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The World Series: Cliff Lee was Amazing and the Yankees come back, the Influenza Outbreak, a Visit Home, and Honors to the Fallen by the President

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

large_2aj-burnett415A. J. Burnett dominated the Phillies in Game 2

Last night we were treated to one of the best pitching performances in the history of the World Series.  Phillies start Cliff Lee who has had an incredible playoff run.  In four games he has pitched 33.1 innings, winning 3 games, two of which were complete games.  In those games he pitched 30 strikeouts and on 3 walks and only given up 2 earned runs.  His ERA through game one of the World Series is a minuscule 0.54.  Last night was a fantastic demonstration of pitching as Lee controlled the game from start to finish defeating his former teammate C.C. Sabathia who was good but not good enough giving up 2 solo home runs to Chase Utley before being pulled after the 7th.  One can compare his performance against the best hitting team in the Majors to the greats Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Don Larson.  I remember seeing Gibson’s game back in 1968 on TV and I am forever amazed at his intensity as hit mowed down batter after batter.  On the other hand Lee was the epitome of the “just another day at work” that was so evidenced in his lackadaisical catch of a pop up to the pitcher’s mound and his quick behind the back grab of a pitch hit behind him.

Honestly I was surprised but not disappointed.  I do not have a dog in the fight so to speak since the Giants, Orioles, A’s or Angels are not in the series.  However I appreciate a great performance even when it cuts down my well thought out statistic based prediction. Lee was until last night a career 4-4 against the Yankees but had, again until last night a whopping 5.02 against them.  I predicted that it would be a close game but that I thought it would be Lee who gave up the key hits or have mistakes committed behind him which would in turn bring on the bullpen which the Yankees would demolish.  Instead it was 180 degrees out as Sabathia gave up the key hits and the Yankee bullpen melted down.  To top it off the Yankees were completely baffled and shut down by Lee almost being shut out save a Jimmy Rollins throw into the bullpen which allowed Derek Jeter to score the Yankees only run of the game with one out in the bottom of the 9th. I’m watching another pitcher’s duel tonight, at least through 7 innings between Pedro “I’m the most influential player to play in Yankee Stadium” and A.J. Burnett. Burnett dominated the Phillies big guns and Pedro has like Sabathia last night given up 2 solo home runs to Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui and was pulled with 2 on and no out in the bottom of the 7th.  Mariano Rivera came on to get a six out save and the Yankees won 3-1.  The amazing thing to me is the dominance of pitching so far.  The fact that Ryan Howard stuck out 4 times tonight and Alex Rodriguez 3 times last night shows just how dominant the pitchers have been. Both were having an amazing playoff run and at least the first two games have had their fires extinguished.

mariano-riveraMariano Rivera got a 6 out Save

The first two games give me some hope. I would prefer a 7 game series that is a well played drama filled classic for the ages.  That is my hope anyway as they are the best teams in baseball and it would be fitting for the series to live up to that status.

I just got over a bout with a stomach bug yesterday, on Monday I was doubled over in pain and the stuff lingered a couple of days.  Turns out that this is going around and a lot of folks are going down with it as well as Influenza A, B and H1N1, the Swine Flu.  I personally know several people who have been hammered by the Swine flu and am seeing a lot more influenza related cases in our ICU including a number of young people on ventilators.  A cursory look around the news shows a lot of kids getting sick and so far at least 100 schools being closed due to influenza outbreaks and it is only October.  Look for a long and difficult flu season. This may not be as bad as 1918 but anyone is a fool to make light of it or efforts to keep people from getting it.  I think such people are damned fools who jeopardize their lives as well as the lives of their families, friends and co-workers, from what I see in my little corner of the world this will not be fun.

Speaking of not fun I am going home to go assist my mom and brother with some of my dad’s affairs. He remains in the nursing home and continues his slow downward trend defying the doctors who said that he would be dead months ago.  The emotional cost on my mom, brother and to a lesser extent I because I don’t have to deal with this up close every day has been exacting. It is painful.  I received a e-mail from an old friend this week who described what his family went through as his dad wasted away in mind and body before their eyes.  I will be glad to see everyone and will spend as much time with dad as I can, hopefully I will have him with me for at least a few minutes.  I am not looking forward to having to go through belongings or some of the administrative or banking tasks that will need to be done.

