Is it hype or reality?

If I were to categorize my state of health, I would argue that it’s relatively good. Yes, I weigh more than I should but the blood work always seems to come back fine. It’s a blessing that I’m glad to have considering how many others suffer.

In the last few weeks, we’ve been reminded what suffering is thanks to the spread of the coronavirus, or, more appropriately, Wuhan virus. It took a few weeks to learn what virulent effects it was having on the people around the Chinese city of Wuhan, but as it spreads around the world we hear fears of a pandemic on the scale of the Spanish flu a century ago, where millions in a war-ravaged global population perished. (Reports suggest its effects casualty-wise were worse than the First World War, which was coming to an end just as the influenza was beginning to spread.)

Because of that fear, we are treated to breathless accounts of rapidly dwindling supplies of surgical masks, disinfectant, and toilet paper. The Dow Jones and other markets have plunged, major events cancelled, entire countries are being placed into lockdown over the Wuhan virus, and even our church has played into this paranoia as shaking hands has been discouraged at the greeting time built into the service.

If you know me well enough, you know I’m something of a born skeptic about certain things, and Wuhan virus is quickly falling into that category. There are just too many reasons to believe that there’s much more sizzle than steak when it comes to our seemingly biannual dread disease that’s going to wipe us all out. (If we survived SARS, which is more easily spread, we can handle Wuhan virus.)

Now the conspiracy buffs among us could speculate that the whole thing is a Chinese plot to try and crash our economy, paving the way for a President more to their liking than Donald Trump, who has been a difficult adversary when it comes to trade. It is interesting to note, though, how the federal reaction once thought to be too strict is now being portrayed as an albatross around Trump’s neck worse than Hurricane Katrina was for President George W. Bush. And as I noted above, the media has been complicit in stoking up fear.

After the topic came up for discussion at our small group tonight, I had another thought on the way home. Now it’s nothing completely out of the ordinary for schools to close because of the flu, as it happens from time to time when a school finds a significant percentage of its kids are sick. But the measures being taken such as cancelling in-person classes in favor of online lessons for the foreseeable future or keeping workers at home, as well as the talk of scrubbing pro sports games (as of about 30 minutes after I posted this, it’s no longer talk) or, more likely, holding them in closed stadiums – go beyond the pale into uncharted territory.

What this all reminds me of was the time period immediately after 9/11, and we have some eerie parallels. You may recall that both MLB and the NFL postponed an entire week’s worth of games (which, by the way, was how we got November baseball for the first time. I remember seeing the “Welcome to November Baseball” sign at old Yankee Stadium as the October 31 World Series Game 4 dragged past midnight into November.) But it’s also worth pointing out schools remained closed for several days after the terrorist attack, and life wasn’t really something close to normal for weeks – or months, in the case of the New York and D.C. regions. (Or so I presume since I was still in Ohio back then.)

And it could be much the same type of situation here, except the impacts are in different areas, such as the global supply chain, financial markets, and perhaps oil industry – has the sudden, unexpected drop in demand from a moribund China led to a schism in the market as Russia and Saudi Arabia could not agree to supply cuts to re-establish $60 a barrel oil? Tonight I even saw the “r” word being mentioned in the same story that noted the latest decline in the Dow Jones makes it official: the post-Great Recession bull market is officially over after 11 years. Stocks have fallen 20 percent off their peak of just a few weeks ago.

Long story short: Wuhan virus is a reality and chances are it will spread to a point where some areas are hard hit, just like any flu season. But there’s a lot more hype on this one because there’s a larger agenda being held by some people. Right now the news deserves a little larger grain of salt.

Back to a Tuesday…

As this posts up, we once again pause to recall the events and immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The passage of 17 years, however, has not only seen the weekday cycle back to Tuesday for a third time (as it was in 2001) but has also seen a number of key players exit the stage – some who perished at the hands of the very nation attacked and others who passed from more natural causes. The recent news that the “cesspool of cancer” also known as Ground Zero is cutting thousands more lives short means the pain has returned for many families of survivors.

Of course, life on this earth is cyclical and doesn’t last forever. A child who would be celebrating his or her 17th birthday today is most likely a senior in high school. I mentioned last year that 27% of the U.S. population was under the age of 21, and while that percentage isn’t significantly different the group that remembers little to nothing about that day will naturally grow and the population of those of us who lived through it will dwindle. You’d have a hard time finding someone who clearly remembers Pearl Harbor now, but when I was 17 those folks were simply known as our grandparents because they were at least middle-aged and often somewhat older.

Yet while we often refer to the lives lost in 9/11 and its aftermath, we don’t often think about the aftereffects. During the Cold War, we called it Civil Defense, and I vaguely remember seeing the triangular CD logo and (moreso) the black-and-yellow “Fallout Shelter” signs in places like my school. In looking it up, I found out that Civil Defense was absorbed into FEMA in the late 1970s as their focus shifted away from nuclear holocaust and more toward other emergencies and disasters. But in the wake of the WTC attack we have an entire Department of Homeland Security, PATRIOT Act restrictions, and TSA molestation at the airports. In the seventeen years since 9/11, the federal government has placed us on a war footing for a battle which perhaps doesn’t exist anymore – not that the threat from radical Islam has completely vanished, but the rules of engagement seem to have changed from large-scale events like 9/11 and regime change among nations in the “Axis of Evil” to smaller-scale attacks such as the San Bernardino or Pulse nightclub shooting and dismantling the so-called Islamic State caliphate. (As an aside, those shootings also have the added benefit to the enemy of riling up gun control supporters.)

