Tag Archives: h1n1

The Value of a Single Human Life: Personal Responsibility during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have grown tired of the deniers of science and those who when occupying high positions in the Federal and State governments prepare to add to the death and economic disaster we are already experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise I have grown very tired of trying to confront their cultish followers with history, science, and facts, especially those who should know better. The sad thing is that I can certainly determine that they have left their conscience, and medical knowledge behind simply to support the policies of President Trump which began with denial, deflection, and outright lies between December 2019 and now.

I have a unique perspective to offer on what is going on now. I am a historian, an ethicist, as well as a Priest and Navy Chaplain. I have served in the military for over thirty eight and a half years, as a Medical Service Corps Officer and Chaplain. I have served in combat, and as an ICU, ER, and Critical Care Chaplain during the height of the AIDS pandemic when there were no drugs to even mitigate the symptoms of HIV, and the H1N1 pandemic of 2009.

As a historian I have studied pandemics, eugenics, and the sterilization, or extermination of people whose lives were considered Life Unworthy of Life, a condition more influenced by eugenics to purify the race, and the economic costs of keeping such people alive. Sadly, many American Christians who lean toward Libertarianism, and Conservatism, even those who claim to be Pro-Life, which should be more accurately termed anti-abortion because once a child is born into this world they couldn’t give a damn if it lives or dies. By their budgets you shall know them. The poor, the disabled, or those with chronic medical conditions are not worth spending tax dollars on, especially if that money keeps the rich from getting richer. As Alfred W. Crosby wrote in his book America’s Forgotten Pandemic, the Influenza of 1918 about the businesses leaders that pressured San Francisco’s board of supervisors to lighten up on Medical and public health and restrictions that had led to a decline of infections and deaths: “The dollar sign is exalted above the health sign,” said Hassler, referring to the influence of the merchants on the supervisors’”

As a Medical Service Corps officer in the Army while commanding a Medical Ambulance Company stationed in Germany during the height of the Cold War I was school trained as a Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Warfare Defense officer. I can describe in detail what radiation poisoning at different amounts will do to a human being, as well as what kind of shelters provide the greatest protection from radiation exposure.  I can tell you what various chemical agents, blood, choking, and nerve will do to a person if they are not properly equipped, or fail to use their provided protective gear as they were trained to do, the same is true of militarized biological agents. Unlike, chemical agents, there is little defense against a biological agent. I was also trained in combat triage in a contaminated environment. I have written about that in the last month so I won’t go into detail here, but it turns normal triage upside down.

Finally, as a young Medical Service Corps Captain helped write the Army’s regulation on personnel policies for HIV infected soldiers, and then because officers senior to me, I had to counsel all of our HIV infected personnel on their career options, and legal restrictions if they violated the commanders order which closely corresponded to the Physicians Medical order, but had the authority of the Uniform Code of Military Justice behind it, if the soldier failed to warn a sexual partner that he or she was HIV positive or did anything else to intentionally spread the virus. That was back in 1987. At that time I met and talked with then Major Robert Redfield, now head of the CDC about how HIV could spread and that it would enter the general population. Before effective policies and treatments to mitigate its effects HIV spread like a fire around the country and the world. While we do not yet have a vaccine for it, education, preventive measures, and effective drugs to mitigate its lethal effects have blunted its spread. That being said, HIV is far harder to spread than airborne viruses like influenza and Coronavirus. HIV has to be spread by direct contact and intermixing of bodily fluids, like blood, semen, or other bodily excretions.

At of the time of the writing of this article, the Coronavirus 19 has now killed over 55,000 Americans and infected almost a million according to official tallies, which are probably low since very few health agencies were testing for it before March. Testing in the United States has continued to lag on a per capita basis with only about 1.5% of the population tested. Currently there are over 813,000 active cases in the United States. The United States government leadership knew of the threat through reliable intelligence sources that the virus was raging in China In December 2019  long before the Chinese Communist leadership admitted it, or took action to contain it. Instead the President did nothing until he instituted a travel ban from China at the end of January. However, by then, it was too little and too late. The virus was already spreading and killing in the United States.

The lack of  any action defied the warning of President George W. Bush in a speech to the National Institute of Health on 1 November 2005:

“A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire: if caught early, it might be extinguished with limited damage; if allowed to smolder undetected, it can grow to an inferno that spreads quickly beyond our ability to control it.” 

However, President Trump, a man who prides himself in not reading, and despises the counsel of experts in any field, could not heed the warnings of President Bush or any other responsible member of his administration, or the medical and scientific community at large. Instead he denied the threat, blamed others, and took no decisive action to protect the people of the country or economy from it. instead of being like Harry Truman who had a sign on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here,” the President refused to take any responsibility for the earlier lack of action or distribution of public warnings, and said “I take no responsibility at all.” But that is no exception to anything he has done in his life. He loves to claim credit when times are good, but when his decisions result in multiple failed divorces, failed businesses, and serial corporate bankruptcies, he refuses to take any blame. But still, his cultish followers refuse to abandon him even as he abandons them to poverty and death.

in 1918 and 1919 before he suffered a stroke that left him incapacitated and unable to lead the country, President Woodrow Wilson said nothing about the pandemic that was then killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, and threw the responsibility to respond on under funded and unready state and local authorities. As Albert Marrin wrote in his book Very, Very, Very, Dreadful The Influenza of 1918:

“Throughout the pandemic, the nation lacked a uniform policy about gathering places, and there was no central authority with the power to make and enforce rules that everyone had to obey. Each community acted on its own, doing as its elected officials thought best.”

As a result over 667,000 Americans died, the economy was hit hard, and the stage was set for policies that help bring about the Great Depression a decade later, and would take the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt to overcome. John Barry wrote in his book The Great Influenza:

“So the final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that those who occupy positions of authority must lessen the panic that can alienate all within a society. Society cannot function if it is every man for himself. By definition, civilization cannot survive that. Those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one.” 

