A Stay at the Grove Park Inn – Asheville NC

Originally posted at TripAdvisor.

Let me begin by saying I wanted to like this hotel. If the names Stickley and Roycroft and the term “Arts & Crafts movement” mean something to you as it does to me, then you really have no choice but to stay and appreciate the artistry of the wood and stonework the hotel is famous for. But if you are looking for a relaxing stay where you are pampered by staff, or want a base from which to explore the area, forget it. There are other hotels in the area that can accommodate you better.

Asheville is one of our favorite cities and since we are Arts & Crafts aficionados, we had visited the hotel several times but had no reason to stay there. A medical conference being held there last weekend changed that, so we stayed. Our problems started immediately upon arrival. Because the conference started before checkout we arrived before our room was ready and had to park.

Why does parking have to be gated and controlled if everything in the complex is owned by the hotel? It’s not like people would park at the hotel for free and go elsewhere, and the gates were new since our last visit there in the Spring. Our room wasn’t ready until the afternoon so we had to leave the facility for a trip downtown. To leave the gated parking you have to present your room key, but since our room wasn’t ready we didn’t have a key. We were told to press the button for assistance at the gate, but several attempts to do so went unanswered. We ended up paying the $10 to leave.

Which brings up another point. $15 for parking? We’ve stayed in hotels in downtown areas of Dublin, New York City, and Chicago and parking was included with the room. Why the additional charge? Valet is $22 + tip for those who like paying a stranger to drive their cars and I can understand that. But $15 for general overnight parking struck me as cheap and didn’t match my expectation for this hotel.

Nowadays WiFi is almost as important as a private bath while traveling, and at least it’s free here unlike other high-end hotels. But to access it you have to login with your last name and room number. Since we didn’t have these at the time we arrived we couldn’t use them, so I had to use my smartphone to create a hotspot so that I could use my laptop.

These are minor issues but they do suggest a broader problem I have with the hotel: The Grove Park Inn having the same policies applied to it by the OMNI chain that it applies to its other properties right down to the branding “OMNI Grove Park.” It seems to me that it is a corporate directive to play down the Grove Park Inn name in favor of the OMNI brand, making it impossible to find a coffee mug the Wife wanted with the name “Grove Park Inn” on it instead of OMNI Hotels & Resorts.

If the brand OMNI Hotels & Resorts means something to you then perhaps that’s a good thing, but for those of us who appreciate the hotel for what it has been and where it is, then who owns it today is meaningless. The hotel has changed hands numerous times through its history and will know doubt do so again. In fact it has had 3 owners in just the past 3 years and the only constant has been the Grove Park Inn name.

This thoughtless and heavy-handed approach to the hotel by its corporate owners betrays an ignorance and lack of appreciation for this hotel. To its owners its just another property, not a 100 year old historical icon in Asheville. I don’t see how they will be able to succeed at keeping the hotel profitable over the long term without appreciating the hotel’s distinct and unique character and charm and maintaining those into the future.

We stayed in one of the old parts of the hotel and the room was small but acceptable. If you want a palatial suite either pay for one of the newer rooms or don’t stay in a hotel designed when people didn’t require rooms as big as their bedroom suites in their mcmansions. The woods in the room were amazing, and the unassuming Roycroft desk was a marvel of craftsmanship. Although the floor carpet was worn, the bed was comfortable and we had no trouble with the room.

A lot of the directions and advice we received (e.g. leaving the parking area, logging into Wifi) was wrong. They were also overwhelmed the first night of our stay and attitudes struck me as patronizing or snotty. Later in the weekend we had better interactions as the crowd thinned but it was still hit or miss.

An example of this was entering the new Edison restaurant Friday night and seating ourselves at one of the many open tables after standing around for several minutes trying to catch the eye of a waiter or hostess. Although there were numerous empty tables and had been ignored for several minutes, a hostess approached us and said the table was reserved and told us to sit at the bar, which we did. We were then ignored there too. I guess we weren’t young enough to grab the attention of the staff unless we were breaking the rules. We finally got the attention of a bartender and the Wife asked if he could recommend a dry house red wine. He passed her the menu, said “See page 3” and disappeared. We took it all in stride of course but it was amazing to be treated so poorly at the price we paid to stay.

