Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

Life in General

It’s Time for the 21st Century


One of the things that’s driving me absolutely bonkers this election season is the focus all the candidates have on returning the USA to the economy of the 1950’s and 60’s. All of them, but especially Messers Trump and Sanders, seem to think that if we wall ourselves off from the rest of the world, we can return to those halcyon days.

It’s a pipe dream, and if you’re buying into it, you might be stuffing something other than tobacco in your pipe. I’m going to drop some knowledge on you that you might have heard whispers of, but never been forced to grasp. The “good ol’ days” are gone forever – and they’re never coming back. Labor-intensive work, requiring little to no skills that pays well, is a thing of your memories. Soon, many of the jobs that we kid ourselves about being in demand will have gone the way of the blacksmith, the cobbler and the typesetter.

It’s understandable that most of us do not want to hear this. We grew up being to ld that if we worked hard, kept out of trouble and were good citizens we could live the American dream. Then, one day we woke up to find that our jobs disappeared and they aren’t coming back. Nobody told us why, or what jobs would replace them. Then, we found out the jobs that did replace them required all kinds of skills that most of us lacked. It didn’t matter that we’d proven ourselves as good employees by every other measure: we simply didn’t qualify for these new jobs.

It would be wonderful if we could bring back those labor-intensive jobs that didn’t require much in the way of training or skills. But here’s the thing: anything that’s labor-intensive is now being done elsewhere, for much less than you would accept as a pay rate. No company in their right mind would bring those jobs back here. As an example, let’s take Apple Corporation’s outsourcing the manufacturing of iPhones to FoxConn, a Chinese company. What nobody told you (or apparently, Mr. Trump) is that FoxConn turns out those millions of units using fewer than 100 employees, and they’re mostly engaged in packaging and shipping. 85% of an iPhone’s manufacturing is automated: it’s built by robots. So, yes, I suppose you could force Apple to build a factory in the USA. But do you suppose they wouldn’t also build the doggone thing with robots? Of course they would.

This is the reality that the snake oil salesmen have avoided telling you this election season. What’s worse, they aren’t telling you that the move away from those jobs is accelerating. They aren’t telling you that by 2025, many of the jobs we currently take for granted will be gone, replaced by automation or cheaper competition from overseas. Think of it this way: the only place you find elevator operators today is in old movies. Fairly soon, anyone who drives for a living, works in the fast-food industry, works in a warehouse or does general office work will be looking for a new career. How can I say that with certainty? Because those jobs are already being slowly replaced. Amazon now has robots doing order picking. McDonald’s is rolling out ordering kiosks in their restaurants. Self-driving vehicles are already on the roads, and companies like Uber and UPS are already in partnerships with vehicle makers to implement driverless delivery systems.

In other words, you needn’t be prescient to realize that the jobs of today are disappearing and that the jobs of yesterday are not coming back. But rather than gird Americans for this reality, we get platitudes about “forcing” manufacturing jobs back to US shores. When future jobs are discussed at all, it’s usually with vague rejoinders about “getting the skills for the jobs of tomorrow.” The politicians are afraid to tell you the truth. It’s a truth I suspect most of you have already grasped, even if you haven’t acknowledged it.

This isn’t the first time we’ve undergone a dramatic shift in the workforce. Over a century ago, our great-grandparents were faced with the shift from an agrarian society to a manufacturing one. They didn’t handle it particularly well. Now it’s out turn, as we lurch from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge economy. But we can do one of two things: we can embrace it and lead the world once again. Or we can fight it and  get left behind, becoming a second-rate power.

 

 


An Open Letter to Governor Christie


I penned the following letter to the Honorable Christopher Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey. I thought all of you might want to read it, as well.

Dear Governor Christie:

I am writing to bring your attention to the case of MGySgt Richard Zahn (retired), USMC. I consider it probable that you are personally unaware of his situation, otherwise I cannot believe you would allow him to be in his current circumstances.

MGySgt Zahn is currently incarcerated at the Bergen County Jail, having been convicted of several weapons offenses. Yet, the conviction and offenses are related to his defending himself from a known member of the Latin Kings street gang while in New Jersey to visit his ailing (since deceased) mother. His weapon was never discharged, and in point of fact, his actions that day led to a de-escalation of what would have otherwise been a tragic and lethal encounter.