Unfortunately, that has been the case today. For every responsible citizen there are those who would preserve their lives and fortunes even if they had to sacrifice the lives of others to do so. They are little different in their morality to the Germans who turned away from Nazi atrocities to maintain or enrich themselves without ever lifting a finger to kill or help anyone. The issue reminds me of an episode of Dr. Who where the leader of a colony on Mars tells the doctor that he would do anything to protect his people and family. The Doctor asks “even if that meant killing innocent men?” Unmoved, the leader reiterated his point, to which the Doctor replied:

“Well then, that’s the difference between us. I’d give up my ownlife without hesitation; it’s mine to give. Just don’t ask me to give up anybody else’s. … This is how evil starts: With the belief that the ends justify the means. But once you start down that road, there’s no turning back. What if you can save a million lives, but you have to let ten people die? Or a hundred? Or a hundred thousand? Where do you stop?”

Truthfully we have to ask the question posed by the Doctor. But for many committed to the dollar, their position, and their loyalty to a President that shoes no loyalty to them the current crisis has proved that they are selfish and more interested in their creature comforts and lifestyle than they are of the deaths and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people. I am reminded of the words spoken in the film Judgment at Nuremberg by Judge Haygood played by Spencer Tracy in the fictionalized account of the Judges Trials at Nuremberg:

But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen.

There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat.  Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.” 

So, that being said, what do we stand for in 2020? It is something that all of us all have to answer for, not just political, or business  leaders, but all of us.

If we are nor willing to protect and care for the least, the lost, and the lonely, what use are we? As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”

As a Christian and humanitarian I cannot speak otherwise. If I cannot stand up for truth regardless of the cost, I am not worth the powder to blow me to Hell.

Think about that. Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, Coronavirus, Diseases Epidemics and Pandemics, ethics, euthanasia, faith, film, History, laws and legislation, national security, nazi germany, Political Commentary, Religion, US Presidents, world war one

Pandemics and Their Indirect Effects

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

We are living in difficult times. We have the COVID-19 pandemic which is claiming thousands of people a day while infecting far more, many of who will be permanently damaged by its effects. We have an economic meltdown going on with businesses going under, millions of people losing their jobs. The unemployment rate is skyrocketing, and many people are left without enough to survive on. They are doing so despite the approved yet unissued $1,200 subsidy, as well as increased unemployment coverage. Many of the newly unemployed have also lost their healthcare insurance.

Of course many of the now failed business offered no health benefits to their employees to begin with. But others did, like Craftworks Holdings, owners of numerous restaurants and brewery restaurant chains, started shutting down many of its most profitable locations in January and February, including our own version of cheers, Gordon Biersch, Virginia Beach. On Sunday, Craftworks closed every one of their remaining 338 restaurants. They notified their 18,000 employees that they were fired with no severance pay or insurance, as they made sure that they had ended their policy to continue health coverage under COBRA before they fired their employees.   However, I am sure that the CEO left with a golden parachute worth more than the severance  that they denied all their employees.

But now, in barely two weeks six and a half million people have filed for unemployment assistance!  over 3 million of those last week. It is worth noting that it is economists expect that the unemployment rate will reach 10% and not go down significantly until sometime next year. We are talking unemployment numbers not seen since the Great Depression, and it will get worse because so many American companies shut down their American operations and moved to countries where they could profit from using near slave labor rather than pay American workers what they worth. Now, like in 1929 we are watching everything collapse before our eyes. In 1929 President Herbert Hoover, maintained a policy of austerity, which only deepened the depression. His actions put more people out of work with no safety net. Food kitchens set up by churches and communities sprang up to feed those without the ability to provide food. Likewise, homeless shelters multiplied, while Shantytowns, nicknamed Hoovervilles popped up all over the country as people  lost their homes.

By the summer of 1932 as the Great Depression crushed the economy, and resulted in massive unemployment.  With no relief from the Republican Administration of Herbert Hoover, the Republican Senate stopped a House attempt to pay WWI Veterans a previously approved bonus for their service,  that was deferred until 1948. In response, veterans from all over the country camped out, many with their families at Anacostia Flats, across the Potomac from the White House and Capital Hill. Eventually the veterans numbered nearly 17,000, with thousands of women and children.

The veterans were falsely accused of being the leaders of a Communist attempt to overthrow the government, which would be backed by the Marines in Washington DC.  President Hoover refused to meet with their leaders, and ordered the Attorney General to send the Metro Police to drive them off. The police attempt failed with the death of two veterans. Hoover then ordered in the Army.  Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur took direct command of a force of infantry, cavalry, and tanks, the latter commanded by Major George Patton. On the afternoon of 28 July MacArthur took action and attacked the veterans. He even disobeyed the orders of Hoover to not drive the veterans out of their camps on the Anacostia Flats. MacArthur not only did that,  but had his soldiers burn down their shelters. The unprovoked attack wounded over 50 veterans, while over 150 more were arrested.

What happened in the United States set off a crushing economic ripple effect around the world, especially in countries like Germany which had racked up massive loan debts from banks in the United States in order to help it out of the earlier Weimar depression, as they also tried to alleviate the effects of World War One and the Great Influenza.  When the depression it the American bankers called in their loans and the fragile Weimar Democracy was overwhelmed by massive unemployment and hunger. As this happened the Republic was ripped apart by extreme political movements. On the left there was the Communist Party of Germany KPD, and on the Right, the National Socialist Workers Party, the NSDAP, or the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler.both had the same goal of overthrowing the Republic and replacing it with an authoritarian state.

However, Hitler was much better at wooing the Conservative parties of the German Right Center to support him, than the KPD was in its relationship to the mainline, slightly left of Center Socialist Party of Germany. The KPD hated the SPD worse than the Nazis. They hated democracy more than anything, and at its birth they attempted to overthrow the incipient Republic and replace it with a Soviet State. This alarmed the essentially moderate leaders of the SPD who had been given leadership of the new Republic by the outgoing Imperial Chancellor based on their parliamentary majority. The SPD allied itself with the Army high command in order to build up a new Army to defend the Republic. The Republic authorized the formation of Freikorps, units raised up by officers and NCOs to fight the Communist threat. Some of these were lead by SPD leaders or Army veterans with SPD backgrounds, but many were either monarchists, or represented the extreme right of the German political spectrum.

