All posts by Matt Veasey

Retired following a three decade career with the Philadelphia Police Department. Lifelong Philadelphia resident. Graduate of Saint Joseph's University. Married with three children, two grandchildren. Conservative-leaning Republican politically and socially. Practicing Roman Catholic. Philly 4x4 sports fan. Huge baseball fan.

Book Review: America, the Last Best Hope

 

If your child attends an American public school that teaches them a U.S. history course, take a look some time at their text book.

Assuming you are someone who actually believes that the teaching of this subject matters, you just might be shocked.

For decades now, many American educational systems have been moving away from teaching a genuine history of the United States. Instead, a politically correct and sanitized version is often taught, highlighting episodes within that history that are important to so-called progressives.

In a January 2017 article for the New York Post titled “Why schools have stopped teaching American history“, Karol Markowicz included the following:

A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that an abysmal 18 percent of American high school kids were proficient in US history.

The NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Their goal is to help students, parents, teachers, and principals “inform decisions about how to improve the education system in our country.”

If any educational system in the country truly wants to present American history to high school students, even any college or university, they would do well to use  “America: The Last Best Hope” by Bill Bennett.

Bennett released the title in a first volume back in 2006. That book covered the period from Columbus in 1492 through the lead-up to World War I in 1914.

The 573 pages in the original volume are packed with 525 of actual history. It also includes a five-page introduction from the author and a comprehensive notes and index at the back.

Volume I includes topics such as the settlement of the New World, the revolution of the colonies, the founding and early years of the American republic, westward expansion, the Civil War, post-war reconstruction, and the emergence of American industrialism.

In 2007, Bennett released “Volume 2”, which picked up where the first book left off and covered most of the 20th century, right through the 1989 end of Ronald Reagan’s second presidential term.

With “Volume 2”, the topics included World Wars I and II, with the roaring 20’s, stock market crash, the Great Depression, the rise of worldwide fascism, and FDR’s ‘New Deal’ in between.

It then moves through the post-war era, the rise of American political and economic might during the 1950’s, the social turmoil of the 1960’s, the politically turbulent 1970’s, and finally into the Reagan revival.

In it’s 592 pages there can be found another 533 pages of history, with just a short introduction, but with the same comprehensive notes and index provided with the first volume.

In 2011, Bennett returned to the series, including American history from “the collapse of communism to the rise of radical Islam” in a more brief 352 page continuation.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Bill Bennett turned 76 years of age on July 31, 2019. He is a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts, with a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, and a J.D. from Harvard University.

One of the most respected political theorists and pundits of the last three decades, Bennett was chairman for the National Endowment of the Humanities from 1981-85. He then served in President Reagan’s cabinet as the U.S. Secretary of Education from 1985-88, and held the position of Director of the Office of National Drug Policy under the first President Bush.

The author of more than two dozen books, Bennett is currently a senior advisor to Project Lead the Way, which is considered to be one of the leading providers of training and curriculum to improve STEM education in American schools. He is involved in numerous other educational causes as well.

Due to be released in October of this year is a massive new edition of “America: The Last Best Hope“, which will integrate all three of the original volumes into one book.

All three volumes were not only informative, but each was genuinely enjoyable to read. This new, fully integrated edition would make an outstanding text book for any legitimate class on United States history.

However, this is not to be considered as only that – a text book for intellectual pursuits. Bennett has put together a tremendous history of America from its very beginnings right up through recent years that is readable and enjoyable for everyone.

I highly recommend “America: The Last Best Hope” for anyone who loves our nation, and for anyone who truly wants a well-written, all-encompassing history of the United States.

Buy it in the three original volumes and enjoy one at a time, as I did, or wait for the new concatenated version to be released in October. That version will be available in hard cover, paperback, or for your device, and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon and many other outlets.

And if you are a fan of Bennett who would like something a bit more collector-worthy (not to mention expensive), well, there is a beautiful leather-bound version of the first two volumes available from The Easton Press at that link, autographed by the author.