APTOPIX Obama Fallen SoldiersPresident Obama Honoring the Fallen at Dover

Late last night President Obama did something that earned my admiration.  I know some will see his action as cynical or opportunistic but as a career officer and Iraq Veteran who has served under five Presidents I saw it differently.  I think it is the first time that a President has greeted and rendered honors to the fallen at Dover in my career.  I could be wrong but I don’t think that any of the President’s that I have served under have ever met an aircraft bearing 18 fallen Americans.  He didn’t have to do it, but it is my opinion that any wartime leader who has not experienced the enormity of the loss of Americans that he has sent into combat has not fully assumed the mantle of leadership.  Part of that mantle is to be there in the times of suffering. One source close to the President told ABC News reporter Jake Tapper that  meeting with the families at Dover and seeing the return of the fallen was was “one of the most profound experiences of Mr. Obama’s young presidency.”

It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well,” Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. “The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day.”

I do appreciate all that President Bush did in visiting the wounded and caring for the families of the fallen, there is no disrespect intended by me toward the former President as he had to make many tough and often unpopular decisions during his presidency including the surge in Iraq that along with the Anbar Awakening that helped turn the course of events in that unfortunate land.  He took heavy criticism from the Left and parts of the Right for that decision as well as scaling back efforts in Afghanistan. I do hope and pray that the President’s decision, whatever it ends up being will bear success and help the security of the region and peace to Afghanistan and I certainly do not want him to be like Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam and commit us deeper into to a war without counting the cost ahead of time.  That is a tall order, but for the sake of our troops is something that we should be able to pray will happen.  To quote one commentator: “No matter what your political views are or your position on the wars, we should never forget those making the ultimate sacrifice.”  Thank you Mr. President for remembering these men,  Ten men were lost in the crash of an MH-47, 7 Army Soldiers and 3 DEA agents and 8 soldiers killed when an IED destroyed their Stryker Light Armored Vehicle.  I close with their names:

Killed:

1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington

Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.

Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.

Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.

Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.

Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.

Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

From the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia

Chief Warrant Officer Michael P. Montgomery, 36, of Savannah, Ga.

Chief Warrant Officer Niall Lyons, 40, of Spokane, Wash.

Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, 24, of Terrell, Texas.

Sgt. Josue E. Hernandez Chavez, 23, of Reno, Nev.

Sgt. Nikolas A. Mueller, 26, of Little Chute, Wisc.

From the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Sgt. 1st Class David E. Metzger, of San Diego Ca

Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, 28, of Medford, N.Y.

From the Drug Enforcement Agency

Special Agent Forrest N. Leamon, Woodbridge Va.

Special Agent Chad L. Michael, Quantico Va

Special Agent Michael E. Weston, Washington DC

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them

May their souls, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen

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How Pro-Life People Make Themselves Look Like Idiots

Note: This post will likely cause me grief but it has to be said. To preface this I am pro-life and anti-abortion. I fully support my Church’s stand on abortion. At the same time I am becoming more and more appalled by the less than informed, often illogical and many times  uncharitable comments made by those who claim to be pro-life on subjects other than abortion that they no little or nothing about. This post may come across as harsh but I mean it that way with no apology.

Recently I have seen some conversations and blogs by “pro-life” individuals lately that make me shake my head in bewilderment.  I am beginning to wonder if some people in the “pro-life” movement have lost all sense of reality.  I also am beginning to wonder if pro-life people are becoming the greatest threat to the pro-life movement.

What I saw today was a conversation by some in the pro-life movement about government’s efforts to ensure that the Swine Flu does not reach epidemic or pandemic status.  What I saw was to put it mildly, idiotic, unethical and un-Christian.  In fact I would view it as an argument that as a minimum seriously calls into question the judgment of these people.  At worst such actions and statements make me seriously if they are truly “pro-life” at all, and not just simply anti-abortion and the hell with everything else concerning life, especially if it deals with already living and breathing people.

The basic argument of these people, who I assume are well meaning, is that they object and find unreasonable government efforts to respond to the Swine Flu outbreak.  They called this into question because the “government supports abortion which kills millions of pre-born babies every year.”   Another commentator,  who obviously knows nothing about influenza or other infectious diseases, made very uninformed comments about the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This idiot attempted to minimize it talking about the fact that medicine has advanced and there is better sanitation. Others were spouting inane comments like “woord!” I have to assume this is something like the Marine “oorah!”