MGySgt Zahn has served this nation with distinction for nearly 40 years. In his 26 years as an active duty Marine, he deployed into combat on 5 occassions and earned more commendations than can be listed here. They include two Purple Hearts for combat injuries and a Bronze Star. Since his retirement, MGySgt Zahn worked with Homeland Security, training FBI agents and other LEOs (including our own State Police) in anti-terrorism tactics and techniques. For his efforts and success in this work, he received a personal commendation from Louis Freeh. He has also received personal letters of commendation from the Commandant of the Marine Corps (and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) Gen. James Dunford and Gen. James Mattis, former commander of USCentCom.

Given your strong positions against terrorism and the threats it poses to our nation, I’m certain you are aware that anyone receiving these types of personal commendations cannot be someone of poor character, or someone who is given to making rash and impetuous decisons that would risk public safety. That MGySgt Zahn is sitting behind bars for simply doing as he was trained – and has trained others – to do is a miscarriage of justice. Worse, it’s an affront to every law abiding citizen in the United States. Further, I know as a former prosecutor, once you’ve reviewed his case you’ll be left to wonder why (as have many thousands of citizens around the country) it was ever brought to trial. You might also want to note that his case is beginning to receive national attention. The kind of attention that is not doing our state’s reputation any good.

Do the right and honorable thing, Governor. Pardon MGySgt Zahn and have him released today.

Sincerely,
Raymond Rothfeldt

Once again, if you haven’t signed the petition demanding Chris Christie pardon Rich Zahn, you can find it here. Please do so soon. The more pressure we bring to bear on the Governor, the better. That any man should sit behind bars in these United States simply because he uses a weapon to defend himself is insane. If that person happens to be a true American hero, like Rich Zahn, and we do nothing to defend him, then we shouldn’t be able to look at ourselves in the mirror.


No Right to Self Defense?


Yesterday, I brought you the story of Master Gunnery Sergeant (retired) Richard Zahn and his ridiculous imprisonment, all because an overzealous prosecutor, a soviet-style liberal judge and the New Jersey legislature’s paranoia about guns formed into a perfect storm around his case. Many of you have reached out in support of Rich Zahn, and for that I thank you. But one person sent me this link and my sense of bewilderment and outrage got sparked all over again.

This is a case that has received some notoriety, although I admit I was unaware of it until I opened that link. It concerns Michael Giles, a US Air Force airman who became entangled in a bar brawl – and as a result, is now spending 25 years in a Florida prison for the crime of defending himself. Although there are differences between his story and that of Rich Zahn’s, there are some striking similarities:

  1. Both men are combat veterans and career military.
  2. Both men found themselves in unwanted, potentially lethal situations.
  3. Both men used a licensed firearm to defend themselves.
  4. Both men found themselves victimized twice, first by their attacker and later by misguided anti-gun laws.

Here’s a synopsis of Michael’s story. In 2010, he and some friends went to a bar in the Tampa area. Two rival fraternities were also at that bar and a brawl broke out between them. Michael and his friends left the bar but became separated in the melee, at which point Michael retrieved his weapon from their vehicle. As he turned to look for his friends, he found himself in a crowd of approximately 40 brawling men. Somebody hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground and as they were getting ready to follow-up the assault, Michael fired once, striking him in the leg.

None of this is in dispute. During his trial, even his assailant admitted to an unprovoked attack with intent to do Michael serious bodily harm. It’s a clear cut case of self defense, or at least it should be. Except, he used a firearm – and the prosecutor flat-out said that was the crime. In fact, the prosecutor tried to make the case that because Michael used a firearm to defend himself, he was guilty of attempted murder. I do not know the prosecutor’s motivation in making that charge. Perhaps he thinks all career military types are capable of defeating 40 angry, drunk brawlers with their bare-hands. Maybe he thinks Michael received some sort of specialized training from Chuck Norris. It could be he thought, being in the Air Force, Michael could call in a flight of A-10’s to quell the mini-riot.

But here’s what I do know. Michael Giles used a firearm to defend himself and is now spending 25 years behind bars. Richard Zahn used a firearm to defend himself and is now spending 5 years behind bars. The linkage is unmistakable: if you dare to assert your Second Amendment rights, expect some liberal in the criminal justice system to hammer you like a nail. In wacky liberal land, the only thing worse than a gun is the person who actually uses a gun to defend themselves or others. Better you should be a rotting corpse on a slab, I suppose.