One final recommendation. Because the hotel is at the edge of the city, if you are staying there intending to spend a lot of time downtown there are much better options closer to the heart of the city.

Like I said, I wanted to like this hotel more than I actually did, and I do hope it improves. But Life is short and there are plenty of other options in the area.

Ebola in America: How to Fund Research

This article in the New York Times points out a problem in medicine and the pharmaceutical industry: how to support research and development of treatments and vaccines for rarely occurring diseases or conditions that only affect the poor. As Ebola shows today these diseases have a habit of becoming egalitarian real quickly, citing the Ebola virus and the discovery of a vaccine 5 years ago.

 

Its development stalled in part because Ebola is rare, and until now, outbreaks had infected only a few hundred people at a time. But experts also acknowledge that the absence of follow-up on such a promising candidate reflects a broader failure to produce medicines and vaccines for diseases that afflict poor countries. Most drug companies have resisted spending the enormous sums needed to develop products useful mostly to countries with little ability to pay.

 
Instead pharmaceutical companies chase after profits,  meaning that in the US tens of billions of dollars are spent on new erectile dysfunction drugs and cosmetic treatments such as botox injections, yet treatments for diseases that kill in poor countries such as malaria and chikungunya, or those that only affect a few in wealthy countries have to rely upon charity to fund their research.

Diseases don’t check your bank account before they infect you. Sure some diseases are more prone to the poor than wealthy due to sanitary conditions and other factors, but not all. A disease that strikes the poor abroad can easily take up residence among the wealthy at home, as the spread of HIV proved in the late 1970’s through early 1980’s, moving from Haiti to wealthy enclaves in the US.

So the question arises: How do we develop treatments for diseases that are uncommon and/or appear only in poor countries? Providing money to prevent an Ebola vaccine from being shelved is not a completely altruistic act given the reality of how contagious the disease is. The dollars spent today will not only save lives over there, they will also save our lives here.  But how do we fund it?

Although I hate taxes in principle, why not levy a 5% tax on all elective surgeries and lifestyle drugs? That money could be placed into a pool and used to provide grants for the research and development of treatments for diseases that are too rare to justify researching, or to subsidize treatments of diseases like malaria, Guinea worm, and drug resistant TB. Alternately the corporate tax laws could be amended to deduct the costs spent on these diseases on a 1-1 basis: for each dollar spent a firm’s tax burden is reduced by a dollar. Neither is a perfect solution and both are prone to avoidance, abuse and the usual “unintended consequences” which are inevitable in any public policy change, but the Ebola scare in the US should serve as a wake up call.

Almost a hundred years ago the Spanish Flu influenza virus swept through the country, killing millions of Americans in their primes. It touched every family, rich and poor, black and white, immigrant and native born. In my own family it killed a great-aunt and a young cousin and left two other cousins orphans. A few decades later Jonas Salk tamed the beast of polio which had been the dread of all families that came with the approach of the cool autumn. For the past half-century only HIV has risen to the level of concern, but that virus is actually quite hard to catch. It doesn’t survive outside the body of its host for long and cannot penetrate the skin. Besides we have tamed that with anti-virals, turning what had once been a death sentence into a chronic condition.

Ebola has more in common with the Spanish Flu than it does HIV. It can survive for lengthy periods on surfaces outside of the body. It can penetrate the skin. There is evidence that it can be transmitted through the air. And besides Ebola there are other viruses lurking abroad just a flight away from our borders such as MERS and SARS. Each plane arriving here is a dice throw, and eventually we are going to be on the losing end of the odds.

The recent Ebola scare in the US has shown the authorities are not prepared for another pandemic. It has also showed us the limits of our health care system. We need to take these lessons and learn from them to prepare ourselves and our society for the  next thing Mother Nature is going to throw our way. But America has a wonderful habit of hitting the snooze alarm until the very last minute. Hopefully it will awaken before more die here and millions die there.

