPierre labeled the attacks on his organization correctly when he called them political attacks.

“They hate the NRA. They hate the 2nd Amendment. They hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government, they’ve also revealed their true selves. The elites don’t care – not one wit – about the American school system and school children. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them. For them, it’s not a safety issue, it’s a political issue. They care more about control, and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the 2nd Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

Our Founding Fathers had it right, as they usually did. Healthy, responsible Americans need to be allowed to own firearms, whether for hunting, or personal protection, or to one day defend their communities, should that become necessary.

David French at the National Review wrote a piece on why it’s “Not cowardly to be conservative on gun rights” in the aftermath of Parkland. In his piece, French made the following statement regarding the usual liberal progressive attacks:

Angry voices take an extraordinarily complex social, cultural, and political phenomenon, boil it down to preferred progressive policy provisions, and then declare everyone who opposes their ideas a craven weakling in thrall to the NRA.”

The NRA not only fights on behalf of that 2nd Amendment Right, but also supports training and safety. It is a wholly responsible organization made up of strong, principled, Constitution-loving and respecting American citizens.

I would urge all American gun owners and those who otherwise support the 2nd Amendment and overall American freedom to follow my lead. Join the National Rifle Association today.

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

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The AR-15 used by the Parkland school shooter is widely available

This past Wednesday was marked by the convergence of a number of happenings on the same day. Lovers and wannabe’s were celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Western Christianity was marking the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. And at camps in Florida and Arizona, many Major League Baseball teams were opening their spring training.

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

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

Per a piece by Bart Jansen at USA Today, Cruz legally purchased the weapon himself in 2017.

“Cruz lawfully bought the semiautomatic rifle last February, according to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The gun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223, was purchased at Sunrise Tactical Supply, according to the Associated Press. Federal law allows people 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of assault weapon. With no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database.”

In the immediate aftermath, a number of students and others came forward making statements that they were not surprised if such a thing were to happen, that Cruz would be the attacker.

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

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

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

That is actually not very unusual, as Erica Goode, a visiting professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, wrote in a piece for The New York Times.

“Tony Beliz, a consultant to schools and corporations on violence prevention who for many years ran the mental health side of the Los Angeles program, which was started by the Los Angeles Police Department, has noted that parents often have no idea what their children are up to. In more than a few cases, a team visiting a home has found weapons or other indications of deadly intention.”

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

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

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

The FBI had also received a tip on Cruz as far back as last September that the disturbed man had made a threat via YouTube. This per a piece at Townhall by Matt Vespa:

“They knew, folks. The FBI knew and didn’t follow proper protocols on a tip about Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in the recent high school shooting in Florida. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau was still investigating this matter, along with reviewing the processes in which such information from citizens offering tips are analyzed.”

Within hours of the shooting, the usual political battle lines were being drawn. Gun control advocates lined up on one side. Those supporting the 2nd Amendment lined up on the other.

Fingers were pointed in many directions. Of course, liberals pointed at President Trump and the Republican controlled U.S. Congress, demanding that “something needs to be done!” 

Of course, these liberals had no such questions for former President Barack Obama, who had a Democratic Party controlled congress for two full years and never even looked at the issue.

We really need to do a better job at making sure we have strong gun laws in every state in the country, because we are losing our most valuable resource, which is our children, said Jeremy I. Stein, the executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, a nonprofit advocacy group per Lisa W. Foderaro and Kristin Hussey for The New York Times.

I’m a conservative Republican, and unashamedly so. My fallback position is usually to rally around any Republican politician or position that comes under attack. There are many reasons for this, all of which any supporter of any candidate or political party can understand.

However, on this one, I am lost. I worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades. I saw firsthand the devastation that violence on the streets, gun and otherwise, has on our communities.

I am also a gun owner. But I am one who has never been a major public advocate for any particular interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I believe that individual gun ownership is important. I believe that our Founding Fathers created the amendment for vital reasons.