That these two outstanding citizens are facing this nightmare is what the insanity of the left is doing to our country, and it’s time we put an end to it. So what can you do? First, let’s get these guys out of prison. If you haven’t signed Rich Zahn’s petition yet, you can find it here. And you can find Michael Giles’ here. Next, it’s time to get rid of these ridiculous anti-gun laws that turn law-abiding citizens into criminals, simply because they dare to defend themselves. These two cases give us two places to start, New Jersey and Florida. As luck would have it, these also are two states that have governors seeking national prominence and who claim to be staunch conservatives. I say it’s time to put them to the test. Write, call, organize protests at the state house steps. Let’s let Chris Christie and Rick Scott know that the time for talk is over. It’s time to actually do something.

And in the meantime, they can use their executive powers to let two unjustly convicted comabt veterans go home to their families.


A Memorial Day Outrage – and How You Can Help Fix It


MGySgt (ret’d) Richard Zahn and Family

February 24, 2014. Hackensack, NJ. A relatively quiet town in the Garden State. A highly decorated combat veteran of three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Kosovo and Kuwait, driving from his current home in North Carolina to visit his extremely ill mother at Hackensack University Medical Center. Little did he know that he was about to become a victim – not of a crime, but of New Jersey’s draconian and antiquated anti-gun laws.

MGySgt Richard Zahn served for 26 years in the US Marine Corps, earning a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. After retiring, Rich worked as a civilian contractor for Homeland Security. His job? Training FBI agents and young Marine leaders in anti-terrorism tactics. Rich also possesses a concealed carry permit in North Carolina. In addition to his military honors, he’s also received personal commendations from General James Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (select); General James Mattis, former US Central Command commander and Louis Freeh, former Director of the FBI.

None of that would matter at 9:30 that morning, though. After receiving the call about his mother’s turn for the worse the night before, Rich was nearing the end of his 10 hour drive to be with her. Since he had just finished a live a fire exercise right before receiving the call, he still had his TO weapons in his truck: a .306 sniper rifle and AR-15. As is his custom, he also carried his legally licensed sidearm, a M&P .40 caliber pistol (he is on Al-Qeada’s hit list, after all). As he rounded a bend in the road, a SUV suddenly veered in front of him – and Richard Zahn’s day was about to get much, much worse.

The SUV was driven by one Jorge Polo, a previously convicted and known member of the Latin Kings street gang. Polo forced Rich off the road and began approaching Rich’s truck. Reacting in accordance with his training and experience, Rich produced his sidearm – finger off the trigger-guard, weapon up and away from his assailant. When Polo continued his advance, Rich reached into his truck and grabbed his .306, again pointing the weapon up and away from any target. At that point, Polo realized he had bitten off more than he could chew, clambered back into his car and drove off. Rich, thinking nothing more than that he was glad he had left New Jersey and it’s crazy drivers years ago, continued on to visit his mother in the hospital. You can read more about the incident at Allen West’s blog.

That’s where he was arrested by the Hackensack Police Department, for having illegal and unlawful weapons, transporting “assault weapons” across state lines, and two counts of brandishing a firearm in a threatening manner. Right outside his mother’s hospital room, the Hackensack police made every effort to ensure that the ever dangerous criminal  MGySgt Richard Zahn was quickly taken into custody, thereby protecting the citizens of the Garden State from a twice wounded combat veteran.

After more than a year of trying to fight his way through New Jersey’s byzantine legal system, especially when it comes to guns and gun ownership, Rich was sentenced on March 27 of this year. A detachment of Marines from around the country was present, including me. The prosecutor had Mr. Polo read a victim statement. That Mr. Polo could be considered a victim in this shows you just how screwed up this state’s laws are. (Sidebar: one of the Marines present is a resident of Bergen County and through a few connections, found that Jorge Polo had outstanding warrants in NY and PA. Immediately after reading his statement, in which he described how he damn near pooped his pants, and exiting the courtroom, Mr. Polo was taken into custody by the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department. Karma is a bitch.) The judge, Liliana Deavila-Sibeli, then pronounced sentence: 5 years, with a 42 month period of parole ineligibility. In her remarks, Ms. Sibeli noted that Richard Zahn, retired Marine with more commendations than letters in her name, is a deranged individual and extremely dangerous person. She made sure to note that guns are inherently dangerous in the hands of any but law enforcement. She also dropped this bombshell: if it were up to her, combat veterans should never be allowed to have weapons, because “combat veterans are homicidal psychopaths in waiting.”