Unfortunately there is a severe moral and ethical disconnect in the argument.  The problem with this whole line of reasoning says that we will fight like hell for the unborn but the hell with the “Post-born” simply because we are angry at the governments policy against the unborn.  Sorry, if you are truly pro-life they all count the same. Just because the “pro-life” movement has fixated on abortion doesn’t mean that people who are already born don’t count.  In this line of reasoning the unfortunate “Post-born” who have the misfortune of contracting the disease, well, their lives don’t matter.  Screw them because we disagree with government policy on abortion.  The claim by some that the government is  hypocritical because it puts money into trying to stop what history has show to be a really really nasty disease.   Remember H1N1 in 1918-1919 alone killed 50-100 million people worldwide. Admittedly, this was in a time when medical care for such problems was much less capable than current medical technology.  At the same time what took weeks or months to get around the world happens in hours. This  gives governments and other responders no room for error.  Likewise the population of the United States is about double what it was back then and unlike the 1918 we are a more urban and closely packed society. We are utterly dependent on interconnected transportation and logistics networks to maintain the supply of food, medicine and other essentials. These are delivered as they are needed versus stockpiled. A pandemic would seriously disrupt this network and cause chaos.  You think that the economy sucks now, it will be sucking like a Hoover if this happens.

Swine Flu or H1N1 targets young healthy people, the age 20-40 crowd. The writers of these posts will have great fun if this becomes and epidemic or pandemic.  I am sure that most of them are Flu Virgins.  In other words they won’t have the anti-bodies to fight this off if they get it.  This will really suck.  They get to die if this gets really bad, or best they will suffer greatly.  Over half the fatalities in 1918 were in this age group.  Just wait until decisions have to be made about who gets treatment and who dies in a pandemic.  You can bet that most if not all of these people will advocate for themselves and their families at the expense of others that they deem unworthy of life. It’s easy to be pro-life when your life isn’t the one in the balance.

So with this being the case, the logical person has to assume that these folks are not genuinely pro-life, but rather simply anti-abortion.  Unfortunately I am cursed with being a logical, rational and analytical I cannot limit my pro-life beliefs to simply protecting the pre-born.  That is a worthy mission but we also have to stand up for the right to life of the “post-born” too.

Conversations and arguments of the nature presented by the people I read today makes pro-lifers look heartless, cruel and hypercritical.  By making these comments they subvert their own efforts to protect the lives of the unborn.   The idiocy of these people’s conversation was absolutely mind numbing.  I almost wonder if the verse out of Romans can be applied to these folks.  “Claiming to be wise they became fools…”   Of course I applied that verse out of context, but no less so than I have seen others in the “pro-life” movement do.

I’m not going to re-hash last night’s post here, no will I go deeper in the weeds on the subject.  If people are actually interested in the Swine Flu they can read John Barry’s The Great Influenza” Alfred Crosby’s America’s Forgotten Pandemic and Pete Davies’ The Devil’s Flu. Additionally they can go and visit the evil government Centers for Disease Control at  http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ or the really super evil UN sponsored World Health Orgnaization at http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_04_24/en/index.html.  Unfortunately I fear that my words will fall on stoney ground. People who think this way haven’t a logical cell in their brain.

My point is that people who claim to be “pro-life” cannot allow themselves to submerge themselves into stupidity by making comments that are really anti-life. If followed to their logical conclusion the inane ideas spouted by these knuckleheads would allow millions of people to die in the event of a Swine Flu or Avian Flu pandemic.  If an unborn baby’s life is worth going to jail for in a protest, what is the value of the already born?  Oh wait according to the logic applied by the people that I saw today, absolutely nothing.  To protect the unborn they have become “anti-life.” That’s just sad.

This is painful to watch.  What ever happened to any theological, philosophical, ethical or personal reflection on the value of life?  What ever happened to the “pro-life” movement?

Peace,  Steve+

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Don’t Mess With the Pig- The Swine Flu is no Joking Matter

I am not an alarmist by any means.  I am a realist and a historian.  If we know anything from human history there have been great plagues as well as epidemics and pandemics of various types.  Our world is rich in life and beauty but it is also full of really really nasty diseases that on occasion get loose and act really really bad.   Influenza, which normally kills about 30-40,000 people annually in the United States is one of those ugly nasty diseases.    Even mild cases can make you want to die and this is the easy stuff.  I’m not smart enough to make a prediction that the Swine Flu will be the next big pandemic, but it has potential and that potential needs to be addressed to ensure the safety of everyone, even lawyers.