These formations fought the Communists in the German Civil war of 1918-1920. Communists had seized control in many cities, from which the better trained and disciplined Freikorps drove them and defeated them. While the civil war went on Freikorps fought battles with Polish troops in the disputed boundary areas. All of this went on during the Great Influenza. In defeating the Communist threat the SPD worked with the Army, conservatives, and business to show that they were responsible and to be trusted with the reigns of government. Eventually this odd coalition held Germany together, despite the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles. For their efforts the SPD was blamed for Versailles and gave up power to coalitions of the German right and center parties, while Friedrich Ebert of the SPD remained President. For their cooperation with the Army the KPD never forgave them. Ebert died unexpectedly in 1925 and Paul Von Hindenburg, Germany’s top General in WWI was elected President.

For a time things looked good, and then the Great Depression hit. When it really mattered, the KPD would not join a left wing coalition government which might have provided enough stability in the Reichstag and Republic, ride our the storm. But like the My way or the highway ideologues” of any stripe do all the time. The KPD hated the Republic more than it did the Nazis, and frequently coordinated its efforts to destroy the Republic with the Nazis. But only one authoritarian party could win, and many of the people on the German right and center, even non-Nazis trusted them more than the Communists. after numerous coalitions of the right and center failed to establish effective governments to lift the country out of the depression, Hindenburg was encouraged by his son Oskar, and advisor Franz Von Papen to give Hitler a chance. They did not believe that a government led by Hitler, with the Nazis having few seats in the Cabinet could survive which would cause Hitler’s movement to crumble, and if it did not they believed that they could moderate it, and contain its excesses. However, Hitler outmaneuvered all of them. Within six months all political parties and free labor unions were banned, and Hitler given full power. In a year Hindenburg was dead, and Hitler combined his office as chancellor with that of President. He also became the head of the military, while key aids became the heads of the police, and the ministry of justice.

Of course this whole situation was due to a number of factors, all mentioned above, but the Great Flu was significant as it killed another 426,000 Germans on top of the war deaths. The H1N1 pandemic was just one of many factors that resulted in the eventual collapse of the the Weimar Republic, and it did not help the United States, which lost over 600,000 people to it.

Pandemics have direct and indirect effects. Some of those indirect effects are more deadly than the virus itself. I expect that will be the case in many countries as a result of the novel Coronavirus of 2019. It’s effects will be felt for many years to come. It is going to change the course of history, but God only knows how. But as for me, I cannot be a bystander. I must both speak out and care for those in my care and those infected or dying from this horrific pandemic. While doing this it is my full intent and purpose to live through it and to bear witness against those who let it happen.

Until Tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under authoritarian government, Coronavirus, Diseases Epidemics and Pandemics, germany, History, leadership, Military, nazi germany, News and current events, us army

Coronavirus 19: Just the Facts

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been working on this article for two days in order to check sources and facts and to try to find the best sources of information for my readers.

The novel Coronavirus, or COVID 19 is now spreading at a rapid rate around the world, after beginning in and wreaking havoc in China, especially Wuhan City and Hudei Province where it began. The first death was reported by China to the World Health Organization on December 31st 2019. By the end of January the total number of infections numbered nearly 12,000, with 259 deaths. The Chinese Communist leadership tried to minimize the outbreak in its official communications, and finally, after delaying, enacted draconian measures to contain the spread of the virus, slowing its advance and buying time for other nations to take action. Even so the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Coronaviruses can range from the common cold to more serious diseases, This is a new form of Coronavirus, which can be transmitted from animals to humans. Two of the more recent Coronavirus are  were the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Since the World Health Organization declaration at the end of January the total number of cases number nearly 110,000, with over 3800 deaths. Cases have been reported in 103 countries on every continent. However, the numbers are certainly under the actual totals, as many countries, including the United States do not have enough testing kits to detect every case and the incubation period where an asymptotic infected person (someone not showing symptoms but who  is infected) can be up to 14 days, and in a few outlying cases 19 days or more. Depending on the country the average incubation period is 5-6 days. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Politics and inept actions in Washington, beginning with the President’s refusal to treat the outbreak as anything serious, and the administration’s initial response to ban non-U.S. residents from China from entering the country helped squander the time bought in China, despite that travelers from the infected region had been traveling around the world for weeks.

This was compounded by flaws in the CDC’s test kits which were discovered by clinicians which led to inconclusive results. It took most of February to troubleshoot the issue and begin deploying the CDC kits. The administration promised a million kits by the beginning of March, but fewer that 100,000 have been issued. Likewise, outside of the CDC the only a dozen research medical centers had the capability to produce their own kits, and the FDA, which is in charge of quality control standards for commercially produced kits and medicines was not brought into the effort until the end of February.

The delay meant that a very stealthy and hard to discover virus, 1/70th the size of a human blood cell, was loose in the United States without means to test for it in the midst of cold and flu symptoms, many of which it mimicked. It is highly contagious and there is no vaccine for it, and most experts don’t believe that there will be one for some time.

The only way to stop the spread is to keep people apart, for weeks because of the slow incubation period. The draconian measures to contain the virus by quarantining a large province have been the only thing that has slowed the rate of new infections. Italy, which has seen a massive spike in infections and deaths has quarantined Lombardy and the 12 nearby provinces. This is the industrial heartland of Italy, and the effect on the Italian economy will be great, as well as on companies which rely on the region for vital products.

As of today the United States has tested less than 2000 people for the virus, but the CDC  removed numbers tested from their website on March 2nd. This was probably a political move as it occurred shortly after Vice President Pence was designated to lead the fight against the virus. Shortly after Pence was named, it was announced that no Federal Government Health agency, civilian or military should release any information without clearing it with the Vice President first. The optics of this make it look like the administration is deliberately withholding information that could prove damaging to it and the President.

