Category Archives: Government

Mama Jo

Jo wasn’t really her name, but only a few of us knew her real first name and kept it as an insider’s joke and a secret among friends. However, Jo soon became “Mama Jo” to thousands of Sailors and their families.

Around 2007, I had returned from overseas and many Sailors were sent to work “boots on the ground.” It became apparent that the rules, regulations, procedures, and administrivia weren’t equipped to handle Sailors operating outside their normal channels. “Sailors belong on ships, and ships belong at sea!” we were told. Unfortunately, the enemy didn’t agree, and the war was in the desert. Dirt sailors took on whatever duties their nation required. Unfortunately, this meant they no longer fit neatly into the Navy system.

Families no longer had a command to which to turn when there were problems with pay, military housing or whatever. Add to that the wartime toll on marriages, and it was a mess. The Navy Times had articles and letters describing how Navy families whose sailors were serving in the sandbox had nowhere to turn and how they felt—and were—abandoned.

I happened to be in command when we had over one thousand Sailors in theater, so I was suddenly “the expert” for “Boots on Ground Sailors.” The wife of the Chief of Naval Operations saw the problems and took the issue of family problems personally (and my sincere thanks to you, Mrs. Mullen, for caring) and so I was told, “You’re our troubleshooting expert – fix it.”

I confess, throughout my career my Sailors were more important to me than the officers. The officers were my friends and colleagues, and I love them as brothers and sisters. It was my Sailors, on the other hand, who got the job done. They depended on me to shield them from the bullshit but missions that were successful were due to the Sailors, not the officers. I was committed to the Sailors and their families, but this war presented a Herculean task. There was almost no one who could help me tackle this.

Then came Jo.

Jo’s husband had been an Air Force Colonel. She was the only one in the command who was (slightly) older than me (I think). She had been a successful business consultant who shut her business down immediately after 9-11 in order to help our men and women in uniform. There is no one individual who has done more for our men and women in uniform than Jo.

Now there are some who believe that Jo hated me. I love this; if she didn’t get the cooperation she needed from a particular command, she would explain to them, “Well, I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to resolve this, because my Captain is going to be calling your commanding officer and it’s going to be ugly. I have to work with this guy every day, and I can tell you that when this is over, you and I are probably both going to both be in big $#!+. What? You have an idea? Why, yes, I think that might work!”

“Sir (always Sir, dammit), if you hear that the USS Whatever thinks you’re the world’s biggest pain in the ass… (add smile here) it’s my fault,” and I knew that some family had been taken care of.

Jo always threatened to buy a parrot and teach it all the things she said to her kids so when she died the parrot would be passed on and continue to repeat (in her voice) her favorite sayings. She never bought a parrot.

I did. I’ve had parrots before, but Jo provided the tipping point.

There are families who have survived storms, wildfires and tornadoes, thanks to Jo. Together we set up systems to meet returning Sailors as Thurgood Marshall in Baltimore, Norfolk International, and Naval Air Station Norfolk. Not everyone appreciated the importance of this, and it was an uphill battle, but Jo was there.

Sailors who worked with her know she was the first one in and the last to leave. When others arrived, there was coffee already started, and her desk always had a jar of candies. I preferred peanut butter cups, which mysteriously appeared in the freezer of the mini-fridge at my end of the building.

Some people are known for great discoveries and inventions. Others leave great wealth. The best way to describe Jo is with a prayer often attributed (albeit incorrectly) to St. Francis of Assisi; the author doesn’t matter – what matters is that Jo made it happen.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Jo, when we meet again in the next life, we’ll pick up where we left off, except we’ll know our men and women are cared for, and I’ll finally get to meet your husband. In the meantime, know how much everyone appreciates the footprints you left behind.

Fair winds, following seas and peace, Jo.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. President, if for some reason you might be reading this blog and you’re looking for a hero to acknowledge – Jo Carter.

CDC and Ebola

Spanish flu treatment center Smithsonianmag.com

Spanish flu treatment center
Smithsonianmag.com

My congressman ran a poll asking his constituents if they were confident in the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) ability to combat Ebola. He’s probably sorry he asked, because this is how I responded. Obviously these are my own opinions (aren’t they always?), although I did try to check basic facts (number of dead in World War I, etc.)

