Sunday, September 3, 2017

Why I call myself a Patriot

The official DOD figure for combat or combat related deaths in Vietnam: 58,300
The official casualty figure for Korea: 33,741

6,800 military deaths since the “war on terror” began in 1999

We watched filthy rich football players turn their backs on our national anthem—and someone asked, “Why?  What are they protesting? Could any of us do that at our jobs?”  This is not a complicated thing for me, when the National anthem plays, I stand at attention with my right hand on my heart.  Do I do it because our country is perfect, because our government does everything right, just, and fair?  Nope, that’s not it.  I have several things on the wall in my home office, my college diploma, a tribute to John Glenn the Astronaut, framed certificates & medals for accomplishments at work or in school, my framed photos commemorating the Saints Super Bowl win, and my “Thank you from a Grateful Nation” for my active duty service, signed by Richard Nixon.  Am I less proud of my service because Nixon was my Commander-in-Chief?  Hell no.  Am I less proud to be an American because we went to war over the “domino theory,” a flawed premise?  Hell no.  I stand at attention, get a lump in my throat, because of the  100,000 young men (mostly) who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and for the families, and friends, whose hearts were broken—during my life time.  That’s more than 4 times the total population of the Parish where I grew up—can you imagine that?  Every man, woman, and child in Plaquemines Parish, four times over. 

We learned in Civics in fifth grade, that being Americans meant we have certain rights, but there are obligations that go along with that, our responsibilities.  Among those responsibilities are be good citizens, abide by laws, vote, take part in the democratic process—and for some, serve, either in the military or as volunteers in the service of people who need a hand up.  My family has a heritage of military service, my father, my father-in-law, several uncles on both sides of the family, brothers-in-law, many cousins, nieces and nephews, so it wasn’t a tough decision for me to enlist.  I’ve told the story before about a friend who died in Vietnam on Christmas Eve, 1970—that event erased any doubt I may have had.  Since then, I’ve thought of myself as a Patriot—and when you think about it, that’s a little odd.  I’ve used it to sort of differentiate myself from . . . anyone who’s not a Patriot, but without actually examining the thought.  Now, it’s clear, at least in my mind.  I love my country, I stand at attention during the National Anthem, I pause EVERY time I see our flag flying, because I am a proud patriot, proud of my contribution as a citizen, proud of all the things good about our country, and honored to be part of making it better.  Anyone who does not see things that way, who does not live up to the responsibilities of citizenship, does not honor those who battled to earn and preserve our freedoms, is not a patriot, does not deserve the rights that come with citizenship. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Best Things in Life (50 years ago)

I'm sure there are lots of guys out there that had similar passion for baseball when they were kids.  It's funny that I have so few vivid memories from when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old--but I can remember things about baseball as though they happened yesterday.  I remember trying out for 'majors' with Coach Bourque watching.   We played Little League (or Dixie League--a long, sad story) on the fields in the Town Site, near the tennis courts and the Community House.  I don't remember the kid's name I was playing catch with--he had bright red hair as I recall.  Coach Bourque walked up and down watching us catch and throw--and I made 'Majors.' I remember a big kid named Mike throwing to try to catch me stealing second --instead hit me in the face.  It hurt but I got over it--it was maybe my only steal.  Years later, Coach Cormier asked me not to try to steal (I was too slow, though he didn't come right out and say it).   I remember playing 'under the lights' in Belle Chasse for the first time ever--we didn't  have lights.  Our infield at the PSHS was all dirt, and I can remember the dust and the smell when it was really hot and dry.  I remember my first home run in high school, at a park somewhere in Chalmette--I had grounded out the AB before and coach Cormier suggested I take off my spikes and put on my "tennis" shoes--my black Converse All Stars, because I was dragging my front foot, not getting a good stride--and, it worked.  I smashed the first pitch over the left field fence--with a runner on first.  I don't remember my slow trot around the bases, but I can see the ball fly over the left-fielder's head, like it was yesterday.  Few memories from boyhood are as rich and satisfying.

I remember Kenny Sonnier hitting a home run at Mel Ott Park in Gretna--with major league scouts in the stands (we heard).  The fence was short, just over 300 ft., but it was 50 ft. high.  Kenny hit it over the fence, across the street, into the 2nd floor of the building on the other side.  I was standing at the end of the dugout and I can see the ball, still rising as it cleared that chain link fence, and crashed into the brick wall.  Nobody cheered at first--they couldn't believe it, but then suddenly we realized what had happened and I think even the other team's fans cheered.  We heard later that Kenny was the first and only high school player to every hit a ball over that right field fence.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Health care is not a right, but (that’s a loud, emphatic BUT), we have the resources, as a nation, to make certain that no one suffers or dies from lack of access to quality medical care.  We have the resources to guarantee that no one who acts in good faith will have to choose between food/rent and seeing a doctor.  We have the resources to provide the best pre-natal care to every expectant mother.  We have the resources to help our aging population live a quality life, maintain independence and dignity.  We have the resources to make access to health care a non-issue for all Americans. 
So, what are we waiting for?  One word: PROFIT---health care is a "for-profit" business.  If we’re too kind, too generous with our existing resources, there’s not enough profit in health care, hospitals, or insurance companies for wealthy investors to make adequate ROI.  And, our new government doesn’t have the courage or strength of character to legislate health care over profits (because many of them depend on contributions from big investors—or, they are big investors themselves).   I know, beyond any doubt, there are thousands upon thousands of people in the country who do not have health insurance because they can’t afford it, or perhaps in a few rare cases, prefer not to buy health care.  Many work full time for small companies that don’t offer group coverage, or they don’t work at all.  So, when they do need care, often times they wind up at emergency rooms, knowing that they won’t be turned away (look up EMTLA).  Maybe Medicaid will pay, or the hospital will try to collect—or will eventually write it off.  In any event, I, we, wind up paying for it—and I’m OK with that.  I may need help myself, someday, and trust there are others who feel as I do, that we, as Americans, have an obligation to help when we can.  Again, this is not a partisan opinion, it’s simply my opinion of what’s right and just—and American.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Free Kindle Editions