Instead, I think the happy medium would be to return to a more subtle vigilance without the overbearing hand of Uncle Sam. Certainly he should protect us – after all, it IS a Constitutional mandate – but I don’t think we need the nanny state anymore. The way I see it, each freedom we lose is a victory for the terrorists.

And one more thing: over 3,000 people woke up on September 11, 2001 expecting to get through their day and return to their home – but the Lord had plans to call them to His home. To me, it’s a good time to remind my readers to ask themselves: what if today were your final day? I know my debt is paid, so I invite you to enjoy that peace of mind, too.

9/11 in the age of Trump

This morning – and I say “this morning” despite the fact I’m writing this about 12 hours in advance of publication – President Donald Trump, a native of New York City, will preside over what is described as a “mostly solemn and nonpartisan occasion” with ceremonies at both Ground Zero and the Pentagon. (Vice President Pence will handle duties in Shanksville, PA at the Flight 93 Memorial.)

Because he’s a native New Yorker, Donald Trump has a unique perspective on the event. Most of his critics point to a declaration The Donald made in the wake of the attack that his 40 Wall Street building became the tallest in the city thanks to the demise of the World Trade Center. On the other hand, President Trump made a very solemn Patriot Day declaration on Friday, bringing it up to date by citing our response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. One notable departure from the Obama years, though, is the dropping of the “National Day of Service and Remembrance” from the release (although Trump alludes to it in the body of his text, in keeping with the Obama-era law recognizing September 11 as such.)

Some of the conditions which led to the 9/11 attack (and its ongoing response on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq) have been addressed by President Trump, although his main initiative of a temporary pause on accepting refugees and visitors from nations deemed to be potential sponsors of terror was thwarted by a series of activist judges. However, on a broader foreign palette, we have had little change in Middle East policy over the last several months, particularly in dealing with a poorly-drafted nuclear agreement with Iran: well-respected former U.N. ambassador and foreign policy hawk John Bolton is on record as wishing Trump would back out of that bad deal.

Regardless of what policy initiatives come and go, though, the passage of time insures that those who recall the incident first-hand are a dwindling majority. The number of Americans under age 21 now rests at about 27%, and if you add in those who weren’t Americans when the attack occurred you’re probably talking a number north of 3 out of 10 Americans who have little to no memory of the day because they weren’t born yet, too young to understand it, living somewhere else at the time, or some combination of those factors. I know I won’t forget where I was that day but the 17-year-old in the house won’t recall because she was only a toddler. The day may be remembered at school, but even then only in passing.

And while we live in an era where being patriotic isn’t necessarily cause for suspicion by certain groups as it was not so long ago, we’re a long way from the fever pitch we had in the months after the attack. Then again, perhaps our nation has given us cause to be cynical after such a Long War with few tangible results. One could readily surmise that, with our superior military firepower, we could have made short work of any of these tinpot regimes if we put our mind to it and employed more of a scorched-earth policy. Lord knows we were willing to do so in 2001 but President George W. Bush preferred a coalition approach. Some may call that kicking the can down the road.

It’s frightening to think that we could be on the doorstep of another such attack, but the possibility is there and it’s not necessarily going to involve Islamic terrorism. So-called “suitcase nukes” or an EMP attack that North Korea could be capable of delivering would bring tragic results on a scale many times that of 9/11 – and we really can’t defend that well against them. Yet the response, some civil libertarians argue, would be tantamount to living in a police state.

Walking that fine line is now the job of a 71-year-old man who’s prone to fits of pique as expressed on Twitter but was supported and elected by a group of patriotic Americans who believed he would be the one to get tough on these threats. Since this is the first of what could be eight occasions where Trump commemorates 9/11, this is the one that sets the tempo.

My annual 9-11 statement

I’ve done something pretty much every September 11 I’ve had a website, but I think the best piece was the one I wrote three years ago to mark the occasion. I pick it up in the second paragraph.


That day was a glorious Tuesday weatherwise, a perfect late summer day in northwest Ohio. At the time I was working for my last firm, Hobbs and Black Architects, and as was normal on most days I had my headphones on listening to a CD when the phone rang. For whatever reason, I picked it up and it was my co-worker Larry who informed me that he would be in shortly and did I know that a plane had hit the World Trade Center? I told him no, and I’d see him shortly.

What I assumed, not knowing the whole story at the time, was that what struck the WTC was a small Cessna-type plane. I had no idea that it was the first jetliner to hit or that by the time Larry made it in that a second plane was making contact. But when Larry turned on his radio straight away to continue monitoring the events, we all knew something bad was happening. This was probably about 9:15 or so.