I spent 30 years in the healthcare industry, starting off in a technical clinical discipline, and later, after completing my graduate degree I moved into management and was a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Administrators. My current position includes support for emergency management.

CDC is very good at doing certain things, but their best work has involved basic research, which doesn’t mean “simple” but getting to the root issues behind a scientific question. Basic research is often the most result oriented because instead of jumping to a search for the solution, it instead focuses on learning about the problem without preconceived notions. The classic example was when Dr. Fleming noticed that something was affecting the other bacteria in his experiment. By studying this “something” he discovered penicillin.

It appears that in recent that the attention of the leadership of the CDC has been drawn away from basic scientific research and become more focused on political issues, which well may have impacted their effectiveness. For example, there are reliable reports that CDC has spent significant effort to shut down doctors who believe in treating chronic Lyme disease. Some physicians believe that the organisms that causes Lyme disease, and an associated disease, babesiosis can become dormant in a patient, but when triggered by trauma, or other events, the symptoms become active again. Although not scientifically proven, patients have reported improvement when treated with a regimen of certain antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs.

The CDC has not proven these conditions do not exist, which is understandable given that it is impossible to prove a negative. However, they have taken this issue on as a crusade and allegedly gone so far as to classify this as a Homeland Security issue in order to justify the use of legal authorities and law enforcement techniques.

Unfortunately, they have not been quite as enthusiastic at adhering to basic, proven infection control techniques they haven’t exerted the same amount of effort to adhere to basic protocols resulting in the exposure of CDC personnel to anthrax and the loss of at least one container of viable small pox. Incidentally, small pox was the first chemical weapon when the blankets of small pox victims were given to Native Americans, thereby intentionally introducing the disease to the indigenous population of North America.

I’ll give the CDC the benefit of the doubt. I think they can handle this IF the politically appointed and wanna-be-police types get out of the way. Should we cut off contact with western Africa and deprive them of essential expertise, medicine and equipment? I think not. While it may be politically unpopular, until effective treatments or vaccines are perfected, quarantine may be the most logical step. The health professionals actively working with Ebola patients at the handful of designated hospitals are the best trained and equipped. However, mistakes are made, equipment fails, and while the doctors, nurses, therapists and technologists may follow the protocols correctly, is it possible for a housekeeper or a maintenance person to become infected? I think so.

It may be wise to quarantine people who have been exposed to Ebola. The Ebola hospital staffs may just have to live and work within the confines of the facility for the duration. It’s an inconvenience but our military men and women have been living with such inconveniences for the past eleven years, all the while being shot at, rocketed, mortared and the target of suicide bombers and IEDs.

If the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy – the Navy’s 1200 bed hospital ships are not being deployed elsewhere, they could provide medical care as well as quarantine. Those exposed and being monitored would not have to live in military austerity, but instead could be housed in nicer accommodations to make the experience less painful; a hotel leased by the government, or perhaps a cruise ship. Nice accommodations, but safely out of circulation until everyone is sure that the individual is not infected

If everyone exposed to Ebola were quarantined for 28 days, it just might prove to be significantly cheaper to pay for lost wages and accommodations for these people than to let the disease spread. If the CDC puts the science and safety first, they’ll succeed. If the politics and power struggles take precedence, stand by. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. The “Spanish” flu of 1918 is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million; by comparison, the total death toll of the Great War (World War I)— all military and civilians—is estimated at 43 million.

Bottom line—let the scientists do their job.

My New Patient, the Terrorist

As a psychiatrist, I see all kinds of people; couples trying to communicate, Woody-Allenish-neurotics, and the occasional psychotic with delusions of grandeur. Some of my patients are folks for whom La-La Land is Home Sweet Home.

One of my newest patients has occasionally been in the news. Operating under the code name of “The Fruit Fly,” Whoopee bin Yowhzah was apprehended for an attempted act of terrorism on a flight. Although he did not, in fact, have a bomb, he nevertheless set his (rather soiled) underwear on fire. When the smell of his own scorched skivvies did not achieve the desired effect, he then attempted to set fire to the underwear of the other passengers.

When the plane landed in Cheyenne, Wyoming, he was arrested. He proudly announced to anyone who would listen that he was sure he would sent to Guantanamo, but was instead held in the Laramie County Jail. He demanded to be water boarded, which was ignored by the staff, so he stuck his head in the cell toilet and repeatedly flushed it until deputies restrained him.