That’s right. Hide the women and children – a combat veteran might be in your midst! They kill people for no reason! That such pure left wing dreck could actually occupy a Superior Court bench in the United States is a topic for another time, though.

That’s the story of what happened, Now for your chance to change the ending to this tale, help free a Marine guilty of nothing more than defending himself and – HEAVEN FORBID! – owning a US Constitutionally allowed gun. This past week, Rich’s lawyer exhausted his last appeal to get the sentence overturned. As you’re probably aware, the Governor of New Jersey is the honorable Christopher J. Christie, potential Republican nominee for President of the United States. Recently, Gov. Christie pardoned a woman from Philadelphia in a similar case. It certainly seems if Chris Christie can find reason to pardon a welfare mother from Philly for having a firearm in her vehicle, he can do the same for decorated combat Marine veteran. Especially if he wants to be taken seriously as a candidate in the Republican primary.

There is currently a petition circulating, asking Chris Christie to pardon Richard Zahn. All I am asking of you is to review the facts  of this case as described here (they are not disputed by anyone) and then take two minutes of your time to sign the petition. You can find it here.

And Governor Christie? We’ll be watching. Don’t make Rich Zahn wait for justice any longer.


Maybe I’m Getting Old…


I began this morning the way I usually do, by opening my Bible and reading a passage, then moving on to Facebook and looking at the overnight posts from my friends. Usually, this is a great way to start the day: I get my moral gyroscope spinning with the right orientation and then lighten my mood by seeing the crazy stuff people I know were up to the night before. I especially enjoy the memes that get posted. As those of you who follow me on the Zuckerberg Express are certainly aware, I’m a pretty snarky person and love ironic humor.

But this morning…well, this morning is different. All of the Ferguson memes, styled in a way that ordinarily would at least get a chuckle from me, didn’t have that effect. Instead, they only filled me with a sense of sadness. Pictures that are repurposed to make you laugh have instead left me wanting to cry – and that’s why I now worry if, in fact, I’m getting too old.

I worry about that, because I know it’s an old-fashioned idea that senseless and needless violence simply isn’t a source of humor. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not unfamiliar with senseless violence. After all, I live in Newark, not exactly a paragon of domestic tranquility. In my decades of life, I’ve witnessed dozens of riots similar to the ones we’re seeing in Ferguson. And yet, somehow, these riots have touched me in a way that none of those others did.

Maybe it’s the circumstances that led up to them. There seems to be a sickness in our society, a malady that is on the edge of my understanding without my truly being able to grasp it. At the core, the source of the riots and the accompanying (no longer funny) memes is this: blacks in America are certain the police are gunning for them. Whites in America think that idea is a bunch of baloney. Try as I might, I cannot find a way to bridge that difference – and I don’t think anyone else has the answer, either. That very real possibility is the source of my angst, because I’ve always believed in America as the world’s best hope for a Shining City on a Hill – and if we’ve failed in that mission, we’ve failed in so much more.

If America is not the nation of our collective imagination, one where any man can rise as high (or sink as low) as he chooses based solely on his abilities and desires, then we have a serious problem. If America is not a nation where we strive to make that dream a reality, then we have a problem. If America is simply a nation where an entire class of people believes they are to be permanently impressed as nothing more than the punching bags for everyone else, then we have an even bigger problem. How do you change someone’s belief system, one they see reinforced on a daily basis in their personal experience, even if the reinforcement is only perceived?

I don’t know, but I find my mind traveling back to the time of my youth. Men like Bobby Kennedy and Ralph Abernathy provided the leadership to help guide America towards our goal of realizing Shining City on a Hill status. Of course, foremost among the men of that day was Dr. Martin Luther King and I think of the speech he gave 46 years ago in Memphis. Many remember it as the call to arms for the sanitation worker strike; others as the last speech Dr. King would ever give. I recall it for the simple sermon Dr. King gave towards the end of the speech, in which he relayed how the Parable of the Good Samaritan should infect our modern lives. He talked of the time he and his wife traveled the Jordan Road and was made aware of how the travelers could ignore the mugged man’s plight, how the dangers of that road were evident even in his day. (By the way, if you ever get a chance, you’ll see it still hasn’t changed). But most importantly, he talked about how the Good Samaritan took the element of danger and turned it on it’s head. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, “Rather than asking ‘What is the danger to me if I stop to help, he asked what is the danger to him if I do not stop?'”