The Council Has Spoken: October 17, 2014

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Kick Turkey Out of NATO

Lord Palmerstone once noted that nations do not have permanent allies, only permanent interests. This statement assumes that a nation always acts in its own best interest, and this assumption is the basis for the realist school of international relations. Realists always expect national actors to do what is best for themselves. If an action does not benefit the nation in any particular way, or worse threatens it, then one cannot reasonably expect it to act even though one might think and others might agree that it is the right course of action. In international relations at least according to the realist school, there are no completely altruistic acts by nations or their actors.

I’ve been rooted in the realist school of international relations well before I got my degree in political science, having grown up while Henry Kissinger acted as Nixon’s national security advisor and later secretary of state under him and his successor Gerald Ford.Realists not only expect nations to act in their best interests, but regimes and the organizations constituting them to do the same. In statecraft realists aren’t surprised when regimes do what’s best for them even when it might compromise or damage others, but are willing to act in their own best interest when the opposite party acts in theirs.

Case in point: Turkey. Under the regime of Recep Erdogan for the past 12 years Turkey has been acting in the best interest of Erdogan and his ruling party the AKP. Erdogan is an Islamist in a nation where political Islam had been banned for decades after its re-founding under Kamal Ataturk. While Ataturk and the secularists saw Europe as a useful ally that would strengthen Turkey and their regime in the Middle East, Erdogan has instead positioned Turkey as the next Islamic Caliphate more in line with the Ottoman Empire of the 17th century rather than secular and Democratic Western Europe.

Perhaps the biggest interest Erdogan has besides the desire to remain in power is to avoid empowering the Kurdish minority within Turkey. Unlike the Palestinians, the Kurds  have a much longer claim to their land stretching from northern Syria across southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq to Iran. One commonality between Erdogan and his secular predecessors has been the oppression of the Kurds in Turkey and their nationalist aims. The no-fly zone established in northern Iraq after the first Gulf War led to autonomy under Saddam and later the post-Saddam Iraqi government. Iraqi Kurds are as close to independent as Kurds have ever been, and their Syrian, Iranian and Turkish cousins recognize this.

From Erdogan’s perspective the decimation of the Syrian Kurds by the Islamic State (IS) is welcome. It weakens the Kurdish cause by reducing the number of Kurds in the region. Plus the Syrian Kurds were also strong supporters of the PKK, Turkey’s al-Qaida. From the realist perspective Erdogan will not act against IS on behalf of the Kurds unless there is an even greater, more pressing interest to do so.

And that’s the problem. Current American and European leadership is run by idealists not by realists. American and Europeans leaders simply do not understand why Erdogan  and to more worrying degree Vladimir Putin  act the way they do. To them bombing Kurds in Turkey instead of IS in Syria makes absolutely no sense just as annexing Crimea and dismembering Ukraine. They do not see the world the way Erdogan and Putin do, but realists do. Realists recognize that Putin and Erdogan will only act when the pressure applied to them is real and painful.

For Erdogan that pressure should include Turkey’s rejection from NATO and any possible future admittance to the EU under his regime. If Turkey acts in its own interests, so should the EU and the United States. The truth is that instead of being a beacon of secular Islam as Turkey once was, Turkey under Erdogan has become just another corrupt, Islamic Middle Eastern dictatorship with caliphate dreams. Turkey has condoned the rise of IS as well as backed  other terrorist groups such as Hamas. It has kept a tight leash on the American base in Incirlik, preventing it from participating in the second Gulf War and in attacks on IS.

Switching from Erdogan’s perspective, what is in America’s best interest? The dream for a secular Islamic state isn’t dead, it’s just moved to the southeast. As Iraq and Syria fall apart, the US should throw their backing behind the Kurds. The Kurds are not infected with the anti-western, anti-Semitic and anti-American ideology of Shi’a Iraq and Iran, or Erdogan’s Turkey. They are our only natural allies in the region besides the Israelis and should be supported not just with rhetoric, which the current administration excels at, but with military and logistical support against IS as well as diplomatic backing for an independent Kurdish state.