Starting tomorrow, 7/12, download FREE Kindle editions of both Mike Madison adventures.  If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle reader software for your iPad, tablet, smart phone, PC at then download both Mike Madison books FREE.                                          

Click HERE to go to Amazon and see both titles:

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Political Leanings

I've talked before about where I stand along the political ideology spectrum. I have very close relationships with my brothers, but we have widely disparate political views. I’m the oldest of four sons, Brother #4, the youngest, is a conservative Republican (married to a conservative Republican), Brother #2 is a very liberal Democrat.  I am somewhere in between, as is my smart, beautiful wife. Sadly, we lost Brother #3 many years ago, but I'm confident he'd be in the middle with me; but, I don't stay long in any one spot. I listen and learn--and then, where and when it makes sense, I change my mind—it’s the grownup, reasoned thing to do. I like to say that I lean neither left nor right, rather I stand upright in favor of truth, reason, and logic (just to give my brothers a hard time). In spite of my malleability I do have some deeply entrenched biases (and I’m perfectly aware of how they influence my opinions), and I’ve tried to stay as objective as possible over my long life time.  For the sake of clarity (mine and my readers), I'll follow this with a series of posts offering my perhaps unique views on some of the controversial topics--those creating the divide, that vast chasm between right and left.


Patriotism, part 2

I don't know what my political affiliation is. I'm neither Republican, nor Democrat; I don't belong to the Tea Party, the Libertarian Party or any kind of Green Party--I have very little in common with any of them. I'm neither conservative nor liberal. What I do know for sure is that I love my country--I'm a patriot; and, as a patriot I have certain firm beliefs about my patriotic responsibilities. For example, I enlisted in the military and served over 10 years, first in the Air Force then the Air National Guard. During that time our country was at war, a controversial war, a war based on....what? The Domino Theory they called it. It wasn't a direct threat to our home or our freedom; but, the theory was that if we did not stop communism in SE Asia, free nations around the Pacific would fall like dominoes--until the scourge was coming ashore here in America. Well, we didn't stop communism in Vietnam--and it spread all the way to Laos---and then stopped. We never did have to fight any communists in Baton Rouge or Port Sulphur. So, the Commanders-in-Chief who led us during the Vietnam conflict, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon (2 Republicans, 2 Democrats), were they liars or traitors, or just mistaken? Even today, nearly 40 years later, in spite of the fact that 58,000 young men (mostly) died (including two good friends), I would never dream of calling any of my Presidents liars or traitors. In fact I truly believe that anyone who does is a coward and a traitor. You may think that's harsh, but after careful consideration over a lifetime--it's my opinion and I know it's right (even righteous, to borrow a thought from Dan Madison). All that is accomplished by the name calling is to widen the divide between groups of would-be, wanna-be patriots. Real patriotism is deeper than that. The problems our nation faces (not as bad as the conservatives suggest--not as good as the liberals want you to think) require a concerted effort by all of us, working together. But, that's not going to happen because neither side can see beyond their narrow little view and their notion that they can prove they're right by proving the other side is wrong. Wrong.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Lesson for Entrepreneurs," excerpt from How to Succeed in Business, by Bracy Ratcliff

Case Study, Dark Shadows:  We’ve talked about cleanliness, now let’s discuss “safe.”  For several years, while in the gasoline/convenience store business, I tried to work one shift per month in each of my 10 or 12 stores.  Often it was a mid-shift, 2PM to 10PM, occasionally a third shift, and it was often an adventure.  One night, on a third shift, at a store in Petaluma, California, I think it was around 3:00AM, a women rushed into the store, but paused as soon as the door closed behind her.  I said, “Good morning, can I help you find something?”

She stuttered, sounding as though she was out of breath, “F ffflavored coffee creamer.”

I pointed to the dairy doors, “We have Irish Cream and French Vanilla, quart size.”

She grabbed one, came up to the register, and as I handed her the change from her 20-dollar bill, she asked, in a timid, shaky voice, “Would you mind watching for me to get to my car?”

I said, “Sure, come on, I’ll walk you out.”  I had no idea, until that moment, how un-safe, un-inviting our store was in the middle of the night.  The parking area was, per the Fire Marshall’s direction, away from the front door and the surrounding fire-lane, and by default the closest spots were in a rather dimly lit part of the lot.  It was a combination of things, first the store windows on that side of the building were blocked so no light was shining out, the lot lights were shrouded in fog (like so many other nights), so when I first stepped out I couldn’t see the woman’s car.  I walked her over and waited for her to start the car and pull away. It was painfully obvious that she had been truly afraid to walk to and from her car.  The next day, we moved two parking spots closer to the door and installed flood lights on the side of the building to light up all of the parking spots.

Later, I spoke to the manager and the other night-shift employees and was disappointed to hear that they’d had several comments about how dark the lot was—so, here’s the lesson for the entrepreneur:  know your facility, inside out, in daylight and dark, in fair weather and foul.  Make it safe and inviting.