Even as the virus spread exponentially over the past week the President and the CDC are underplaying it. According to EU data, COVID-19 has been confirmed in 32 American states. According to CDC, it’s 19. According to Johns Hopkins tracker, there are 516 confirmed cases and 21 deaths. This is in large part due to the few tests conducted in the United States. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map

However, according to the CDC there have only been 164 cases and 11 deaths. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

The President still speaks as if there is no threat and downplays warnings from scientists and doctors. He surrounds himself with yes men who dare not cross him. He has done that in almost every branch of the Executive Branch, and now lives are at stake, as he, as he always does, knows more about the subject than experts. On Friday, Trump commented at Mar-a-Lago:

“I’m not concerned at all,” the president said when asked about Coronavirus getting closer to White House. “We’ll hold tremendous rallies,” he said — rallies will continue.“

Such rallies, while they boast the President’s ego, will endanger the lives of his supporters.

A report by a research group in Washington State suggested that based on genetic similarities between the first person diagnosed in the state and the United States, who had traveled to China, and a teenager in the same county who tested positive recently, that the virus could have been spreading undetected in Washington for up to six weeks. They considered their results “statistically significant.”

The spread of the virus has not been good for the global economy, and after over a month and a half of living in denial the world financial markets have taken major hits. The Dow Jones is down almost 4000 points; and other U.S. and foreign exchanges are losing similar amounts of their value. Likewise, bonds are down, oil is down, and the Federal Reserve dropped the Prime Rate by a quarter of a point to try to prop up the economy and prevent a recession, but there is little else they can do. The rates are nearly as low as they can go, and the Trump tax cuts when the economy was good have ballooned the budget deficit and national debt, so there is little wiggle room to pump up the economy.

However, the real problem is that we now live in a global economy, which is linked via supply chains dependent on the rapid movement of parts, materials, and manufactured goods, because most companies now rely on “just in time” supply systems rather than maintaining large inventories. Supply disruptions will be a major part of any recession, because they will lead to closed factories, stores, and put many people out of work. It will be a recession unlike any other we have experienced. Commerce is based on people coming together, and if governments “pull out all the stops” to contain the virus as the World Health Organization has urged, countries will have to do what China did and Italy is doing. Factories will shut down, entertainment venues will close, stores dependent on delivery of goods from across state or international boundaries will shutter as interstate travel and movement is banned with exception of absolutely essential items, and people will stop going to restaurants. Based on his actions so far I cannot see President Trump taking those kinds of actions.

There are also national security concerns, the virus could hurt American military readiness, and ability to train and deploy forces. Depending on how bad things get, it could cause social and political disruptions in countries where economies are on the edge, and where race based populist movements enjoy significant influence. Such movements often repress racial and religious minorities at home, and seek conflicts with their neighbors to settle old scores, or to take control of contested areas.

Hard decisions have to be made if this outbreak is to be stopped from becoming a major epidemic. The number will certainly be safe.

I will write about my experiences during the AIDs outbreak and dealing with it as both a Medical Service Corps officer in 1987-88, as a civilian hospital chaplain at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas from 1993 to the end of 1995, as well as as an ICU Chaplain during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2008-2009.

So until tomorrow, be safe, stay informed, and prepare. If you are sick, try not to expose others and seek medical treatment, and by the way, wash your hands.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under Diseases Epidemics and Pandemics, News and current events, Political Commentary

Padre Steve’s Decade in Review: Up Down Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again

Happy New Year!

Well, we have killed off the first decade of the new millennium and I hate to say it but I miss the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Somehow despite the threat of double secret nuclear annihilation, disco, and bad hair those decades seemed somehow more civil, more hopeful and dare I say just a bit nicer than the current decade has been.  However this decade is what it is, or maybe was what it was.  I think that most of us could say like the Barry Manilow  song that “I’ve been up down tryin’ to get that feeling again” but like Blobdie sang “Dreaming is Free.”

Personally Padre Steve had recently embarked on another phase of military service having left the Army Reserve in February 1999 to enter the Navy. Since that time my career has been pretty good and I’m glad that I made the switch.  I have had the chance to serve with some great folks and see a lot more of the world and do a lot of cool things, including going to war. This time in 1999 I was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp LeJeune North Carolina.  The big thing going on back then was the world being up in arms about the threat of something called Y2K.  Y2K was supposed to end life as we knew it as anything using computer technology was going to quit working, airplanes would fall from the sky, power plants would shut down and personal computers would stop working in the middle of trying to get a dial-up connection to AOL or Compuserve. We YTK fizzed and those that had made doomsday preparations felt pretty silly as they looked over their shoulders for Black Helicopters and hundreds of thousands of UN troops hiding out in our National Parks building detainment camps for real Americans.

Who the Hell Was this Guy Voting For?

As YTK fizzled the 2000 Presidential campaign got spun up.  Padre Steve missed a lot of it because he spent about 10 weeks in the dessert at 29 Palms with two different Marine battalions during two Combined Arms Exercises, or CAX.  He then left in December for a deployment to the Far East. Just before the election the destroyer USS Cole was attacked and heavily damaged by terrorists in an explosive laden boat while refueling in Yemen.  2000 ended without a decision in the election and the campaign culminated in January 2001 with a razor thin Electoral College victory for George W. Bush full of controversy over disputed ballots in Florida with an Army Corps of lawyers getting involved and taking the whole thing up the Supreme Court.  This process dragged on for what seemed like forever until I was in Okinawa with my battalion.  A new term was coined “the hanging chad.” Once the election nightmare was over things did not get better.  In 2000 lost some notable folks, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach and Pro-Football Hall of Famer Tom Landry called his last play, Sir Alec Guinness crossed over the River Kwai and Montreal Canadiens Hockey legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard broke away and got his final hat trick.