It was decided that instead of communing a military tribunal, he would be tried before a judge and jury in New York. He was, quite understandably, found “Not guilty by reason of insanity” and committed to a psychiatric hospital.

I first met him as he sat on the edge of his bed. We started out with some small talk, and I asked him to tell me about himself.

“Me? I am a terrorist!” he replied enthusiastically.

“I see,” I replied, “and why did you become a terrorist?” He looked at me as though I was clueless.

“Being a terrorist is a religious calling!” he explained. “God, Himself, called me to be a holy warrior!”

The patient in the next bed sat bolt upright and glared at both of us. “I most certainly did not!” he replied.

 

Police Military Equipment

swatThere’s been a lot of coverage in the news about police departments getting surplus military equipment from the federal government. Now I understand police work is a tough job and there are bad people out there, but I don’t think it’s fair that only the police get the leftover equipment. The Los Angeles school district not only has an armored vehicle but also grenade launchers.

I want some, too.

The first thing I want is one of those stainless steel milk dispensers used in y military dining facilities that get milk to that just right, perfect, wonderful temperature for cold milk.

Then, bring on the chocolate chip cookies!

Oh, and while you’re at it, add a soft-serve ice cream dispenser.

Next I want one of those cots that we all had to sleep on in every base of every type throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. That way, if anyone decides to visit, and I don’t want them to stay too long, I make up the cot. With such a lumpy, squeaky, miserable place to sleep, unwanted guests would stay one night – if they last that long.

With all the media coverage of the heavily armored vehicles, I’ve tried to think of some type of nifty high-tech surplus conveyance that I’d like. Unfortunately, having served, I know they all guzzle fuel like Uncle Louie at ano-host bar. I think they average about twenty-eight gallons to the mile (not miles to the gallon) and need about a hundred thousand hours of maintenance for every hour you drive. Besides, based on personal experience I know they’re terribly noisy and no matter how big they are on the outside, the inside is cramped, uncomfortable and smell bad.

So, on second thought, I’ll pass.

Send the milk coolers and chocolate chip cookies to the police departments – maybe it’ll put them in a better mood.

The Truth About Immigrants

Ellis Island osu.edu

Ellis Island
osu.edu

In America it has happened over and over. It happened when the Germans came here and the French. The same with the Irish and the Italians.

You’d think we’d learn, but we don’t.

When a group immigrates, they fumble around for a few years, then figure things out; those who have been here a while teach the tricks to the newcomers.

Then it starts.

They get jobs or start businesses. They pay taxes. The latest immigrants are paying social security taxes to fund the baby boomers. They serve in the military. They become citizens. They become friends and neighbors.

It’s got to stop!

Look at Me! Look at Me! (But Respect my Privacy) Look at Me!

Don Adams "Get Smart"

Don Adams
“Get Smart”

We interrupt this uproar about the NSA to present the following commercial announcements:

The left handed velvet backscratcher that you looked at last week is now on sale at the following internet sellers…

According to your cellphone GPS, here’s a coupon for the store across the street.

People who looked at left handed backscratchers, are often interested in left handed scissors.

Your Instagram of your Chicken Parmigiana a Bella Piano’s has gone viral.

Uncle Vito’s Frozen Chicken Parmesan is on sale at your local Food Shoppe.

Did you know that many people use a left handed back scratcher while eating Uncle Vito’s Chicken Parmesan?

Facebook wants you to be sad about those poor chickens.

#sad chickens

We now return you to the furor over NSA, already in progress.

Independence Day

Jefferson Obelisk Courtesy Monticello.org

Jefferson Obelisk
Courtesy Monticello.org

He wrote his own epitaph.

HERE WAS BURIED; THOMAS JEFFERSON; AUTHOR OF THE; DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA BORN APRIL 2, 1743 O.S. DIED JULY 4. 1826

Jefferson and John Adams are as essential to America as was George Washington. Of the three, Jefferson was the most complicated – a wealth of intellectual virtue but pragmatically able to ignore his own beliefs in the name of commerce. Author of the Declaration of Independence, yet an owner of slaves.

There is a fascinating radio program in which historian Clay Jenkinson portrays Thomas Jefferson but such that Jefferson is able to converse with us in our time. If you haven’t heard it, give it a try. Click here for more.

http://www.jeffersonhour.com/