9/11: All Americans should visit the memorials

Yours truly, posing with two of New York’s finest during our visit to the WTC Memorial site in 2015

 

On September 11, 2001, the United States of America came under attack by Islamofascists who were representative of millions around the world who hated – who, in fact, still hate – our way of life.

Thousands of Americans were killed and injured. The iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York fell. The eye of the Pentagon, the very home of American security, was blackened, with more than a hundred more killed.

And in a previously anonymous field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, United Air Lines Flight 93 exploded into the ground. All 44 people on board were killed, including a number of brave passengers who rushed the terrorists who had overpowered the crew and taken command of their plane.

As with every September 11th since that fateful day, AmericanS remember. Just as with the attack on our nation that occurred on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, we will never, ever forget.

We watch on television and our devices as the President delivers a message to the nation. The roll of names will be read of those who were killed at the various locations in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. They are pictures and sounds that most of us have seen and heard in some version for 18 years now.

But there is another thing that I would recommend every American should do at some point. Actually plan a trip and go to the site of each of these memorials.

In late summer 2015, my wife and I undertook a trip to Manhattan. We stayed at the World Center Hotel, with a room overlooking the World Trade Center memorial site. We visited the memorial area, and went to the top of the new Freedom Tower.

The 9/11 memorial park itself, in the very footprint of the former Twin Towers, is a moving place of reflection adjacent to a beautiful, serene park.

Freedom Tower, formally known now as One World Trade Center, is a majestic, powerful symbol of America’s ability to recover and thrive after attack and disaster.

It was a trip that I am so very glad now that we took. I have not yet been to the Pentagon, or to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. They are absolutely on my personal bucket list.

I would encourage all Americans to make a trip to each of these memorials. Being there in person, at the very place where so much death, destruction and carnage took place on that day, really brings it all home so much more powerfully than any television image.

Below are links to many of the official memorial sites and other valuable resources to help plan your trips.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Areas of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial will be closed for lighting repairs and construction, due to be open fully again by late May 2020.

NEW YORK

PENNSYLVANIA

WASHINGTON, D.C.

READ MORE

(previous related pieces that I’ve published)

7.07.2005 – Hello, American liberals? London calling

11.28.2007 – Seven signs of terrorism

7.23.2008 – Islamism Series: Introduction

9.11.2008 – Incredible 9/11 video

12.30.2008 – American of the Year: George W. Bush

9.11.2009 – 9/11: Not the first attack on America, won’t be the last

9.11.2009 – Where were you?

9.11.2011 – 9/11: Are we expected to forgive?

9.11.2013 – How long will we “Never forget”?

 

 

 

Suicide Awareness: 40 seconds of action

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Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and in the United States this is National Suicide Awareness Month.

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Mental disorders and substance abuse are often major risk factors, especially in combination with one another.

While some suicide attempts are impulsive, a response to major stressors in life, other attempts are well-planned, frequently as a result of depression, with sometimes dramatic staging involved.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the annual suicide rate as 10.6 per 100,000 people worldwide as of 2016 numbers. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with approximately 123 Americans committing suicide daily.

Look at your watch, your device, your nearest clock. In the next 12 minutes, someone in the USA will commit suicide. That is the average. It takes the lives of nearly 45,000 Americans each year.

This year, the WHO has launched a “40 seconds of action” campaign in order to both raise awareness of the scale of suicide across the globe and to highlight the role each of us can play in order to help prevent it.

That 40 seconds figure was arrived at due to the fact that someone around the world loses their life to suicide an average of every 40 seconds.

While suicidal thoughts affect individuals of every age, race and sex, it is the second-highest cause of death in the world for young people aged 15-24. The CDC estimates that 20-25% of Americans age 18+ are affected by depression in any given year.

Depression and suicide also do not care about your or your family’s celebrity status. A decade after her 18-year-old son, Michael Blosil, committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of his eighth-floor Los Angeles apartment, Marie Osmond still struggles with the loss.