Doing this would pretty much end the alliance with Turkey, but the alliance is pretty much all but dead. Would the US actually send troops to Turkey if it invoked Article V? What if it invoked it against Israel, as some had suggested when the Israelis raided a Turkish ship attempting to break the embargo of Gaza?

What would the consequences be? Turkey would likely ally with Russia, but this is happening anyway as the Europe of the early 21st century looks increasingly like the Europe of the early 2oth century. After all, what’s the point of having a military base in a country if you can’t use it? Let the Turks and Russians try to get along on their own as they did in the 19th century.

For more on the subject read Michael Totten’s latest which inspired this post. Bernard-Henri Levy also states that should Kobani fall, Turkey should be kicked out of NATO.

 

 

 

Council Submissions: October 15, 2014

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Ebola in America: 2 Weeks In

Two days ago a 26 year old nurse in Dallas, Nina Pham, tested positive to the virus. She was one of Thomas Duncan’s seventy caregivers. Her diagnosis puts a pretty smiling petite face on a horrendous disease, and one can only hope that by discovering the disease early she will be luckier than the man she treated at Texas Presbyterian hospital.

 

We don’t know exactly how she caught the virus from Duncan. She wasn’t one of the responders who came into contact with him during his first visit to the hospital, after which he was sent home with antibiotics and Tylenol. Evidently she had worn the gear dictated by the CDC, “gown, glove, mask and shield,” yet still got sick. The CDC stated there must have been a “breach in protocol” but Ms. Pham doesn’t recall when it may have happened and neither do the investigators who have interviewed her. The CNN article notes “Or the problem could have been something else entirely.”

“Something else entirely” means maybe we don’t know this disease as much as we think we do, and after 40 years of research that isn’t very much.

Take for example the question of whether the virus is spread through the air. The CDC states unequivocally “Ebola is not spread through the air or by water,” but others aren’t so sure. “We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks,” writes Lisa M Brosseau, ScD, and Rachael Jones, PhD in commentary published by the Center for Infectious Disease and Research Policy (CIDRAP). According to CIDRAP Brosseau and Jones are nationally recognized experts on infectious diseases, not tin-foil hat posters from ZeroHedge.

Here’s the distinction between an airborne infectious disease and one spread through aerosoles. The common cold is considered to be an airborne virus, potentially spread from one person to another without landing on any surface. An aerosolized one is defined by Brousseau in a 2011 research paper as one where disease is spread through the air between people, or as Brousseau writes, “defined as person-to-person transmission of pathogens through the air by means of inhalation of infectious particles. Particles up to 100 μm in size are considered inhalable (inspirable). These aerosolized particles are small enough to be inhaled into the oronasopharynx, with the smaller, respirable size ranges (eg, < 10 μm) penetrating deeper into the trachea and lung.”

Notice any difference? Let me know if you do because I don’t.

I would expect that scientists would disagree about how a relatively new disease like Ebola spreads, but the CDC needs to be honest and it needs to assume the worst. The medical workers currently treating Ms. Pham need to assume the virus can be spread through the air and a 10 micron virus will spread through a facemask or around a plastic shield as if it weren’t there. They should wear respirators.

Americans need the Truth. Truth will deter panic more than empty assurances from pseudo-politicians in the CDC.

Update: A second hospital worker has tested positive to the disease, and it’s increasingly likely that Ms. Pham didn’t make a mistake removing her protective gear. Instead it’s looking like the CDC protocol for handling this disease is wrong and needs to be changed.

Since the advent of antibiotics and common vaccines we have been spared the pandemics that raged through our history like Bubonic Plague, Smallpox and Spanish Flu. These diseases not only killed millions, they changed our history countless times. Since these were tamed, however, the only large outbreak has been HIV so most of the experience of public health professionals has been with this virus. Unfortunately HIV and Ebola are very different viruses. HIV is quite weak outside the body. It breaks down quickly on surfaces and can only penetrate the skin through a wound. Ebola on the other hand is much stronger. It can remain virulent on surfaces for long periods. It easily passes through the skin and doesn’t need to gain entry to the body through a cut the way HIV does. Worse, the those infected shed much more of the virus through diarrhea, uncontrolled bleeding and vomiting. HIV doesn’t cause such symptoms making it much harder to transmit.

