Tag Archives: jean luc picard

Exponentially Exponential, COVID-19 and Reality, not Fantasy

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I know that I am beginning to sound like a broken record. That being said I must tell the truth, even if it appears repetitive. In Star Trek the Next Generation, Captain Jean Luc Picard gave Wesley Crusher the following words of wisdom.

“the first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth, historical truth or personnel truth…”

Bottom Line Up Front: As of this moment there are 471,035 cases of the COVID-19 Virus worldwide, and 21,283 deaths. This is up from 381,699 cases of COVID-19 and 16,558 deaths. Today 335,534 of the cases are still active, of the closed cases 114,218 have recovered and 21,283 have died for a 16% death rate, up from 14% less than 48 hours ago. That is a 90,000 increase in infections and nearly 5,000 increase in deaths in that short timespan.

I know that I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but the response of the Trump Administration to it has been abysmal, despite the warnings of U.S. Intelligence Agencies that the pandemic was coming, the administration did nothing. The President made light of it, said that it would have little impact, and played the part of Denier in Chief for two months, but then the stock markets crashed, and all of a sudden the President decided it was no longer fake news and ordered Vice President Pence to head up the effort to contain the virus and its effects. To his credit Pence did. try, and some policy changes began to occur, but to tell the truth, it was too little too late. The Virus had been spreading in the United States for weeks before Pence even received the mission. As a result the virus spread to tens of thousands of people, many who didn’t or don’t know that they are even infected, who in turn spread the virus without realizing they are doing so.

Because I have worked in ICUs and ERs in major civilian and military hospitals in two past pandemics; AIDS during its most deadly period the early to mid-1990s before effective drugs were developed to help infected people live somewhat normal lives. The in 2009 I was in a different Medical Center dealing with H1N1. As such I have been following the COVID-19 infection numbers and death rates with interest since it first came on the scene, but much more so when the first case appeared in Washington in mid-January. Now for the last month I have been watching the progress of the virus by following the data supplied by the CDC, Johns Hopkins, WHO, and this website https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ .  It tends to be updated more frequently than the other sites, mostly because it is relying on updates as they are released by countries, and in the case of the United States, the states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories.  It is one of the sites mentioned in DOD and Navy message traffic to use in getting solid data and updates about COVID 19.

In the United States  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/there are now 68,203 cases, up over 22,000 in less than 48 hours. At midnight on 25 March there were 46,145 total reported infections with deaths. Currently 66,782 of these cases are active. 1421 cases are closed and of that number only 394 have recovered and been discharged, but 1,027 have died, giving us a 72% mortality rate. The biggest issue has been the delay in testing and unavailability of test kits. Likewise we are now facing an acute shortage of ICU beds and ventilators, as well as severe shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment) for health workers and first responders, which would include police, fire, and EMS. Likewise there is a critical shortage regular hospital beds and places to put them because our system of managed care does not deem surge capacity important.

These numbers change multiple times a day depending on when countries, or in the case of the U.S. our states and territories report their daily data. The disturbing item to me is that with the exception of China, South Korea, and Japan and a few other Asian countries that instituted draconian measures to flatten the infection curve, the virus is showing exponential growth in the United States and western Europe. The reason it hasn’t exploded in many underdeveloped Second and Third World countries is that it was most likely late getting there because they are out of the way and do not get the kind of visitor, tourist, and business traffic that Western Europe and the United States have. Likewise they do not have the test kits or adequate medical care to document the spread. However, once it takes hold it will become a killing machine, wiping out millions in those unfortunate countries, and probably leading to more refugees, infections, and deaths.

Likewise one has to take into account Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba which all under-report or fail to report infections and deaths. North Korea has reported no cases or no deaths as incredulous as that may sound, but reports from that county say that anyone showing symptoms is taken out and shot. Russia, for a large country between China and Europe reports under 1,000 infections and very few deaths, while reporting almost 7,000 more deaths from pneumonia than last year. Pneumonia is almost always the cause of death for those infected with COVID-19. Coincidence, I think not, especially when Vladimir Putin was photographed coming out of a hospital in complete biological hazard protective equipment. Non permeable suite, helmet with respirator, facial protection, and gloves. that is not normal for a regular hospital visit, even to people with active pneumonia.