You know, I don’t think you’re ever through it,Osmond said during a recent interview on CBS Sunday Morning.

I think God gives you respites. And then all of the sudden it will hit you like the day it did. The ripple effect is so huge, what you leave behind.

We often think of police officers as some of the strongest among us. On an almost daily basis, officers experience the worst that can happen to people. Victims of crime and accidents, even direct threats or attacks on themselves. You need to be strong to handle that day-in, day-out mental, emotional and physical grind.

But as I learned both in nearly thirty years of my own law enforcement experience and specifically in teaching a course on law enforcement suicide for a couple of years as a Sergeant with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Training Bureau, police officers are far from immune.

Between 2003-2013, there were 17 Philadelphia officers who committed suicide. The numbers fluctuate each year, but continue to show that, on average, one or two Philly cops kill themselves each year. PTSD is a primary factor in the vast majority, perhaps in all, of these losses.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has estimated that twice as many law enforcement officers take their own lives each year as die in duty-related assaults or traffic accidents. For each successful suicide by a police officer, there are up to 25 attempts, according to an IACP report on the topic.

Here are some of the suggestions the WHO makes for all of us to consider as part of their “40 seconds” program:

Are you struggling yourself with thoughts of suicide? Take just 40 seconds to “kickstart a conversation” with someone you love and/or trust. Tell them about how you are feeling and what you are considering.

If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, take 40 seconds to start a conversation with them. Don’t text. Don’t send an IM or slide into their DM’s. Don’t drop them an email.

Call them. Listen to their voice. Let them hear your voice, the genuine love, compassion, and concern you have for them. In the first 40 seconds of the phone call, directly let them know you were thinking of them, and ask them how they are doing. Then…listen.

The WHO also recommends that those working in media take the time to highlight the “every 40 seconds” statistic, and point those who may be struggling to resources that can help. I will include many good ones at the end of this piece.

If you work in the arts, or have a platform for communicating (such as me with this website), take the time to communicate the “40 seconds” statistics and message.

You can at least take 40 seconds to put together an email directed at your local, state and national political leaders, imploring them to prioritize mental health and suicide awareness and prevention resources.

If you know someone, or are someone, who has made a prior suicide attempt, you should be aware that it is a major risk factor for a future suicide. Be sure to stay in touch with loved ones, and to reach out. Seek help. Be help.

All of us can at least do our small part to improve awareness of the significance of suicide as a legitimate health problem, both here in America and around the world. For instance, share a “meme” or other graphic found on the internet in your social media feed today.

We can all improve our own knowledge on the topic, help reduce the stigma associated with suicide attempts, and perhaps most importantly to let people who are struggling know that they are not alone.

The WHO considers that suicides are preventable. It just takes people who care. Care enough about yourself to reach out. Care enough about struggling loved ones to get and stay involved in their lives.

With as little as 40 seconds of action from all of us, we can begin to lower those averages. We can begin to make a real difference. We can begin to help save lives, perhaps our own, perhaps those of a loved one. Just 40 seconds.

RESOURCES

MLB 2019 Power Ranking – Labor Day

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The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves once again at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we push past the Labor Day weekend and move into the final month of September.

In this early September version of the Power Rankings, the Phillies remain right where they were on both August 1 and August 15 among all teams in Major League Baseball. They also remain as the 7th ranked team in the National League.

On August 1, the Phillies were the sixth-highest ranked team and were involved in a three-way tie for the two NL Wildcard spots. They slipped a notch by mid-August, to seventh in the NL, and the standings continue to reflect that slippage.

The club remains two games in back of the second National League Wildcard playoff berth. That is exactly where they stood on August 15, showing just how difficult it is to make up ground without going on an extended winning streak. The Phillies still have not won five games in a row all year long.