The Avian and Swine variations of the flu are like normal flu on steroids.  They kill if they are not contained quickly.  The last scare we had with the Swine flu was back in the 1970s.  I remember getting the vaccine for it.  Hopefully those anti-bodies as well as all the ones from every other flu bug that I have been vaccinated for or exposed to will keep me safe with good preventive measures. That bug was contained and it did not become an epidemic.  Because it didn’t the pharmaceutical companies that produced the vaccine were beaten down.  A small minority of people had side effects from the vaccine.  The pharmaceutical companies, for all their faults, got hosed on this.  They had their asses sued off and were not protected.  Maybe we should pray, like Henry IV that if this Flu becomes a pandemic that it kills all the lawyers first.  People, especially we Americans then developed the attitude that this is not a threat.  This attitude could cost us big if we are slow to react.

The fact is there will be another epidemic or pandemic.  The really big one was the Great Influenza or the “Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This was nasty a virulent strain of Influenza A subtype H1N1, the same subtype as the current Swine Flu. It killed people by the millions worldwide, most of whom were the young and able bodied.  Thousands of US Soldiers in France and Stateside Camps got sick and died with the first outbreak in the US coming at Ft Riley Kansas.  Back then there was no mechanical ventilation nor antibiotics. So if you were blue from lack of oxygen you were put in the “you’re going to die line.”  Back then the mortality was about 2.5-5% with anywhere from current estimates 50-100 million deaths world wide.  In the United States it is estimated that 28% of the population was effected with between 500,000 and 675,000 fatalities.    More than half the fatalities were in 20-40 age group.These were the “Flu virgins.”  Regular Flu kills the elderly and young children, this Flu was different, it ate up the young and otherwise healthy people with no immunity.

With supportive care in the United States and other first world countries that will be significantly lower but still catastrophic.  Estimates range to 2 million dead in the United States alone.  Because we are a much more fluid society in the event of a real pandemic the government will have to take draconian measures.  These will have to ensure that public safety limiting movement, deciding who gets vaccines first and who gets treated the most acutely with the coresponding reality that in a pandemic there will be people for whom the best you can do is palliative care. This will offend sensitivities of religious people, good hearted “secular” humanitarians as well as various political factions.  Civil Libertarians will be outraged.  Media goons and talk show hosts will rant against the government.  Conspiracy theorists will come out in droves.  Unfortunately if this outbreak becomes a epidemic or even a pandemic drastic actions may be required until the emergency passes.   Marital Law may be an option.  I’m not a big fan but if this gets really ugly it may have to happen.

I am an ICU chaplain.  Really bad Pneumonia’s are a pain in the ass to treat for Intensivists and quite often exacerbate or cause cause problems in other organ systems.  This flu and the Avian flu produce pneumonia’s in spades both viral and bacterial. In the Spanish Influenza it was the bacterial pneumonia’s that killed the most people.  Through in ARDS, pulmonary edema and hemorrhages in the lungs.   If you have ever been in an intensive care unit and seen a young person on a vent battling a pneumonia and barely hanging on to life then grab your seat.  Lot’s of young people will die.  Likewise there will not be enough ICU beds and ventilators to go around should this reach the pandemic stage.  Resources will be short and physicians and government officials will have only bad and worse choices.  Those in the front lines of the battle, young physicians, nurses and technicians will be among the casualties.

I am not privy to any plans of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense or CDC.   However, I am graduate of the USMC Command and Staff College.  I am sure that both departments have been preparing for such case since the Avian flu started showing up in the 1990s, as well as the threat of terrorists using biological weapons post 9-11.  Unfortunately there are some who would see what these agencies are doing to plan for a worst case scenario as some diabolical plot, a conspiracy theory to make the government more powerful.  If fact there are some of the Keepers Of Odd Knowledge that are alleging a government plot to engineer such a virus.   I have seen this from both left and right wing bloggers and I’m sure that their message will get out and cause people to act stupidly and jeopardize public health.  In other words, they will damn everyone else, and do what I want even if it means that they spread a virus that will kill those around them.  Sorry this is selfish, irresponsible and just plain idiotic.  Prudence is the watchword.

On my way to the ball park I heard a radio talk show host talking about the “Napolitano Flu.”  He was taking a shot at the Secretary of Homeland Security.  Unfortunately for the millions of listeners this man and others like him will not take the threat seriously.  I’m not going to say that there will be a pandemic with this outbreak.  However, a pandemic is bound to happen and when, not if,  it happens the blood of these people’s listeners will be on their hands.  Ignorance and idiocy in encouraging stupidity is not a virtue even if you have valid criticisms of the way the government is handling the situation.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this.  I hope it goes away.  I don’t want any of this to happen.  Anyone with half a brain doesn’t want it to happen. However it will someday and maybe even with this strain.  God I hope not.

Peace, Steve+

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