9-11 Twin Towers Under Attack

As 2001 began it did seem that things were starting to settle down despite lingering hatred on both sides of the political aisle about the election.  But then there were the attacks of September 11th 2001 where terrorists flew hijacked airliners into both of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. This caused a number of congressmen and senators to break forth in song outside the Capital and for a brief time it seemed that the whole country had united in common cause.  Soon US Special Forces, Rangers and Marines were fighting in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the terror attacks and the head of the Al Qaeda terrorist network.  US forces overran Afghanistan quickly with the help of Afghan tribes known as the Northern Alliance and it looked like despite not finding Bin Laden that the US goals were being accomplished even as the President was telling Americans to “go shopping” to many in the military giving the impression that while the military was at war that the nation was not.  In December 2001 Padre Steve was transferred from the Marines to the Guided Missile Cruiser USS Hue City, CG-66. The ship would complete a couple of underway periods and exercises before departing for the Middle East in early February.  This was Padre Steve’s first tour in a war zone and the ship conducted operations off the Horn of Africa, in the Northern Arabian Gulf as part of the UN Oil Embargo on Iraq intercepting smugglers, during which time Padre Steve was with a boarding team that made 75 boarding missions of Iraqi and other smugglers.

Iconic Picture of Padre Steve on a Boarding Mission

From there Hue City operated with the USS John F Kennedy conducting operations in the Gulf of Oman where our air controllers helped direct strikes against Al Qaida and the Taliban and during which time the ship was detached to keep watch on the Indians and Pakistanis who were on the brink of having a nuclear war.  Acting great and Academy Award winner Jack Lemmon, former Beatle George Harrison and NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt all made their final lap around the planet. In Baseball the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees to win the World Series in 7 games.

2004 The Red Sox Break the Curse

2002 also saw John Allen Mohammed, the Beltway Sniper bring terror to Washington DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland, the Congress passed a joint resolution to allow President Bush to use US Military Forces as he deemed fit in Iraq and the Iraq War Resolution.  Shortly thereafter the Department of Homeland Security was established.  The San Francisco Giants lost the World Series to the Anaheim Angels after leading in the 7th inning of game six much to the consternation of Padre Steve and the other Giants faithful.  Calls for the public water boarding of Giants Manager and former “Evil Dodger” Dusty Baker to find why he took out Russ Ortiz went unheeded. Dave Thomas the founder of Wendy’s flipped his last burger, country music legend Waylon Jennings sang his last song and Baseball immortal Ted Williams all died in 2002 with Williams and his family trying to make him a real immortal by having his remains cryogenically frozen.

The Challenger Disintigrates

For Padre Steve 2003 was relatively uneventful, the Hue City was in the yards when Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched and was just getting ready for a deployment when he was reassigned to the Marine Security Force Battalion.  In short order he was travelling around the globe and before the end of the year had visited his Marines in Bahrain, Rota Spain and Guantanamo Bay Cuba and he and the Abbess celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. The Iraq War and overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the big story of 2003 however there was other news. The Space Shuttle Columbia blew up on re-entry killing the 7 astronauts on board, California recalled Governor Gray Davis and replaced him with the Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Florida Marlins defeated the New York Yankees to win the World Series. We lost some legends in 2003 comedian Bob Hope died at the age of 100 and is now doing his Christmas show for the Archangel Michael and the Armies of Heaven; US Senator Strom Thurman filibustered his last bill at the age of 100, Fred Rogers left the neighborhood and Joseph Coors brewed his last batch of really bad beer.

George Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln

2004 saw yet another nasty Presidential election riddled with controversy as George W. Bush defeated Senator John Kerry to win re-election.  In Iraq Saddam Hussein was finally caught hiding in a hole in the ground by US Special Forces, the war in Iraq went south as the insurgency of former Ba’athists, disaffected Sunnis aided by Al Qaida and other foreign fighters and terrorists took up President Bush on his challenge to “bring it on.”  Facebook was founded in Cambridge Massachusetts, simultaneous suicide bombs devastated trains in Madrid in what became known as Spain’s 9-11, Lance Armstrong won his 6th consecutive Tour de France, Chechen terrorists seized a school in Beslan Russia and over 300 are killed and 700 wounded by the terrorists as the school was stormed by Russian security forces and the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series to break the curse of the Bambino after coming back to defeat the Yankees in the ALCS after being down three games to none.  Death took no holidays in 2004 as Bob Keeshan better known as Captain Kangaroo was piped over the side, Rick James dated his last Super Freaky Girl without taking her home to mother and former President Ronald Reagan died of Alzheimer’s Disease after seeing his successors destroy his coalition and “big tent” and hopeful vision of conservatism.   Padre Steve continued to travel around the world with his Marines going to Japan, France, and Spain, Bahrain and Guantanamo Bay as well as a number of trips within the United States.  In France he taught seminars at the Belleau Wood battlefield site and in Normandy.

Hurricane Katrina as a Category 5 Storm

The war in Iraq continued to heat up in 2005 with the insurgency spreading throughout the country with the focal point being Sunni stronghold Al Anbar Province.  Hurricane Katrina ravaged Gulf coast devastating New Orleans and southern Mississippi killing over 1800 and forcing millions from their homes. The ineffective and inept government response beginning with the “fly by visit” of President Bush helped the Democrats regain control of the House and Senate in 2006.  Terrorism was alive and well as a terrorist attack on London’s Underground and a bus killed 56 and injured over 700.  As for Padre Steve well he was selected for promotion to Lieutenant Commander, completed the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and continued to travel around the world with his Marines going to Japan, France, Spain, Bahrain and Guantanamo Bay as well as a number of trips within the United States.  The highlight of this was being able to have the Abbess accompany him to Guantanamo Bay for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Houston Astros in the World Series. In Washington DC baseball stars were hauled before a Congressional committee to testify on steroids in baseball or interrogated about their possible use of steroids. This wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer money as loser Congressmen who tolerate all sorts of illegal and immoral actions of their own sought to embarrass and destroy the careers and reputations of ballplayers in a grand act of inquisitional hypocrisy. Death came knocking for comedian Richard Pryor, Johnny Carson gave his last monologue, Pope John Paul II met Saint Peter and James Doohan, Mr. Scott from Star Trek was beamed up for the last time.