Fewer than two and a half weeks ago, 8 March, the United States reported 541 infections and 22 deaths. By March 18th there were 9,259 cases and 150 deaths. Four days later we were at 46,182 cases and 582 deaths, a death rate of 66%, well over the worldwide percentage. Two days later we are at over 66,000 infections and over 1,000 deaths.  But expect we can eventually expect this to fall to somewhat  closer to the world average. But we are not there yet, and this will only get worse with more infections and deaths until the Federal government led by President Trump takes ownership and provides leadership we will have a patchwork of state and local response that only can provide porous protection against the virus. We are not a police state with a population used to millennia of authoritarian rule.

Since the virus is often spread through people who are asymptomatic, and many people refuse to self-isolate or in public violate the six foot buffer zone, I recommend that any person who reads this article practices an abundance of caution for two reason; first two protect themselves, and then, just in case they are infected but are asymptotic, protect themselves and others from getting the virus. This should be the case anytime they leave their homes to do necessary shopping, or go to a medical appointment. Anyone who goes out should not only observe the measures issued by the CDC, but go further. Personnel and their families should wear some kind of surgical, or other mask to reduce the possibility of transmission protecting them, and in case they are asymptomatic anyone they come in contact. These can be hard to find but there are a number of groups or individuals making relatively effective face masks, which though not to the N-95 standard would give them a modicum of protection. Some of the designs and patterns are online. Likewise I recommend that when leaving home that personnel wear vinyl disposable gloves, carry some kind of hand sanitizer (if you can get it) , wash your hands after every physical contact with a probably contaminated surface, and care antiseptic wipes in your car to wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, and gas pumps.

Call this an abundance of caution on my part, but the virus knows no borders, races, religions, rank or status.

However, yesterday and today, after occasionally acting the part of a real President, Trump went back to his baseline. At his briefing last nought he again blamed everyone but himself, and 10 days into a 15 day campaign to try to stop the virus by social distancing and shutting down businesses, he threatened to reverse a key public health decision he made because the “economic costs might be higher than the virus itself.” He walked that back a bit yesterday, but who knows what today or tomorrow will bring, but now many of his propaganda team are urging that he end his social distancing policy, reopen business and let vulnerable people die, all to save the stock markets. Adam Smith, the originator of capitalism would deplore.

In his news conference comments last night, as the night before, he tried to make his threat sound a little more humane by suggesting that isolated people were more prone to suicide, and would would outnumber the people infected and killed by the virus. That is not true. While I know that social isolation can be a killer, its effects can be mitigated by people that care. However, if people go back to work, and stores and restaurants are opened just as the virus is hitting full stride the infection and death rate will make those of the past few days look like peanuts. Millions more will be infected, and many of them will die. As they,  the true believers and investors realize that Trump deceived them, the economy will collapse like a house of cards. Not just because of the effects of the virus, but because the business leaders, stock holders, and even his cult followers will abandon him because they will finally realize that they mean nothing to him.

I highly recommend that anyone reading this read The Great Influenza: the Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John Barry, as well as And the Band Played On, by the late Randy Shilts, and Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: the Calamitous Fourteenth Century. They are all worth the read. History has much to teach anyone who dares to read it without political or ideological blinders.

So, because I am tired I wish you a good night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under authoritarian government, Coronavirus, Diseases Epidemics and Pandemics, ethics, faith, History, laws and legislation, News and current events, Political Commentary

“Don’t be Silly, Space Shuttles Don’t Explode” Remembering Challenger

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It is still so hard to believe that thirty-three years ago we were stunned to see the Space Shuttle Challenger blow up shortly after launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

I don’t know about you, but it shocked the hell out of me. I am a child of the 1960s and 1970s when the United States was setting the pace on the exploration of space. Manned missions to the moon had become commonplace, the Space Shuttle Program appeared to be a jumping off point for further exploration. Space stations that would be able to conduct scientific research and maybe even serve as launching and logistics centers for the exploration of Mars and beyond.