My guess is that the CDC’s protocols are based on HIV and if so, they are inadequate and must be changed. “(CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden) outlined new steps this week designed to stop the spread of the disease, including the creation of an Ebola response team, increased training for health care workers nationwide and changes at the Texas hospital to minimize the risk of more infections.”

Mistakes are going to be made, and demanding perfection is unrealistic. As long as we learn from the mistakes and deal honestly with their consequences we will eventually control the advance of this disease. Am I scared? Of course I am. This is a nasty disease but what other choices do we have?

Update 2: It gets worse. The second hospital worker, a nurse named Amber Joy Vinson, flew from Cleveland back to Dallas just 12 hours before she came down with a fever. The plane stayed in Dallas overnight and then was used for several flights the following day before being taken out of service today.

The likelihood of a passenger on any of those flights catching the disease from Ms. Vinson is low but it is not zero, and given the failures so far to stop the spread in Dallas I’m wondering whether it would have been too much to ask for hospital management and the CDC to make the following rule:

If you are being actively monitored for potential exposure to the virus (as Ms. Vinson was), don’t fly.

It seems like common sense to me.

One other note: We will soon be entering cold/flu season and millions will be developing fevers that are not caused by Ebola, providing a perfect screen for the disease to spread in. While perfection from the CDC may be too much to ask, we should expect them to at least up their game.

Update 3: Ms. Vinson knowingly boarded the plane with a temperature of 99.5 degrees. This is below the threshold of 100.4, but what the heck…

 

The Council Has Spoken: October 10, 2014

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Noteworthy Article on the American Health System

This is one of the best articles I’ve read on the subject of American health care and medical insurance. It pretty much explains that the system is so bad that it is well beyond partisan bickering. Here’s a taste.

 

We all instantly recognize that it would be a disaster if we collectively decided that the way all cars should be purchased would be by having a job with a company that will provide you a car (with a tax break, and if you lose your job, you lose your car), and an insurer that will pay for gas and oil. Should you not be able to get a car that way, the government will buy you a car. We can easily imagine that, because the choices in the car sector would no longer be made by individual consumers but by powerful entities—the government, large companies, insurers—almost every car would be a hideous, hideously expensive, comically ill-designed clunker akin to the ones that became the butt of “Lada” jokes in the Soviet Union. Or consider what would happen if housing were provided the way we “provide” health care; the mere thought should send chills down one’s spine. But whenever we talk about health care, that part of our brain seemingly shuts off, and these simple truths become about as intelligible as an angry Klingon warrior.

 

+1 for Klingon warrior reference, but seriously, if you care about the shambles our medical system has become, read this article.

Council Submissions: October 8, 2014

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Stinkbug War: 2014

Just a note for you Internet denizens who are plagued by stinkbugs.

The infestation began about around Sept. 11 with the stinkbugs crawling on our screens, windows and siding. We set up indoor traps (lamps above pans of water with detergent in it) and I dedicated a shop vac to sucking them off the outside of the house. I put a small amount of water with non-t0xic detergent in the shop vac, and when it became full I dumped it into the mulch pile and turned the pile.

Current body-count so far: 3,000 estimated but they didn’t go down without a fight. They broke the shop-vac so I’m using an old handheld Shark from my workroom, and if that breaks I’ve got a new 6 gallon one in a box in my truck.

I just spent 15 minutes and sucked up 242. They absolutely love getting between the plastic dog houses and the deck. I scored about a third of the count there.

The horror… The horror…

The Razor Celebrates 13 Years

For 13 years I have used this medium as my soapbox, to stand and shout into the Void known as the Internet. 2,352 posts. 6,048 comments. Over that time I have swung from righteous anger in the months following 9-11, to optimism and hope in the years after the Iraqi invasion at a time when I was personally trying to change the world, to disappointment following the economic collapse of 2008 and the election of Barack Obama, to the despair of the Benghazi and IRS scandals, ending finally in the cynicism shrouded nihilism of today.