But, and this is a big “but”, I don’t necessarily believe that every American has the right to keep and bear any weapon that they wish in their homes. I shouldn’t be allowed to have a working cannon in my backyard. Certainly most would agree that individual citizens shouldn’t have a working nuclear ICBM in their backyard.

So where are the limits on what you should own as an individual? Should there be any limits whatsoever? The common sense answer is obvious. 

So now comes the difficult part: what are those limits? Despite the wishes of some on the very far Left, individual citizen gun ownership is here to stay in America. Gnash your teeth all you want, that will never change. Not without a major battle. And I’m not talking just a political or philosophical battle either.

If we are to allow certain high-powered weapons to be owned by individuals, what exactly are the limitations? What, if any, investigations of and controls should there be on individuals who wish to purchase and own these weapons? How should the weapons be handled once an approved owner passes away?

There are many legitimate questions raised by what happened in Parkland this past week. Of course, those questions were also raised many times previously. Most Americans are familiar with what took place at Columbine, Nickel Mines, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, among others.

Fact is, we need to have a national discussion. We need to have it without pointing fingers at politicians and parties. We need to have it regarding every issue surrounding guns: mental health, crime, personal, home, and business security, etc.

I have heard gun owners say things along the lines of “I laid my gun down on the ground and told it took go kill somebody. It just laid there.” These things are said to support the position that guns don’t kill people, that people kill people.

This is very true. People have been killing people since the dawn of mankind. Rocks. Sticks. Fire. Knives. Swords. Bombs. Guns. Nukes. Not only that, but men will continue to kill men. If you take away every lawfully owned gun in America, that will remain the case.

It is also true that a great many murders by firearm are committed by people who did not lawfully purchase the weapon that they used. Criminals will indeed continue to find a way to purchase ‘black market’ firearms if we took them all away.

No, the answer is absolutely not to end lawful gun ownership in America. But there does need to be a better answer for the survivors of Parkland.

What can be done to make it much more difficult to have a repeat anywhere in the country of what happened at their school this past week?

I’ve seen others write pieces that include checklists of things that could allegedly solve the problem. I don’t provide such lists or answers here because frankly, I don’t know the answers. I do believe there are many components, and that the guns themselves are but one.

Despite what some on the far Left have stated, despite what a few emotional Parkland students blurted out this week, prayer is indeed an important component of what needs to be done. We do need to pray for the souls lost, for the ultimate recovery of the survivors, and for our nation as we wrestle with these issues.

We need to talk about the violence that we expose our children to at younger and younger ages in the “entertainment” media. We need to talk about the stability of the American family. We need to talk about mental health care. There are many other issues involved in seriously addressing this problem.

We desperately need to have the conversations. Our politicians need to have them, both among one another and with their constituents. Individuals need to have the conversations with one another, among families and friends.

Most importantly, we need to find a way to have these conversations civilly and realistically. If we cannot find a way to do that, then all that will happen in the end will be the usual nothing. If we continue to make this a partisan political issue on both sides, then nothing will change.

No matter what, there will be more school shootings in America as we move forward. There will be more shootings, period. There will be beatings, and stabbings, and explosions. That will be the case no matter what we do. 

But the idea of the necessary national conversation was expressed eloquently by Jody L. Modeira as published at The Hill:

“Our growing reluctance to talk about firearms and firearm violence doesn’t respect the Second Amendment; it turns it into a club used to bully others into silence and submission. This is the opposite of what the Second Amendment is intended to be — the constitutional provision that, as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia put it in District of Columbia v. Heller, has “protected the rights of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”

We need to talk. We must be able to find a way to make the Parkland’s, the Columbine’s, and the Sandy Hook’s more difficult, and even more rare than they are already. About that, there should be no debate. 

Let’s talk. Not shout one another down. Let’s open our ears, minds, and hearts. Let’s not be afraid to start the conversation. As with most things, we may not end up with everything we want. But together for once, let’s come up with some answers.

The 2018 State of the Phillies

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Phillies controlling owner John Middleton (L) plans next steps forward

Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers reported for the official start of spring training on Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, at a position where power is usually preferred, Santana comes up a bit short. He has averaged just 24 home runs and 80 RBI while carrying a batting average under .250 over the course of his seven full big league seasons. Those years were all spent with Cleveland in the American League.