Back when I was a kid and young adult the space program captivated us, and coupled with the hope presented in Star Trek, where human beings of all races and nationalities would work with alien races who had similar values explored the far reaches of the galaxy, anything seemed possible. Then, in one moment, the dream imploded as the Challenger exploded. Truthfully, it hasn’t been the same since.

That afternoon I was still at work as the Commanding Officer of the 557th Medical Company, (Ambulance). It was about 20 minutes till six and I was completing paperwork from an Article 15 proceeding, and looking over our end of the month Unit Status Report drafts.

It was about that time that my Charge Of Quarters, Specialist Lisa Dailey camel charging into my office. She cried out “Lieutenant Dundas, the Space Shuttle just blew up!” I looked up from my paperwork and said, “Don’t be silly, space shuttles don’t blow up.” Such was my faith in technology and the dreams of the space program and Star Trek in my mind.

She couldn’t believe my response, because she had just seen it in real time. That was not long after the Armed Forces Network or AFN started broadcasting CNN and other U.S. based news programs in real time. CNN just happened to be televising the launch of Challenger. Specialist Dailey, who I still remain in contact with said “no sir, I just saw it, it’s on TV right now.”

With that I got up and went with her to the television where I stood transfixed as I watched the endless replays of the event. It was so unbelievable. Never before had a U.S. space mission failed to at last get into space, and it was a body blow to the space program. The shuttle program continued, but it wasn’t the same. There were many more successful missions, many in support of the International Space Station, but they became routine and many people didn’t follow them. Truthfully, I was like many people, I didn’t pay much attention to them after the Space Shuttle program regained steam and achieved success after success.

But then, some seventeen years later on February 1st 2003 I was sitting drinking coffee in the Wardroom Of the USS HUE CITY, waiting for the arrival of General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Veteran of the Battle Of Hue City. General Pace was our guest speaker at the annual,Battle Of Hue City Memorial. He was remembered fondly by the Marines who served with him at Hue City as their Lieutenant. As I waited the wardroom Television was tuned to CNN which was covering the re-entry of the Space Shuttle Columbia. As I watched the coverage Columbia broke up on re-entry over Texas and Louisiana. General Pace was delayed in his arrival due to an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, but he did arrived. However, for the seconded time in my life I witnessed the destruction of a Space Shuttle, but by then I would never again make the comment “Don’t be silly, Space Shuttles don’t explode.”

Honestly, I want to live to see the day when human beings land of Mars, and to really dream when humanity achieves the capacity for faster than light space travel, or as it is called in Star Trek, “Warp Speed.” I would love to live to see first contact with a friendly Alien race like the Vulcans of Star Trek. I still dream, but I know that there are risks, and that in such undertakings that lives will be lost, that there will be tragedies, but that is the price of human progress.

As the entity called Q told Jean Luc Picard in the Star Trek Next Generation episode Q Who:

“If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here! It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross…but it’s not for the timid.”

I remember and mourn those lost aboard Challenger and Columbia, but I pray that their sacrifice in the name of humanity will not be forgotten, nor their quest abandoned.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under aircraft, History, star trek

Epiphanies and Struggles at 2000

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I posted an article last night about three Union heroes of the Battle of Little Round Top in the Civil War; Colonel Strong Vincent, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Colonel Patrick “Paddy” O’Rorke. That was the 1999th article that I have posted here, this is number 2000.

I have wondered for weeks what I was going to write about on such an auspicious occasion, and I thought of a lot. However, recent events have brought me to an emphany based on my own experiences to be sure, but also through the study of the post Civil War life of Joshua Chamberlain and Gouverneur Warren as well as the British leader of the Arab Revolt in the First World War, T.E. Lawrence.

The frailties and struggles of these men with life after war in relation to their calling, chosen vocations and family lives have stuck a chord in me that the mere study of them as iconic military leaders had never done. Well over a century after their death of Chamberlain, the lives and words of these men have spoken to me in ways that few things, including the words of scripture and the lives of the great saints have ever done,

I am currently re-writing another article about on another Union hero of that battle, Brigadier General Gouverneur Warren. I expect that after I complete that and get some edits from my wife Judy that it should be posted Sunday or Monday.

I find it fascinating and even ironic how much I learn from the lives of these men, especially the two men who serviced to battle to both great glory and heartache.