What can I say, but I’m simply stubborn. While I may no longer wish to change the world and simply want to be left alone in my current libertarian exile, there are still things I need to say and this is the only medium I have found to say them.

I have failed at essay writing, and authoring fiction and non-fiction books. I have failed at numerous small businesses and enterprises. Many of my predictions made in this journal and the positions I have argued have been proven wrong. In 2006 I said Google wouldn’t be around in 2011 and that Lindsay Lohan would die tragically in 2007. 8 years later Google is still my homepage and Lindsay Lohan is still alive, although whether her career is alive is arguable.

But my marriage of 24 years has never been stronger. I have helped raise a child over these 13 years, and while he’s not heading towards a full scholarship at MIT or Harvard, he is a very decent human being whose future in this world concerns me. I have built a writing-based career and nurtured the Wife’s education so that together we are comfortable. We have put money to work in our community, buying local products and hiring local workers whenever possible so that our success is shared with others. Our choices have allowed us to take an active role in animal rescue, saving dozens of unwanted animals from miserable deaths.

I was also right about some things. In 2005 I predicted the real estate bubble was becoming unsustainable. I was right that the soaring oil prices of 2008 would succumb to economic gravity and fall. And I was right in 2011 that removing Khaddafi from power was a bad idea.

The world may be indifferent to my existence yet I am confident I have made it a better place. So I may not be as respected as Charles Krauthammer or popular as Matt Drudge, I do occasionally write something worth reading.

I’ve picked one post from each year that is still worth reading today. Enjoy.

2001 -  Judging News Sources: Truth or Trash

The problem with bias is that it assumes the average reader or listener will believe everything that he or she reads or hears regardless of its source. However for Americans exposed to everything from sightings of Elvis to alien abductions to Clinton scandals, developing a “truth detector” (or its crudely named opposite, the “bullshit detector”) becomes an important skill. Such a skill starts early as children take on the media preferences of their parents, and is refined later in high school and often college when critical thinking skills are emphasized (one purpose of this journal is to save these skills from their demise at the hand of the Politically Correct). (Read the entire post)

2002 – October 2, 2002 – No Prize For Jimmy

President Carter’s crowning achievement was the Camp David Accords which returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for the end of a state of war between Israel and Egypt. While the accords ended a shooting war between the two countries, it is worth noting that the agreement was not even negotiated by the Americans – most of the diplomacy having been done by the King of Morocco and the Ceausescu regime in Rumania. Washington DC was simply the money to fund the deal. (Read the entire post)

2003 – May 25, 2003 – Censorship Today

It is important in a society for people to follow the same code of behavior. Americans are notorious for being more unmannered and direct than many other nationalities. Recent events show the impact a slow-death of civility in our society has. It is why President Ford’s saying that “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” remains a shining example that allows us to protect our rights to free expression. (Read the entire post)

2004 – June 25, 2004 – Cognitive Dissonance and Islam

The Saudi royal family has spread Wahabism around the globe, and now are about to be consumed by it. All the makings are in place for a jihadist overthrow of the kingdom: a corrupt government infiltrated by jihadists, a dying king, a large yet effete royal family containing many supporters of the jihadists, and the cognitive dissonance which prevents the leaders from recognizing the true enemies within their own ranks caused by their own inflexible understanding of their religion. (Read the entire post)

 2005 – April 12, 2005 – Visiting the Funeral Home

“These ceremonies are for the living,” the funeral director said. I commented that her job seemed more like a cruise director or wedding planner. “My job is to…” I almost got her to say it but she didn’t. She wanted to say:

Put the “fun” back into “funeral” but she artfully stopped herself from saying that although I knew deep down she wanted to. What followed was a more politically correct explanation of her duties and how much she enjoyed her job.