The Phillies are now in the midst of a September stretch that has them playing 18 of 23 games on the road. That will lead up to a season-ending series at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins, who have played the Phillies tough all year.

The Cubs are the team in the second Wildcard spot. That is where the attention of Phillies fans who are still holding out hope of a 2019 postseason berth now needs to focus. The Phillies trail Chicago by two games in the loss column as of this moment.

My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.

I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field.

There is never any subjectivity or opinion involved. The MLB Power Rankings will again be updated here at my website on the 15th of September, with a final ranking to come at the end of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.

That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. However, as the current season has unfolded, some teams have improved dramatically while others have slipped.

So, for this month of September that “winning percentage” is being replaced. Instead, to get the ‘Win-Loss’ component, each team’s record over their most recent 30 games is being used.

The ‘Win-Loss’ component is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.

Also for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.

Earlier this summer, the defensive component was changed as well. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.

I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there were any ties, I broke those using each team’s current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 SEPTEMBER 4 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Houston Astros, who were ranked first back on both June 15 and July 1, return to the top of the Power Rankings. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were at the top in my last rankings back on August 15 and have been the National League’s top team all year, have slipped.

The Atlanta Braves are now the new top team in the National League. The Braves and Washington Nationals, who have moved into the overall top ten for the first time this season, are tied for baseball’s best record over the last 30 games.

In parentheses are each team’s total ranking points this period, as well as their place in the last Power Rankings back on August 15.

  1. Houston Astros (24 – 2)
  2. Oakland Athletics (25 – 4)
  3. Atlanta Braves (27 – 9)
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers (31 – 1)
  5. Minnesota Twins (31 – 3)
  6. Saint Louis Cardinals (32 – 12)
  7. Washington Nationals (33 – 13)
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks (35 – 8)
  9. New York Yankees (37 – 7)
  10. Cleveland Indians (38 – 5)
  11. Tampa Bay Rays (39 – 6)
  12. Chicago Cubs (40 – 10)
  13. Boston Red Sox (43 – 11)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (53 – 14)
  15. New York Mets (65 – 19)
  16. San Diego Padres (65 – 18)
  17. Los Angeles Angels (68 – 15)
  18. Cincinnati Reds (71 – 17)
  19. Milwaukee Brewers (72 – 16)
  20. Texas Rangers (78 – 21)
  21. San Francisco Giants (79 – 20)
  22. Pittsburgh Pirates (83 – 28)
  23. Kansas City Royals (84 – 22)
  24. Colorado Rockies (88 – 23)
  25. Toronto Blue Jays (89 – 25)
  26. Miami Marlins (92 – 24)
  27. Chicago White Sox (93 – 26)
  28. Seattle Mariners (93 – 27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (109 – 29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (112 – 30)

Confession of a Phillies fan who left the Harper walkoff slam game early

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I have a confession to make. I’m a lifelong Phillies fan. A partial season ticket holder. I write about the team frequently here at my website.

I was at Thusday night’s game in which the team rallied scoring seven times in the final two innings to come from five runs down and win on Bryce Harper‘s walkoff grand slam.

And I saw none of it. None of the runs. No part of the rally. Not live and in person anyway.

I gave up, and I left early.

To set the stage for you, this was perhaps the eighth game that I had been to this season. After an early season hot streak, things had deteriorated, for me and the ball club.

In each of the previous two games that I had been to, the Phillies had been blown out. Not only that, but they had not even shown up. Both times they were nearly shutout, had few hits, and the games were over by the middle innings.

Thursday night was much the same. The Phillies were down 5-0 when the top of the 8th inning rolled around. They had just four hits. Yu Darvish of the Cubs was dominating, striking out ten batters over seven innings.

So, as the 7th inning rolled around, I turned to my daughter with whom I was attending the game and told her that we would give it one more inning.

Really, I wasn’t hoping for much from the Phillies at that point. The club was down 5-0 on the scoreboard and showing no life. This night on the field appeared to be solely for the many Cubs fans in the stands, including one who was seated directly behind us and had been chirping all night long.