Maybe that passage still holds true today and maybe that’s where we’ve lost our way. Maybe we’ve simply stopped asking ourselves what the danger is to our nation and our society, if we stop to help the guy who’s in trouble. If instead, we’ve become so insular as to be unable to even see that question, much less answer it.

I’m not sure. But for now, I’m going to find some old Three Stooges shorts and see if some senseless violence can restore my humor.


Mark Cuban Is Right


For better or worse, race is an explosive topic in our country. A lot of that has to do with the inherent fear we have, as a society, to address the topic head-on. That’s largely because when somebody does address the topic calmly, rationally and in a non-PC way, they stand the very real chance of being slandered, vilified and demonized. Witness Mark Cuban, the often outspoken tech entrepreneur and owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks:

“I mean, we’re all prejudiced in one way or another. If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face — white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere — I’m walking back to the other side of the street. And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of. So in my businesses, I try not to be hypocritical. I know that I’m not perfect. I know that I live in a glass house, and it’s not appropriate for me to throw stones.”

Cuban made those comments in an interview for Inc. magazine and was immediately slandered, vilified and demonized for them. He was labeled a racist for admitting that he, as with everyone else in the world, has prejudices. It was an over-reaction by people who’ve been conditioned in such a way as to confuse racism with prejudice.

Here’s the difference. A racist is not only someone who has prejudicial views, but refuses to acknowledge those prejudices – and then, by being in a position of power or authority, acts in a way that denigrates or injures the prejudiced. A racist varies from a bigot, in that a bigot allows their prejudices to form their world view but isn’t in any real position to act to perpetuate that view.

So, is Mark Cuban a racist? No. He is, in fact, the embodiment of what Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of when he pleaded with the world to judge men by their character, not their color.

Herein lies the problem with discussing race relations in this country: nobody, other than the PC, are allowed to talk about the topic. Unspoken in Cuban’s words, but certainly implied is that not only whites have prejudices – but other races, as well. And the PC brigades cannot allow for even the slightest possibility that such a truth to be uttered in public.

This is dangerous territory. The forced public misinterpretation of the relationship between prejudice and racism is more than a liberal meme – it is a lynchpin of liberal politics. For decades now, liberals have successfully blurred the distinction, so that blacks and latinos are told they cannot be prejudiced, because that would mean they’re also racists. At the same time, whites in liberal enclaves have been demonized and shamed into refusing to face their own prejudices. We’ve become a society where nobody is looking in the mirror, but everyone is yelling racism at the slightest perceived slight.

Further, by declaring that only white people with prejudicial feelings can be racists, the liberal crowd continues to prey on the “communities of color.” How? By constantly telling these people that their feelings aren’t prejudice, per se, but rather a natural reaction to centuries of being subjugated, they’re delivering a “message of empowerment.” It is, of course, a lot of hooey – and a message that consistently delivers a sizable voting bloc to the liberal cause.

But until everyone faces up to their own prejudices, the same way Mark Cuban has done – the same way very successful leader I’ve ever met has done – we will never get past the issue of race in our country. We’ll continue to be a nation of people with hyphens rather than a nation of Americans.


The Grand Fury


A quick thought about how the cars we drive are a reflection of who we are as a nation. Once, the United States was a nation of risk-takers. Today, we’re more concerned with personal safety and about as risk-averse as a society can be.

A pretty good example can be found in what we drive. The first car I remember my parents owning was a 1968 Plymouth Fury III, very similar to the one pictured above. (Heck, it’s even the same color). There really wasn’t anything safe about that car. Well, it did have rear disc brakes, but that’s about it. No seat belts, no crumple zones. Not even safety glass. And you know what? My parents weren’t overly worried about safety, either. I have fond memories of my Dad tearing down a highway at 75 mph with my sister and I jumping up and down on the backseat. About the only time my folks would even mention the concept of safety was if we attempted to crawl from the back to the front. Safety meant that you were driving 3 tons of steel with 383 cubic inches of V8 engine, churning out 330 horsepower.