Well, I suppose it takes all types. (Read the entire post)

2006 – August 10, 2006 – We Are All Israelis

I stand for Israel because I see it as a desert that has bloomed through the hard work and brilliance of its people. I see a people that has suffered unjustly for thousands of years continue to suffer today. I see a people who refuse to accept the status of victims. I see a people who value peace but aren’t willing to trade it for annihilation.

I stand for Israel because Israel is a nation where Arabs, Jews and Christians live together in peace – next to states where religions and their books are banned outright. I stand for Israel because it values everyone. It holds gay pride rallies next to nations where gays are hung from forklifts. It treats women as equals in all ways, while the women in nearby nations can’t even leave their homes alone.

I stand for Israel because it is at the frontier of civilization, an outpost of honesty in a region mired in corruption. I stand for Israel because in the fight to preserve the light from the darkness, we are all Israelis. (Read the entire post)

2007 – October 7, 2007 – The Kiwi And the Eagle: Anti-Americanism in New Zealand

I recently wrote about my Wife’s experience while serving at a hospital in Tanzania with a 24 year old New Zealander. The girl was well versed in anti-American propaganda and felt compelled to heap abuse on my Wife. The Wife is quite capable of defending herself, but she lacks my background knowledge of American foreign policy and world history. During our brief phone call, I provided her with some basic facts to combat the Kiwi’s propaganda regurgitations. Afterward I decided to dig deeper into the youngster’s bigotry and did some research into New Zealand’s attitudes towards Americans. What I found changed my mind about wanting to visit the place anytime soon. (Read the entire post)

2008 – October 20, 2008 – The Good Daughter

Fenwick Island was different; our family was different. There was nothing left to do but accept these truths.

I took the box containing the ashes and at the Wife’s request I opened them and removed the plastic bag that held them shut with a twist tie. Inside were the mixed remains of both the Father-in-law and the Mother-in-law. The Wife cradled them under her pullover as we climbed the dune and walked to the waterline of the beach. As the Kid took the dog upwind, she undid the twist tie and allowed the bag to billow open. (Read the entire post)

2009 – November 19, 2009 – The Weak Horse Named Obama

A friend who voted for Obama last year (and regrets his decision BTW) asked me why I opposed the civil prosecution of terrorists and supported military tribunals. He thought that treating them as run-of-the-mill criminals was an insult, and that by convicting and sentencing them in a military tribunal elevated their status from terrorist to warrior. Here are the reasons I gave him for why I believe that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision is the worst political decision made since President Ford pardoned Nixon in 1974. (Read the entire post)

 2010 – August 10, 2010 – Riders in the Storm

As with the storms, my instinct tells me that something is seriously wrong with my country. That same paralyzing fear that I had during the storm is with me everyday. The skies are ominous, yet Obama and the Federal Government are driving us deep into the storm and there is nothing much we can do it about it since both are deaf to our concerns. All we can do is listen to our instincts and take every chance we can to limit the danger to ourselves and loved ones the President and the Feds seem determined to visit upon us. (Read the entire post)

2011 – September 6, 2011 – A Short List of Lessons Since 9-11

Islam is Problematic And Our Ruling Elite Doesn’t Understand It
9-11 and the events over the past 10 years have taught us that Islam is different from all other world religions. It is not Christianity with different traditions unless the comparison is made to Christianity prior to the Renaissance. Then Christianity was a political and cultural defining force that determined all aspects of life for the lowliest peasant to the greatest emperor. It determined when each arose, what he did prior to work, his job, how he dressed, how he ate, and his relationship to his superiors (in the case of the emperor, to the Pope). There were no concepts of freedom in thought or deed at that time. The identify of “self” as inviolate would not become accepted until the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Tolerance of other cultures, ethnicities and especially religions simply did not exist at all. (Read the entire post)