Israeli Merkeva Tank Destroyed by Hezbollah

In 2006 Padre Steve was promoted the Lieutenant Commander and was transferred to EOD Group Two after completing another year of travel with the Marine Security Forces.  Within months there was talk of a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan for him and his trusty assistant and body guard Nelson Lebron. He also began a Masters Degree program in Military History at American Military University.  In the rest of the world the Republicans lost their majorities in Congress, the war in Iraq continued to grow in intensity and Israel went to war with Hezbollah forces on their northern border.  The attack was ill conceived and was a military failure revealing weaknesses in the Israeli ground forces training and tactical abilities forcing investigations of the military and the resignation of the head of the military.  Pope Benedict XVI the successor to Pope John Paul II published his first encyclical.  In the World Series Tony LaRussa’s St Louis Cardinals defeated the Detroit Tigers and Barry Bonds though tainted by controversy continued his march to the Baseball Home Run title.  Death paid a visit to former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, sportscaster Curt Gowdy called his last game and Don Knotts, Televisions Barney Fife gave up his bullet for the last time.

Barry Bonds the All Time Home Run Leader

The war in Iraq reached a climax in 2007 as President Bush heeded the advice of General David Petreus and initiated a “surge” of forces to help wage an actual counterinsurgency campaign.  Combined with the Al Anbar Awakening where the Sunni turned on the insurgents and allied themselves with the Americans the course of the war changed as insurgents lost support and the US and better trained and equipped Iraqi forces launched successful offensives to drive the insurgents out of key areas.  Padre Steve deployed to Iraq and served in Al Anbar Province working with US Marine and Army advisers to the Iraqi Army, Police and Border forces travelling thousands of miles in the province to go where few others went.

Padre Steve in Iraq with Bedouin on Syrian Border

Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record while track star Marion Jones surrendered 5 Olympic Gold Medals after admitting to blood doping and the Boston Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies to claim their second World Series title of the decade.  Meanwhile death came to Jerry Falwell who preached his last sermon; Tammy Faye (Baker) Messner applied her last coat of Bondo, Ike Tuner played his last guitar riff while Pavarotti exited the stage with Marcel Marceau who went rather silently I am told.

Barak Obama the 44th President

In 2008 Padre Steve returned from Iraq with a pretty good case of PTSD, chronic pain and anxiety coupled with depression and a crisis in faith.  He finished his tour at EOD and was assigned to Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. He and the Abbess celebrated thier 25th wedding anniversary.  The war in Iraq was now moving in a successful direction with the Iraqis taking more control of their security and the various religious, political and ethnic factions beginning to talk and work with one another rather than shoot at each other.  However the war in Afghanistan took a nasty turn as the Taliban came back with a vengeance and the Afghan government was revealed as weak, ineffective and corrupt.  The 2008 Presidential election was waged with bitterness and the Democrats sent Senator Barak Obama, who had defeated Senator Hillary Clinton up against Senator John McCain.  Obama won the election becoming the first African American man to become president while strengthening their majorities in Congress. The world entered a major economic crisis in 2008 and the United States suffered massive losses in financial markets, housing and rising unemployment.  Bank bailouts were the order of the day as President Bush left office and Obama took over.  A massive earthquake in Sichuan China killed over 80,000 people while American swimmer Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals to set an Olympic record.  The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series defeating the surprising Tampa Bay Rays.  Death as always came along taking actors Heath Ledger and Charlton “Moses” Heston, comedian George Carlin and former Senator Jesse Helms.

Sarah Palin the New Leader of the GOP?

2009 came in with the inauguration of Barak Obama as President something that Padre Steve witnessed with a elderly African American women in her ICU room while holding her hand as she cried not believing that she would see an event of this kind in her lifetime.  The war in Iraq began to wind down as the US began to increase it’s withdraw of ground forces and turn over more security to the Iraqis.  In Afghanistan the war reached a crisis point as the military and political situation deteriorated within the country and support for the war dwindled in the US and Europe. Amid this President Obama agreed to a “surge” for Afghanistan.  The worldwide economic continued but by the end of the year some economic indicators were pointing upward again even as the US unemployment rate continued to rise. A bitter fight was waged over health care reform and economic policies while President Obama’s support and approval ratings crashed as people on both the left and right of the political spectrum criticized his leadership and policies.  Republican Vice-Presidential nominee and former Vice President Dick Cheney took the Republican lead in attacking the President while conservative talk radio delivered a daily barrage of criticism.  Some of Obama’s own actions did not help his cause especially in the manner in which he was viewed to respond to terrorist attacks including an attempted Christmas Eve bombing of a US airliner.  Tensions continued to grow between the West and Iran regarding that nation’s nuclear program even as widespread demonstrations wracked that country after an election which appeared to be rigged by the Iranian government. An outbreak of H1N1 Influence reached pandemic proportions across the globe but did not reach the lethality that it had the potential to do.  The Vatican announced a historic plan to allow conservative and traditionalist Anglicans come into the Catholic Church and retain their Anglican traditions and some measure of autonomy.

The Yankees Return

In baseball a revitalized New York Yankees team dominated the American league and went on to dominate their playoff and World Series opponents defeating the Phillies in 6 games. In football a good number of teams in both the NFL and NCAA were a parody of the sport and coaching scandals plagued the sport while at the box office Star Trek came back with a vengeance and a twist. Padre Steve continued his hospital work, battled PTSD, depression, his father’s Alzheimer’s disease and his own spiritual crisis but completed the academic requirements for his Masters Degree in Military History and by the end of the year began to experience some measure of healing.  He launched this site in February of 2009 and as of this post will have made 328 posts on the site.  He also bought his first ever season tickets for a baseball team and now claims Section 102, Row B seats 1 & 2 as his pew at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.  Death prowled the earth looking for recruits finding legendary news anchorman Walter Cronkite who signed off of the last time, Pop Superstar Michael Jackson who “moon walked” the stairway to heaven or wherever, Senator Edward Kennedy who finalized his last legislation with his maker and Patrick Swayze who reprised his role in “Ghost.”