Now, the Fury III wasn’t anything special in it’s day. It was a pretty run-of-the-mill family car, not unlike a modern Camry. But stop to think of all the features in the the typical family sedan today. How many of you would buy a Camry stripped of its seat belts, air bags, bucket seats, headrests, and so forth? I doubt there are many – even if the government allowed it, despite the fact removing them would knock several thousand dollars off the price of the car. And how many of you would allow your kids the freedom to jump around on the backseat in such a car?

The analogy is this: once the idea of government mandating safety, at a personal financial cost, was such an outlier that it didn’t happen. Today, we’ve become so accustomed to the nanny state telling us how to act – expecting it to protect us from ourselves – that we’ve lost that risk-taking, freewheeling attitude. And we’re not better off for it.


Today’s VA adventure encapsulated


»Van service scheduled to arrive at 8:40. Van actually arrived at 9:40.
» Report for bloodwork upon arrival. Receptionist cannot find order. Wait ten minutes and walk back up to window. Voila! The order magically appears.
» Two hours between blood and next appointment. Decide to get lunch. Choices include a desiccated salad bar, microwaved cheeseburger (possibly cooked this year), day-old pizza, a steam table full of unidentifiable mush and fresh-made subs. Opt for the sub. Discover the rolls might have been baked at some point since the Civil War. At least the Doritos were fresh.
» With still an hour to kill, I wander into the “Patriot Store,” which is about as well named as the “Patriot Act.” If I wanted to deal with self-absorbed and surly employees, and pay $80 for a $20 sweater, I’d go to Nordstrom. At least the selection would be better.
» Go to check-in for my next appointment. The VA is in the middle of a new efficiency drive, which means things are more mucked up than ever. (When the government says they’ll make things more efficient, you know things are really done for.) Instead of a relatively smooth 5 minute process, it now takes two employees 20 minutes to check me in. Of course, now I’m late for my appointment. As a thank you for my patience, I receive a “buy one, get one” coupon for bottled water… from the Patriot Store. It expires on Monday.
» Only need to wait 25 minutes to see the doctor. During that time, a nurse takes my vitals and asks probing questions. These include “Do you like my engagement ring?” and “Can you breathe?” No, I have gills like a fish. And to be perfectly honest, either her fiancee is cheating on her or honestly thinks Cracker Jack is a jewelry store.
» The meeting with the doctor goes fine. I have to admit, this VA hospital’s partnering with UMDNJ has brought some top-notch docs into the system. But the doc decides it’s time for my biannual colonoscopy – one of the little joys of Crohn’s Disease. So he asks me to wait for his secretary to schedule the procedure and walks me to her office…
» Uh, oh. The secretary is engaged in a VERY IMPORTANT CONVERSATION about her weekend plans. After a few minutes, she notices me standing outside her door and asks me to take a seat across the hall – she’ll get in trouble if somebody notices I’m standing there. I bite my tongue and take the a seat. After a few more minutes of hearing the virtues of one nightclub versus another, I walk into the office and ask, if it’s not too much of a bother, if she would kindly DO HER JOB and schedule my colonoscopy.
» Next stop, pharmacy. For those of you who’ve never been to a VA pharmacy, it’s something like a slow-motion shuttle run. First you check into the pharmacy. You then go to another counter, where a pharmacist reads your prescription off a computer screen back to you. Next, you return to the first counter, where you hand over a hand-written slip from the pharmacist. (Seriously. The pharmacist hand writes the prescription that the doctor submitted by computer. The Soviets couldn’t have come up with anything more ridiculous). You then take a seat and wait a bit for your prescription to be filled. For today, there was a new wrinkle: the check-in person decided there were too many vets in line and cakes everyone at once. Are you familiar with the term “cluster fuck?”
» My prescription needs to be kept refrigerated, but the pharmacy doesn’t have any ice. Perfectly logical, by VA standards. I return to the Patriot Store, but they’ve already closed for the weekend. I try the cafeteria. The doors are bolted – but a soda vending machine stands at the ready. I dutifully insert my dollar. The cost for a can of soda: one dollar. The machine digests my dollar bill, thinks for a moment, then displays “CANNOT MAKE CHANGE” and spits out four quarters. I insert the quarters, get the same message and four quarters. On my third attempt, I actually get a soda – and my four quarters. I leave my Patriot Store coupon as payment.
» It’s now 3:50 and the van is scheduled to pick me up at 4:30. I hang out in the main lobby, shooting the breeze. 4:30 comes, 4:30 goes, no van arrives. I consider heading over to the travel office, but decide against it. After all, it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and the odds of finding anyone there (much less anyone who would do more than say, “Give it a few more minutes”) are somewhere between zero and none. The van finally shows at 5:30.