Obviously we were all glued to the radio accounts of the news, but we did have work to get done. Some of my cohorts were wrapping up presentation drawings for a new synagogue that was to be presented in a meeting to the congregation that evening. But later that morning we got a call from the design architect who decided maybe meeting that night would not be a good idea. Not a whole lot was done that day as obviously we were all waiting for another shoe to drop, particularly when we heard that the Pentagon was hit and there was another plane that had dropped out of contact over Ohio (this would be Flight 93.)

It seemed like an eternity until 5:30 when my workday was done. I figured I’d better stop for gas on the way back home and found that the gas priced at $1.10 or so when I went to work was now $1.80. Still, there were lines to get in the station. And all that was normal when the day began was now different. There were no ballgames on, nor any of the regular TV shows. All we had on was the wall-to-wall coverage of the mounting death toll and the question about why we were targeted.

In the days that followed, the questioning turned to mourning and then to solidarity. I remember all the members of Congress singing patriotically on the Capitol steps. For a few days afterward we weren’t Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, we were just Americans.

But when I think about that day, I think more about the effect it had on my daughter. We all live some of our lives through our children and even though I wasn’t around when she was born Dani is still my daughter. So perhaps the thing that upsets me the most is that this occurred during her senior year of high school. It’s supposed to be one of the most fun years of a child’s life, but hers forever has the black mark of being associated with 9/11.

There’s one incident that typifies that melancholy feeling I get when 9/11 comes up. On the Saturday afterward, Dani’s high school hosted a band concert with several other bands in the region. They all played 3 or 4 songs, essentially a typical halftime show.

As was traditional, her school’s band closed the show. Instead of a regular show though, as I recall they marched onto the field and took their formation. Then, to the sound of a single drum keeping time they slowly and somberly marched off one by one. It’s a bitter memory that I have, thinking about the joy that a high school marching band generally brings tempered by events beyond their control.

9/11 was an event that continues to define a generation. It’s Dani’s age group that volunteered to fight against the enemy who took the fight to us on that brilliant day turned dark, and it’s her age group that takes most of the casualties in that fight on both sides.

But for those of us who were just doing our jobs on a regular workday not unlike the thousand before, living through that one changed us too. We still take time to remember and mourn those for whom it was their last workday; the ones who never knew what hit them, those on the planes who never made it to their destinations, some who died trying to save their cohorts in the Twin Towers, and still others unfortunate enough to be at the top of the  towers who faced a horrible choice of how to end their life.

Because of some agenda, political or otherwise, we rarely see the pictures anymore. But placing the events that happened on a Tuesday not unlike today six years ago out of sight cannot and should not place them out of mind. We owe it to my daughter’s generation not to forget.

luvya, kiddo.


You know, with all the hullabaloo over the mosque nearby Ground Zero, the events of 9/11 remain on our mind and the wounds unhealed. Personally I’d prefer they built it someplace else in New York (my understanding is there’s another mosque just blocks away) but what will be will be I suppose. Just don’t be surprised if someone tosses a firebomb in the place sometime down the road.

But as the years are removed and other events occur in our lives, my fear is that we return to the so-called 9/10 mindset. Just because we have ceased operations in Iraq and are getting ready to pull out of Afghanistan next year doesn’t mean the threat from Islamic terrorism has ceased – in fact, they may see this manuever as a sign of weakness. Perhaps the next anniversary and the prospect of the groundbreaking for a new mosque will bring us a new vigilance.

Friday night videos – episode 45

Call this the primary edition. It’s some of the interesting things which have come across my screen lately and I want to share with you.

First, I love the smell of hypocricy in the evening as much as I do in the morning.

Yep, let’s hire non-union people to protest on behalf of a union. Unless there’s full employment within the union (in which case they shouldn’t need the work anyway) why can’t they use their own members?

In the meantime, the administration they blindly support is killing other union and non-union jobs in the energy industry.

It’s interesting – 5,500 people came of their own accord to speak out on their jobs but providing a handful of jobs to the members of the union who instead paid scab labor to picket was out of the question.

The statewide races for Governor and Senate are quite interesting, with Jim Rutledge and Eric Wargotz fighting out the U.S. Senate nod and Brian Murphy closing the gap on Bob Ehrlich. Here’s a little something from each, beginning with Rutledge. Someone came up with a great video on Jim’s behalf.

I still like the bearded look on Jim. Meanwhile, his opponent Eric Wargotz hit the airwaves with this last week.

It’s a humorous ad, and certainly gets the point across. But is appearing in safari garb Eric’s ‘Dukakis moment’?

A more conventional message comes from Brian Murphy in his TV spot.

It sounds pretty Eastern Shore to me, since that’s where he grew up. Meanwhile, Bob Ehrlich vows to kill the expansion of the sales tax to 43 services.

Oh, I remember the bill – they’ve tried to sneak it through but didn’t have the cajones to do it back then. We fought it tooth and nail and won.

Finally, this week wouldn’t be complete without mentioning something about tomorrow. It’s this week’s Freedom Minute from the Center for Individual Freedom.I decided to skip the music video this week because I may just have fresh ones next week if I’m able. We’ll have to see on that; otherwise enjoy the rest of your night!