No, I was willing to stay through the 7th inning to see, of all things, the Phillie Phanatic. Hey, the big green furry guy puts on a nice show in that frame, dancing on the Phillies dugout roof. He didn’t disappoint, doing a nice number with a dance troupe from Temple University.

And so, as the action got underway in the top of the 8th, we left.

There was a good crowd at the ball park on a beautiful night. More than 37,000 showed up. Many left, both before us and as we were leaving. But there were still many who stayed. Those who stayed to the end would be the lucky ones. Well, at least those rooting for the home team.

We headed to the car, down towards I-95, and up onto the highway northbound. At somewhere between Bridge Street and Academy Road, the Phillies scored a run. I told my daughter, who was flipping through her phone in the passenger seat, that we scored a run. “Yay” she said, with sarcastic feigned enthusiasm.

I dropped her off at her house, and continued on to home. On the way, my wife asked me to make a stop at Wawa. As I drew nearer to our neighborhood, the Phillies had put two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning, still down 5-1.

I slipped through the dark and quiet streets of our neighborhood, my headlights streaming out and the street lamps helping light the way, and as I pulled into the Wawa parking lot a base hit by Brad Miller scored Cesar Hernandez to make it a 5-2 ball game.

Things were getting a little interesting. Roman Quinn, who has been hot for awhile now, was coming to the plate. He would be followed by Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper. Dare we dream?

As Cubs skipper Joe Maddon went to the mound to make a pitching change, I went into the Wawa.

Got myself a coffee, and the night manager, a nice guy who I’ve seen in there many times, saw my Phillies t-shirt and cap and said “I guess they lost, huh?

I told him that I had been down there, left when it was 5-0, but now they had a little rally going in the bottom of the 9th, down 5-2. He asked who was up, and I told him that it was Quinn. He kind of nodded with an “oh well” look on his face.

As I walked through the store to find an item for my wife, a notice came over my phone that Quinn had delivered an RBI single to make it a 5-3 game. I rushed back to Mr. Wawa Manager to let him know, and he said “guess I better find a place to listen.” I hope he did.

I got my items, paid, and left the store. Back in my car, I heard that Rhys Hoskins had somehow reached base – I just assumed a walk at that point – and that Bryce Harper was now up with the bases loaded.

Harper battled reliever Derek Holland during my four block drive home. I had just pulled in front of my house and was parking my car when…

You know the rest. Scott Franzke’s typically fantastic voice raised with the call “Swung on…hit high and deep…right field…and that…ball…is……goooooone!

Needless to say, finishing my parking job got a little bit tougher with that adrenalin jolt.

I got out of the car and hurried into my house. My wife, knowing that I was on my way and knowing her husband, had the game on, watched that ending, and had rewound it so that I could watch the end.

Watching it on TV was just as dramatic, even knowing how it ended. I rewound a little further so that I could enjoy the entire rally. When that TV coverage got to the home run, chills again thanks to John Kruk‘s now legendary “Oh my God!!” as soon as the ball left the bat.

So, I was there on Thursday night. I was at Citizens Bank Park for the game in which the Phillies rallied from down 5-0 in the 8th inning and 5-1 in the 9th to win on a walkoff grand slam by Bryce Harper.

I had a nice evening. My daughter and I ate and had a couple of beers before the game at Pass & Stow. We enjoyed each other’s company and chatted as we watched the game.

But we were not there at the end. We didn’t get to enjoy “the moment.”

You tell yourself a lot of things when you leave early, as I have done many times over the years. Gotta beat the crowd, the traffic being the main thing. I don’t believe that what happened last night has ever happened in a game that I left early before.

So, the question is – will I ever leave early again? Of course I will. Probably the very next game that I attend. And if the Phillies are losing, even losing big, I’ll hope and pray that I get to listen on the radio and/or watch on TV as they rally again.