To make room for Santana, the club is planning to push Rhys Hoskins out to left field. Hoskins will be counted on heavily to prove that his 2017 rookie phenom performance was for real.

Odubel Herrera will be in center field, with Nick Williams in right. That would leave Aaron Altherr scrambling for playing time as a fourth outfielder. This doesn’t even include the speedy and talented Roman Quinn, who may be just a healthy stretch away from pushing for serious playing time as well.

Giving Santana time off against tough lefties and moving Hoskins back to first on those days opens up some opportunities for Altherr in left. He will also spell Herrera and Williams when they need a rest, or are injured, or go cold at any point. Altherr could also prove to be a trade chip if they all play well.

Keeping Herrera focused on a more consistent basis over an entire season will be a key for Kapler. The center fielder runs hot and cold, alternating periods of all-star caliber play with long stretches where he appears completely lost.

Back in the infield, the other big change came with the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego to make room for the club’s top prospect, J.P. Crawford, to finally become the starting shortstop. Crawford showed enough in a 23-game audition at the end of last season to earn the full-time gig. He needs to be for real.

Returning at second and third are Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. Hernandez could become a valuable trade chip later in the summer, especially if hot prospect Scott Kingery continues to push hard.

For Franco, this may prove to be a make-or-break season. The 25-year old has had the better part of three seasons to show improvement, and instead showed regression a year ago. He has legitimate 30-homer potential, but has never been consistent enough to push towards his perceived ceiling.

At catcher, the Phillies really need to give Jorge Alfaro the full-time job and see what he can do with it. The 24-year old is clearly more talented than Cameron Rupp, who has been the starter behind the dish for most of the last three seasons. In fact, I would rather see 26-year old Andrew Knapp get most of the backup time at catcher as well. This will be an interesting position battle to watch in Florida.

Aside from Hoskins and Franco, no one in this group appears capable of a 30+ home run season. Hernandez may be the only current player capable of a 20+ stolen base campaign.

It appears to me at this early juncture that improving upon the club’s 2017 finish at 12th of 15 NL teams in runs scored is going to be a difficult challenge. It will take Hoskins and Williams proving legit, Franco breaking out, Herrera staying focused, and Crawford beginning to produce in order for the offense to show appreciable growth.

Even if all goes right in the lineup and with bench roles among the position players, the starting pitching rotation might prove to be the Phillies ultimate challenge. The team brought in no veteran arms of note. Unless something changes, it will be up to a host of young incumbents to improve.

If healthy, Aaron Nola is a given. He is not a true “ace”, but may be the #1 starter in the current mix. Every spot in the rotation behind him could legitimately be up for grabs this spring.

It’s all right-handers who appear to be the front-runners for those roles as spring opens. Jerad Eickhoff (27), Vince Velasquez (25), Nick Pivetta (25), Ben Lively (26), Zach Eflin (24), Mark Leiter (27), and Jake Thompson (24) are the names to watch at this point.

In a piece today by Matt Breen at Philly.com, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak was quoted as follows on this group. He also speaks to the possibility of still bringing in a veteran starting pitcher from among the available free agents:

“We’re open to adding a starter if it makes sense for us, but even if we don’t, we are confident that this starting pitching group is going to take a step forward because they are really talented and they’re healthy. We’re watching them now, and they look great. The starting pitching market being as slow to develop as it has has allowed us to get to Clearwater and watch our guys and evaluate them and see the look in their eye and see the electricity in their pitches and regain that confidence in our young starting pitching.”

Free agents who remain available and who might make the Phillies rotation better include Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb.

Other available arms with familiar names and a starter’s pedigree include Chris Tillman, Jeremy Hellickson, John Lackey, Francisco Liriano, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez, Jason Vargas, R.A. Dickey, Clay Buchholz, and Jesse Chavez. Even (gulp) former Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, now aged 33, remains available.

Each of these pitchers is now on the wrong side of 30 years old, which appears to be the new line of demarcation when deciding whether to extend big money offers for multiple years.