2012 – January 17, 2012 – In the Belly of the Swan

Assess the situation. Keep calm. I tend to speak quickly and loudly when I’m nervous so I intentionally slow down the cadence of my words. Keep everyone calm. Crack a bad joke even though no one feels like laughing. Talk about the weather. Whatever it takes to keep everyone – including myself – from panicking. As a writer by instinct I feel myself observing myself, but that is also a task for the future; better to stay in the moment, the now. Time stretches, knees knock, keep scanning the darkness. “Safeties off?” “Yes,” I command. We are locked and loaded. The past is written, the future no longer exists. In the dense fog, in the belly of the swan, waiting for what must happen to happen. (Read the entire post)

2013 – April 3, 2013 – We Are Idiots

The system is corrupt yet we do nothing about it. We are told happy days are here again, that the stockmarket is at record highs, yet those of us who dabbled in the market prior to 2009 have still not recovered from the losses suffered then, leaving us on the sidelines of this rally. Small investors piled into the market and out of the market late back then, proving they were the “greater fools” and some are doing so today as the market skyrockets and smart money looks for the exits. Sure our 401K’s are expanding, but the numbers are meaningless for anyone other than those planning to retire in the coming months before this bubble bursts. Self employed people and contractors like myself don’t have 401K’s, we just have our wits and an ever sharpening skill set that we use to stay employed, but both are slowly being eroded by time as we age and the younger cohorts below us grow hungrier and more competitive. (Read the entire post)

The Council Has Spoken: October 3, 2014

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Non-Council Winners


Ebola Observations: 3 Days After Announcement

So far the mass panic everyone expected to happen after the first case has not materialized. People are going about their daily lives and unless you are in the immediate vicinity of the hot zone in Dallas, things haven’t changed all that much. But being married to a medical professional provides a deeper glimpse into how people react. Dr. Wife is fielding questions about the disease and she is counseling people to keep calm, telling them that the spread of the disease in West Africa has more to do with the poor sanitation and hygiene, as well as unusual funeral customs, than it does from the virulence of the virus. “Wash your hands and don’t handle dead bodies,” pretty much sums up her advice, and so far it is working.

The next three weeks will determine whether people keep calm and trust the CDC and other authorities or whether they disassemble and panic. So far I am personally concerned with the response of the public health authorities. I’ve read about the specially designed treatment areas within local hospitals that have been set up to contain the outbreak, but no mention has been made about the bleach baths medical personnel are using when they exit a treatment area. Viruses can be tracked out of an area on your shoes, so medical personnel in Liberia wear rubber boots and step into a pan full of disinfectant after spraying down their bodies with bleach to kill the virus.

How not to leave a hot-zone

I also don’t understand why the people the Thomas Duncan was living with aren’t being quarantined at a hospital. We know they were exposed to the virus and there’s a good possibility they will come down with it. Placing them in a hospital would allow them to be monitored closely and more importantly, allow the decontamination of their living quarters, in this case an apartment. Apartments are not built to be isolation zones. Why are the authorities waiting to clean up the place?

Overall I am not impressed with the handling of this health crisis so far. It seems to me that authorities are taking this outbreak way too nonchalantly. I understand the importance of not causing panic, but we need the authorities to act transparently as well as effectively. Seeing these two public health workers leave a hot zone without any protective gear, an area where we know without a doubt a man was sick with Ebola, leads me to believe that they are underestimating this disease.

Council Submissions: October 1, 2014

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Ebola in America

Watched the CDC press conference concerning the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the US. Overall I believe the conference offered enough facts to avoid a panic. But CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden was asked two questions about the patient’s first visit to a hospital, where he was sent home, and offered no details.

This is the weakest link in the public health argument that he was using to assure the public. On Sept. 26, the patient was exhibiting symptoms and was likely contagious at this point based on Dr. Frieden’s explanation about Ebola transmission. The patient visited the hospital and came into contact with several medical personnel as well as other patients and staff, but was not diagnosed with Ebola and was sent home. That hospital was not identified, and Dr. Frieden avoided the questions concerning this failure to diagnose the patient. Two days later the patient went to Texas Health Presbyterian and was correctly identified as a possible sufferer of the virus.

While there is no need to panic, the CDC must remember that facts and the Truth reassure. Silence or avoiding straight answers like a politician do not.