So it has been quite a decade personally for your friend Padre Steve as well as an eventual decade for the United States and the World.  The decade has been “interesting” and as the ancient Chinese curse says “may you live in interesting times.”  I hope that the next year and decade are a lot less interesting, that wars will cease and that people all over the world will join together like the old 1960’s Coca Cola commercial.

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing?

Peace and Blessings in the New Year,

Padre Steve+

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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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Quick Thoughts and Thank You’s

steve on top of the rock

Milestone Birthday

Well friends, today is going to be a busy day as I get ready for the final part of the Abbesses’ milestone birthday celebration.  Tonight we are having friends over to celebrate and it should be nice.  Only problem is that I have to do some more housecleaning and then go get all the food.  My original plan for food fell through when Primo Pizza began their move to a new location a couple miles away and are not available this weekend as they get the new restaurant set up.  I’m on “Plan B” which simply means finding food in sufficient quantity and quality for the event.  Good thing that I plan ahead right?

The Pig Flu aka H1N1 is No Joke

Despite what many naysayers are saying the H1N1 is no joke.  I know one patient in our hospital who contracted it and died.  Likewise I know of a hospital chaplain in our area who sings in the same choir as the Abbess who has it and a really good friends’ daughter is currently in hospital after having contracted it and getting pneumonia.  While this may not be like the 1918 outbreak it still has potential to cause a lot of problems and maybe kill a lot of people.  I remember the 1968 outbreak, I was the only one in my family not sick.  That outbreak was quite severe.  Unlike the naysayers and critics of preparation I find the fact that health care workers and others refusing immunizations to be idiotic.  In the 1976 outbreak in Toronto one half of the deaths were health care workers.  When H5N1 the Avian flu hit China it caused significant causalities to health care workers to include some of the top Pulmonary specialists in the country  who wanted to be in the front lines treating the outbreak.  My old Commanding Officer at 3rd Battalion 8th Marines had what he called a “You might be a Dumb Ass if” list which was kind of like Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a Red Neck if” list.  I think that not getting immunized, especially if you are a health care worker makes the list. So “You might be a Dumb Ass if you are a Health Care worker who refuses to get immunized against something that has the potential to kill you or make you very sick.”  ‘Nuff siad.

Baseball

The Orioles are keeping Manager Dave Trembley for next year.  I have made a number of posts here and my other sites that I said that I thought that he should go.  After hearing the interview of him after the Orioles drubbing of the Blue Jays last night I do think that it is the right move.  My single argument against him was that he was too nice.  He made the comment that next year he “will drop the hammer” more often and not simply be the nice guy teacher.  I do expect that the young talent on the team will respond to this and that with some good off season acquisitions that the O’s will have a lot better year next year. I’ll do more on this later.

Thank You

I want to thank all of my readers for your response to this blog.  For those who began with me and those who have become regular readers you know that this is part therapy for my PTSD as well as a place that I can actually wrap my brain around a lot of things that interest me.  Likewise I have made sure on occasion that some of my posts have irritated those on both sides of the ideological spectrum.  This has occasionally made my life interesting as a few folks have insinuated that I am not a Christian or that I am a traitor to the country because I do not swallow their party line.  I have made sure not to delete those comments.

However, many of my readers have known me for years, and somehow still like me, I am as I say on my “about” page all about friendship and when it comes to friendship religion, politics and Dodger fans I can still be friends with those that I may differ with.  That is part of the joy and richness of living for me.  My friends are a diverse group of people who I probably could not have together in the same place without it looking like a recent “town-hall” meeting.

I have many new readers as well, a large number who have found me through Alphainventions.com a very good referral site to get your blog seen in real time.  I have had a number of sites now link me to their site because they first saw me on Alpha Inventions.  Most recent was Mark Dowe whose “Journal from Scotland” is very interesting and the USS Houston site which has linked to me.

To all my readers I thank you for reading and your comments.  If there is a subject that you would like to see me write about sometime let me know, I might just take you up on it.

I do plan on continuing my “Going to War” Series as well as writing about my life with and recovery efforts for my PTSD.  Likewise I will always be giving my “View from 102” on Baseball and other sports subjects, military history, faith in the public square and all the other stuff on my subjects list.

Most of all I thank you for reading, thank you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers and for occasionally challenging me with good questions.  Likewise thanks to those who question my salvation, patriotism or parentage, you all enrich my life.

As always keep me in your prayers, especially for my dad and his Alzheimer’s disease, those that I work with as we deal with life and death every day, those afflicted with the wounds of war both physical, psychological and spiritual and those who serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world in harms way.

Blessings to you all!

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Investigate Novitzky and the Prosecutors in the BALCO Major League Baseball Investigation

Baseball players who are accused of or admitted to the use of steroids and other alleged performance enhancing drugs prior to their being banned by baseball have been demonized by the Federal Government and media.  I do not agree with taking them, but at the age of 49 and still having to complete regular physical fitness tests and physical conditioning I wouldn’t mind if someone prescribed me some HGH.  I’ve got enough nagging injuries that hurt that I have to take a couple of pain medications on a regular basis anyway.  If someone offered me the chance to do more than get pain relief I would jump at it.  Major League Ball players get dinged up a lot over the course of Spring Training, a 162 game season and up to a month of post season play.  They also are dependant of their physical condition to make their living.  Likewise our society as a whole has become a nation addicted to enhancing performance.  It is pervasive and not merely isolated to professional sports, especially not baseball.

Over the past 10 years certain people who have no legal oversight to baseball such as IRS investigator Jeff Novitzky have engaged in a gross abuse of governmental power.  In his investigation he has either been permitted or encouraged by the prosecutors of Barry Bonds to break the law.  The prosecutors acted either out of omission by turning a blind eye to Novitzky’s conduct or out of commission by cooperating with him.  Not only has this been shown now repeatedly as court after court has thrown out evidence or dismissed charges against Novitzky’s chief target Barry Bonds.  Yesterday the 9th Circuit Court ruled that Novitzky’s investigative team illegally seized thousands of records without probable cause.  Chief Judge Alex Kozinski stated “This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause.”  Since February leak after leak of names from a list of 104 players who allegedly tested positive on a screening that was only to be used to see how pervasive the use of steroids was in baseball with the understanding that the list would not be made public and in fact would be destroyed.  The leaks obviously are coming from investigators who are the only people with access to the records who have motive to leak information.  The act of prosecutors or investigators leaking the documents that are sealed is illegal.  The consistent leaking to various reporters has    Former U.S. Attorney and chief of the criminal division for the Southern District of California Charles La Bella said: “The information shouldn’t have been seized. People have been unfairly tainted by something the courts have ruled should never have been made public.”