If you are a regular reader of this site you probably have picked up how much that I relate to complex, contradictory and often troubled historical figures. My world is a world of various shades of gray. My heroes are usually flawed men, men of great brilliance and intelligence who may on some occasions rise to greatness and other times struggle in the most basic elements of life.

I have written many times and shared my struggles with faith, belief in God, acceptance, meaning and depression. These are things that honestly I did not struggle with, or that I could have imagined before I returned from Iraq. If you had told me in early 2007 that I would struggle with these things I would have told you just how wrong that you were.

I cannot do that now. Although I have been very successful in life as well as my military and academic career I often feel like a complete failure. I struggle to believe that I am not, especially in regard to my service in the Chaplain Corps, an organization that since my return from Iraq I have felt disconnected from and in some cases rejected by. Now I do have to own that as my own issue. In my more recent interactions with some senior Chaplains I have found that my perception may not be true of how I am viewed may not be true.

Alexander Dumas wrote in his literary classic The Count of Monte Cristo:

“Moral wounds have this peculiarity – they may be hidden, but they never close; always painful, always ready to bleed when touched, they remain fresh and open in the heart.”

That kind of got thrown in my face when the contractors preparing the annual Navy Chaplain Corps professional development training conference contacted me. They plan on using my story from the DOD Real Warriors website as a “discussion starter during the training event. The irony is that I told a number of people recently that I felt like the “poster child” for PTSD that no one wants to admit exists. Now it looks like I might be the poster child that everyone sees. The irony is too rich.

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I understand from a senior Chaplain who attended the validation of the project, that it was perceived in a very positive manner by the senior leaders of the Chaplain Corps present. My friend whose judgment I trust was surprised by how I perceived that I have been seen by senior leaders. Truthfully my feelings are quite negative and I admit based on how depressed that I have been that those feelings might not be correct.

I am humbled, but kind of embarrassed as you can imagine for a number of reasons, first that I could be wrong about my perception. That is the easier conundrum. The second is that though I have tried to be transparent in sharing my experience on this website as well as in person the fact is that in every case where others picked up and ran with my story, it was on their initiative, not mine. All of those events,including the Real Warriors video and story were scary, because I had to “drop my shields” so to speak and let others tell and interpret my story. Honestly if I was to become famous for anything I would prefer it to be my writing about history, ethics, and of course Gettysburg.

As I told the people for the contracting team I am happy to help in any way that I can so long as those who hear my story are inspired, or even guilted into ensuring those in the Chaplain Corps and those that we serve are cared for and do not experience the hell of what I went through when I returned from Iraq feeling so rejected, abandoned and uncared for by my peers and superiors. So even though the prospect of my story being shared among a community that I have little trust of, I am willing to allow them to use it, so long as it helps ensure that others do not experience what I did on their return from war.

My wife Judy told me that I need to stop my negative self talk, which I probably should try to do but find it hard to do. However,I guess from my clinical experience that I should know better. However, being chronically depressed for years while suffering from PTSD does skew one’s perspective on life and reality. It also can effect how they believe that they are perceived by others, usually in ways that correspond to their own beliefs.

For me I often feel as T.E. Lawrence wrote after he had left the Royal,Air Force where he had served for twelve years under an assumed name following his voluntary exit from the world stage. Lawrence wrote:

“You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That’s the feeling.”

I do understand what Lawrence meant by this, but I understand what Judy says too. When she says tells me to stop the negative self talk, I know what she says to be true, That being said many times I have a hard time believing it or acting upon it. Of course Judy is quite correct, despite how I feel I am capable of being logical and analytical. That was something that I was always good at doing, thus in spite of myself she has me trapped.

It is somewhat fascinating to me that coming up on seven years after I left Iraq, a country that I would gladly go back to again to help my Iraqi friends that I still seem to be emotionally stuck at the place that I returned. The quote by Captain Picard that I led this article with is an excellent place to end tonight.

Honestly I just want to work my way through this, but I struggle. Since I now seem to be rambling I will close for the night.

Thank you as always for taking the time to include my writings into your life. All of our time is limited and the fact that many of you chose to spend time reading what I write means a great deal to me.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, Military, ministry, PTSD