Looking Back to Look Ahead


This is going to be harder than I thought. I never considered the possibility that I would have difficulty managing to find the energy to write one measly post per day.

Things have certainly changed for me over the past few years. As a result, what I was once – how I defined my life, how my life was defined by others – has just as certainly changed. My Twitter description, “Marine, Yankees fan, Libertarian, Small Biz Owner, cyclist, tech geek & Crohn’s patient. FAIR WARNING: I’m opinionated” is a great reflection of my life – as it existed 5 years ago. But my current reality is not the same. If anything, I spend more time being a Crohn’s patient than anything else now, where before it was a sidebar to my life. Although I’ve owned several small businesses in the past, I cannot even manage to find the energy to run one now, even on a part-time basis – that would have to be amended. One of those businesses was a bicycle shop; it was a successful little store that allowed me to take one of my life’s passions and earn a living. As recently as six years ago I completed the 235 mile High Point to Cape May ride, but today I get to carry oxygen with me. I can’t even ride a mile. Can I possibly call myself a “cyclist” in light of that?

Then there’s my LinkedIn profile. To be perfectly honest, the only reason I even maintain it, is there are literally dozens of terrific people I’ve worked with in the past – and if simply being connected to me can help their careers, then I’m happy to oblige. It is a bit of self-aggrandizement, as are all marketing sites. I am constantly reminded (usually by the emails and phone calls from HR professionals) that I once was considered one of the very finest professionals in my field. It was a lifetime ago. It is not my current reality.

So where do I go from here? Well, that depends on a few things that I cannot control. In some ways, things have changed very little for me: I am still a Marine and (much to my friends and family’s consternation) as ornery and determined as ever. I don’t know if I’ll beat this infernal disease, or if it will beat me, but one thing is certain. We are locked into mortal combat with only one possible winner. In the meantime, the Good Lord gave me one gift that has proven indispensable over the years – the ability to reinvent myself as needed. Over the years, my profession has changed to fit the circumstance. From tech inventor to retail sales, project management to short-order cook,  I’ve always found a way to keep myself occupied. Just as importantly, the founding ideals of our nation have allowed me the time and space to develop and thrive in those roles, as disparate as they might be. Because of that, I am confident that whatever the future may ask of me, I will be successful.


Life and Liberty


Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know I recently spent 8 days hospitalized once again. My ongoing battle with Crohn’s Disease, one that has consumed the last 22+ years of my life, remains unrelenting. Like all of such events over the past three years or so, this hospitalization didn’t end with long-term remission of my disease activity or even the hope of a near term remission.

I could complain and I doubt many of you would be upset if I do so. But I’ve never really been one for complaining about things beyond my control, nor do I think that really accomplishes much. Certainly, venting can ease the mind but it’s only a temporary relief. I pointed out once before that life’s recent turns have, if anything, made me more reflective and this most recent turn only served to reinforce that attitude.

But reflective of what, exactly? Well, in a word: EVERYTHING.

Faith, religion, why we’re here? Yes. My personal history, my family, friends and relationships? You bet. Medicine and medical research? Naturally. My overarching view of our world, our past and our future? Certainly.

There are only so many times a man can stare at his own mortality without contemplating the wonder and the why of it all, I suppose. Or the alternative could likewise be true: all these brushes with Death’s door may have already left me insane – in which case, you’ve been reading the rantings of a madman. We’re about to embark on a journey to find out which is true over the next few days and weeks. I’ll leave the decisions about my sanity to your discretion – which considering my readership, may be the boldest move I’ve made yet!

For a blog that spends as much time on political matters as mine, you may be wondering how I managed to leave any mention of that topic from my list of contemplations. But here’s your first point to ponder in judging my perspicacity: isn’t the political the one realm where we publicly express our personal philosophy?

Tomorrow, we begin…