Novitzky, his team and superiors had a warrant to get information on 10 individuals.  They knowingly exceeded their authority without probably cause and seized thousands of records. They then allowed information the courts had to be made public.  What did they find besides the records at BALCO? Under $2000 worth of illegal performance enhancing substances, nothing more suggesting a widespread manufacture or distribution of them.

The apparent collaboration of Novitzky with BALCO prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matthew Parrella has tainted the case against Bonds or anyone else whose names have been leaked.  I have to say apparent because there is no proof to this point that Novitzky is the leaker but the evidence based on what he has done so far in breaking the law in regard to the seizure of evidence makes it a reasonable supposition.

The judge in the Bonds case, Susan Illston was openly skeptical of Novitzky’s conduct, saying in open court: “I think the government has displayed … a callous disregard for constitutional rights. I think it’s a seizure beyond what was authorized by the search warrant, therefore it violates the Fourth Amendment.”  Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Kozinski wrote  of Novitzky’s conduct: “The record reflects no forensic lab analysis, no defusing of booby traps, no decryption…Rather, the case agent immediately rooted out information pertaining to all professional baseball players and used it to generate additional warrants and subpoenas to advance the investigation.”

Such conduct by government agents is a moral and legal quantum leap above the actions allegedly committed by Bonds or others.  Their actions may have hurt baseball, but that is for baseball to judge, not the government.  With the House and Senate hearings in which current and former players have been hauled before the committees with television cameras rolling while Congressmen and Senators pontificate making scripted statements in which the players are condemned without actual charges being filed or convicted of any crime.  The Congressional committees have become kangaroo courts where men are held accountable to standards that their accusers are not even accountable to.

I know about out of control investigators.  I have had first hand dealings with men who think that they can bully people and use the law to bring themselves professional accomplishment and personal gain at the expense of people who they have no probable cause to investigate.  When I was an Army Company Commander in Germany in the mid-1980s I had to deal with a unit that had the highest drug positive rate in Europe.  I was told to “clean up that company” by the Group Commander when I took command.  The prosecutor became a friend, at the same time I abided by the laws and regulations governing drug testing as well as choosing the appropriate level to deal with the offense.  However, I was also tested and even more often than my soldiers.  Because of the drug positive rate the CID took an interest in my unit.  Two agents came to my office one day and asked me if I would allow them to place a CID agent in the unit undercover not to deal with the drug problem, but to “investigate suspicions of unit personnel engaging in the black market sale of American cigarettes on the economy to Germany nationals.”  I became suspicious of them.  I asked if they had probable cause or evidence that any of my soldiers were engaged in this activity.  They said they had no proof, evidence or even probable cause, only that black marketing of cigarette was a problem and that they needed to place an agent in order to get the proof.  With them in the room I called my prosecutor buddy and told him what they were asking and he told me that if it was his company that he would make them show probable cause and do an open investigation.  That confirmed my gut feelings about the matter and I thanked him and hung up the phone. I then looked at the agents, told them to give me probable cause and that I would consider it.  I was accused at that point by one of them of covering up criminal activity and that he would get me too.  I simply told them to get out of my office and out of my building and that they wanted to accuse me of a crime to go ahead.  I ever saw them again.  I presume that they tried this because I was a pretty junior First Lieutenant up to my ears in disciplinary problems and agree to what they wanted.  I knew if I did this that that I would destroy any confidence that was being build in the chain of command, destroy the cohesion that I was working hard to build following the relief of the previous commanding officer and subject my soldiers to an inquisition that would destroy my company.

How many journalists or politicians are tested for performance enhancing drugs in their professions?  Would not the public responsibility of both journalists and elected Congressmen, Senators and for that matter non-military or law enforcement government employees actually be more important to society as to whether a baseball player took something to heal from an injury faster or be better at his game?  It is hypocritical for journalists or politicians to hold these men to standards that they themselves are not accountable to.  When those journalists or politicians then embolden out of control investigators and prosecutors who courts have ruled violated the Constitution in their illegal actions, the nation they say that is okay for the government to violate the law and citizens Constitutional rights.

That is the bigger issue than if baseball has a steroids problem, or had a steroids problem before it began its testing system.  Add to this the staggering costs of the Bonds investigation alone, $55 million as of January 2009 plus the monetary costs of the Congressional hearings.   One also is forced to ask what Congress could have been doing with the time, money and effort spent on the hearings.  Are there not more pressing issues to deal with and is this not a warped sense of public service? Should Congress even be worried about this with two ongoing wars, ongoing terrorist threats, and an economic crisis, a political divide that has moved from opposition to pure hatred and a potential H1N1 Flu pandemic on the horizon?  Where are the priorities for these people? Let baseball police itself. It has a testing program now; the allegations are all things that happened 6-15 years ago when the standards were not even clear.

It is time for this to stop.  The prosecutors and Novitzky and anyone else working on this case suspected of misconduct should be investigated and if they have violated the law they should be charged and tried as any other person would be.  It is my view that all of this now is not being done to benefit baseball, but to enhance the careers of men who believe that they are both morally superior and think themselves above the law.  All investigations of ball players that are based on accusations and evidence before Major League Baseball banned specific performance enhancing drugs and supplements substances should be ended now.  It is a miscarriage of justice.

Now if baseball wants to ban players from the game or not elect them to the hall of fame, that is a matter for baseball to decide, not that of Congress and certainly not that of Jeff Novitzkty or anyone else who have disgraced their offices by their utter disregard of the law and the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, philosophy, state government agencies