It is doubtful that any of the better arms would end up with the Phillies, unless they remain unsigned deep into spring and become willing to accept a short-term deal. And unless major injuries strike, it is doubtful that the Phillies will reach for any of the lesser veterans.

Where there are major questions in the starting rotation, the same cannot be said of the bullpen. This is one area where management spent money to bring in notable additions this past off-season.

Veteran righties Pat Neshek, who spent the first four months of the 2017 season here, and Tommy Hunter should provide a shot in the arm for an already solid group.

Hector Neris will be back for another shot at the closer role. He has always had the talent. If he can just trust that talent more, stay confident, and avoid a handful of meltdowns, he can become one of the best stoppers in the game.

Returning right-handers Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos and lefties Adam Morgan and Hoby Milner will compete for pen spots with some of the pitchers who don’t make it in the rotation.

Kapler opened camp yesterday with a simple three-word message: “We can win.” He was quoted further by Breen at Philly.com“It’s not like a delusional statement. It’s more like we all take that small step forward. We all get a little bit better. We all develop just enough where we surprise people.”

Ownership is fully committed to doing whatever it takes to win. Controlling partner John Middleton was a guest in the owner’s box of Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie during the NFC Championship and Super Bowl. 

Middleton watched as a team that finished in last place in their division a year ago with a second-year coach won an NFL championship a year later. But as reported by Bob Brooker with Philly.com, he knows that there is a huge difference between the NFL and quick success in MLB:

“I know we have a plan here and it’s a plan that is going to work. But baseball doesn’t allow for a lot of shortcuts. Building a baseball roster is a lot different than building a football roster, because you have long-term contracts and players have to develop. You can take all the best college players in a draft and they still need two or three years in the minor leagues. That’s much different than football, where the college level is like triple-A.”

My bet is that the Phillies “plan” is to give this group of players, prospects, and phenoms one more year to develop together. One more spring and summer to find out exactly what the organization has in place already.

If they remain unsigned by their current teams, some major talents will hit free agency after the coming season. That group could be led by Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado. The Phillies should be major players for at least one of these free agents.

I’m not ready to make a formal prediction for the coming season yet. That will come towards the end of spring training. However, it’s not hard to envision realistic success for the upcoming season as a push towards the .500 mark and the middle of the NL East standings pack.

The Phillies are in a strong financial position. They have ownership that has a legitimate desire to win and the ability to approve the addition of pieces to help make that happen. However, it will take more than just throwing money at free agents. The real key will be improvement from the pitchers and position players who are already here on the roster right now.

As spring training moves along, I’ll have more on the individual Phillies players and positions. I’ll also have pieces on any interesting developments that crop up. The focus of my website may be back on wider world events and topics. But baseball will always have a special place in my heart, and will remain a focus of my writing.

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

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

That return to true history results here in my latest book review. For the first time in nearly four years, it does not involve the topic of baseball.
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House’s ‘Sentinel’ imprint.
This joint effort of Fox News host Brian Kilmeade and author Don Yeager tells the story of “the forgotten war that changed American history.
That war is what many students of U.S. history know as the ‘First Barbary War‘, which, as the book jacket explains, “is the little known story of how a newly independent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America’s third president decided to stand up to intimidation.
America’s first four Presidents played key roles in the events leading up to and during the conflict. But George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are largely secondary figures to the real military and diplomatic heroes and villains who took part in the action.
Following the War for Independence, the newly formed United States of America was saddled with enormous debt and had largely disbanded its military. This was particularly true in the area of naval force.
America was protected from more established world powers of that time primarily by distance and trade agreements. It had little or no influence on the high seas.
In trying to further those trade efforts, American merchant ships would frequently come under attack in the Mediterranean Sea by the Muslim powers of North Africa. These ‘Barbary States’ nations practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers.
American ships would be raided, and their goods stolen by Muslim crews. At times, the ships and their crews would be taken and held hostage for large ransoms.
The fledgling United States had no response other than to pay those ransoms. But this only further added to the national debt. Also, the problem wasn’t being dealt with in any meaningful way. It just kept happening, with no end in sight.
The United States wasn’t the only nation facing these issues. Wealthier countries with an actual naval presence in the region simply paid tribute to the Muslim leaders in order to ensure free passage of their ships.
Adams, a Federalist, and Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, were political adversaries. Those differences extended to their views on dealing with the Barbary powers.
The second President of the United States, Adams thought it possible to continue to buy peace, as was done by other nations. Jefferson, America’s third President, wanted to end that system permanently. He preferred a strong military response.
As Kilmeade and Yeager write:
In response to events on the Barbary Coast, Jefferson, in 1801, had dispatched a small U.S. Navy squadron to the Mediterranean. For the next four years, he responded to circumstances, expanding the fleet to a much larger naval presence. In the end, thanks to the bold leadership of men like Edward Preble, James and Stephen Decatur, and William Eaton, and Presley Neville O’Bannon, military force had helped regain national honor. Even the Federalists, who liked little that Jefferson did, came to accept that the United States needed to play a military role in overseas affairs.
The book is the story of those men: Preble, the Decatur’s, Eaton, and O’Bannon and many more as they battled on land and sea to help a new nation stand up for itself on the world stage.
The United States Marine Corps played a key role in the ultimate victory. This was the war from which came the USMC hymn line “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.
As the authors state, this war against radical Muslim powers was one which we still, in many ways, are fighting today. It is a pivotal story of the immediate post-Revolutionary War, post-U.S. Constitution period. It is a story that all Americans should know.
Kilmeade and Yeager tell that story in just over 200 easy to read pages chock full of historic drama. Their book includes maps, notes, and a complete rundown of the cast of characters involved in that drama. It will make an enjoyable and educational read for any fan of history, especially of American history.

Republican citizen voices more important than ever

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Republicans and Democrats alike frequently criticize the general tone and specific messaging pushed by various major media outlets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A decade or so ago, Malkin gave occasional space at her michellemalkin.com home to an anonymous contributer known only as “See-Dubya” who once described their blogging as follows:

“Actually, blogging is kind of therapeutic. Especially when you’re a red-state person living in a blue, blue state, and your neighbors would burn a peace symbol in your yard at midnight if they knew how you really felt about things. Some people do yoga; I pound the keyboard. The blood pressure goes down either way.”

Your own therapy aside, the continued presence and growth of American bloggers of a Republican persuasion is vitally important thanks to the upcoming midterm elections here in the United States.

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

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

Per Tom Murse writing for Thoughtco.com:

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

This means that in 15 of the 21 midterm elections, the President has seen their Party lose seats in both houses of congress. These are the odds that congressional representatives in the Republican Party of President Donald Trump will be trying to buck this coming November.

The re-election bids of those GOP incumbents will be made all the more difficult thanks to the efforts of the major media outlets. They will continue criticizing the President at every turn, thus shining a negative light on any candidate who might support him or his policies. This in addition to actually slanting their more local coverage towards individual congressional candidates in specific elections.

Republican bloggers need to ensure that we are pushing as conservative a message as possible, and supporting Republican candidates as aggressively as possible this year.

There will be some hard-fought GOP primary campaigns in various U.S. Senate and Congressional races across the country. Whether your favored candidate wins or loses those elections, the fact remains that ANY Republican candidate will be better than any Democratic Party alternative in the fall. After the primaries, it will be time to set aside any internal differences and back the winners.

If you are a Republican blogger, make sure that you stay active this year. I write on a wide variety of topics, not just politics. If you follow me regularly, you will also find many pieces on sports, entertainment, faith, and other issues. As the year moves along, I will have plenty of political commentary.

Imagine the Senate and/or the House of Representatives under the control of the Democratic Party. Can you imagine Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House? Chuck Schumer holding tie-breaking votes as the President of the Senate?

I encourage you to continue your own efforts in blogging, posting on social media, and in any other way that you can help Republicans beat the odds in November’s midterms. It is vital to do your part as our President continues working to make America great again.