When Did It Get So Late?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I knew it was getting late. I was leaving work, walking to my car, when I got a text message. My nephew scored two tickets to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.I texted my son, Patrick, to see if he was home. I planned to fly home, put on my Blues sweater, grab Patrick, and fly down to the Scot.

But Patrick didn’t need a ride or a ticket. He was already on his way to the game with a friend. He bought his own ticket and drove his own car.

Time flies.

May 24, 1993, was a cold, gray day in New London, Connecticut. The winter had been mild but damp, as had the previous summer.

My wife had an appointment with the OB/GYN at 9 am. I don’t remember if it was a routine exam or if she’d asked to see him. I assume the latter, because I stayed home to go with her. I was on shore duty, so getting a few hours off wasn’t the hassle it had been when I was attached to a submarine.

“It’s time,” the doctor said.

That day was long. Someone was watching our other three–Amie, Jack, and Benjamin. Probably Patty Fellows or the Emblidges. I wasn’t concerned about that.

The other kids had been born in shiny new hospitals, but Lawrence and Memorial Hospital was old, like the older parts of St. Mary’s where my mom used to work. Compared to those modern hospitals, this one had more wood and marble, less metal and carpet. The walls of the delivery room were hospital green, the floors institutional marble. The ceilings were high–probably twelve feet. Heavy oak framed the lone window.

The television looked out of place in this ancient room. It was a hulking Zenith from about 1979, mounted high in a corner of the room where everyone could see. Everyone except the patient, my wife. Well, she could were she in a condition to twist her body to the right and hang off the side. But not on this day.

As my wife sucked on ice chips, I looked through the window at the nondescript afternoon. Though summer was right around the corner and the school year was almost over, everything about the day looked like a winter scene in a Dickens novel. I looked down, expecting to see men in stovepipe hats and bridge coats pushing carts of coal up the cobblestone street, dodging horse dung on their way. Instead, I saw Toyota Camrys and Dodge Omnis cruising down smooth asphalt.

Another difference between this birth and the others: all the doctors were men. The OB/GYN, the anesthesiologist, the nurse assistants. Maybe one woman came into the room the whole day, but that was it. And they didn’t stay long.

Thinking back on that day, time flew. Probably not for the woman in labor. But I remember glancing at my watch and finding it was already 6:00. Julie was stuck at seven centimeters. The anesthesiologist, who looked like Dick Butkus, was administering an epidural to ease the pain in hopes of accelerating dilation and delivery. And I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

Since my wife was semi-conscious between medication, epidural, pain, and endorphins, the doctors and I decided hockey would be the best diversion to relieve some of the tension in the room. The New York Islanders vs. Montreal Canadiens in game 5 of the Wales Conference finals. I was pulling for the Canadiens, but I kept that on the down low.

After the epidural, Julie fell asleep. A nurse sat by the bed monitoring the machine that goes BEEP. The doctors and I huddled in the corner under the TV so we could hear with the volume set low. Late in the second period with the Habs pulling away, Julie woke up and the nurse beckoned us back to the bedside. The baby was on his way.

Patrick Conor Hennessy was born during the second intermission. He was big, remarkably healthy, and seemed to be happy. His mom was out like a light shortly after Patrick was born. So after he was cleaned up, APGARed, and dressed, the nurse handed him to me to hold. To bond.

I knew he’d want to watch the end of the hockey game. So I carried him over to the TV. His eyes were closed–mostly–but I knew he was listening as the Canadiens scored two goals in six seconds to ice the game and the series.

Later, as the teams shook hands after the game, Julie woke up and asked to hold the baby. I transferred the bundle. And missed him for the first time.

How, Lord, could Patrick be a man already? Is it possible that he’s driving himself to hockey games? He’s my baby.Patrick-Birthday

Then again, his brother Jack is a Petty Officer Second Class in the Navy,closing in on the age I was when Jack was born.

And Ben just got a new job. I’m so proud that he’s getting his bearings.

But the youngest. Damn.

Getting older doesn’t scare me. Seeing my hockey buddy on the verge of striking off on his own does.Our children depend on us for so much for so long that we miss the moment when we become dependent on them.

And the regret. I can’t tell you how many times I left them. “If I make more money,” I thought, “I can afford to take them all over and buy them all kinds of things.”  “If I don’t help save the country,” I rationalized, “they won’t have an opportunity.”

So fast. Those evenings I chose to work instead of reading to them. The nights I went out with friends instead of watching the game with them. They never complained, of course.

They just got in their cars and drove themselves.

It’s not fair, I know, to whine like this. We have to let them go. Let them go so they can keep making us proud as they do better than us. Jack made Second fast than I did. And we’re so happy when we do the math and realize they’ve outdone us in every way. We cheer when they finally beat us at one-on-one hoops.

But when we realize that the last one is a man or woman ready to leave our home and start their own, it’s not mortality we feel cloying at our souls–its loneliness. A loneliness no friend or spouse can fill. They’re not our kids. When they come into the world, we don’t know how we’ll find the room for another one. When they go, we don’t know what to do with the space.

Happy Birthday, Tiger. I love you. And thank you for being my friend. You’re a fine man.

Why I Cried and Made My Bed

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I cried this morning. At work. Tears of shame.

Every day when I get to work, I go through a thirty-minute routine. I write down the 3 things I want to accomplish that day. I write down my appointments. I write down a one-sentence prayer. I copy a quote to guide me. With the time remaining, I learn one new thing.

Today that one thing I learned was humbling. Shameful, actually.

I found a video of a commencement speech by Admiral William H. McRaven, USN, at University of Texas-Austin. Admiral McRaven’s title is Commander, US Special Forces Command. He’s the HMFIC of the Navy SEALs. He gave a short speech, which I’ve embedded below. He told the Class of 2014 how to change the world in 10 easy steps.

Stupid people don’t make Admiral. Misguided people don’t make SEAL. Admiral McRaven’s frist tip on changing the world is so simple and so obvious only a brilliant man with impeccable bearing could recognize it.

Here’s the transcript of the first tip, via Business Insider:

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-mcraven-commencement-speech-at-ut-2014-5#ixzz32UsvGYLl

I didn’t make the bed this morning. And, yes, I was the last one up.

Over the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving the bed unmade. No one ever sees it. Who cares?

When I heard Admiral McRaven’s reason for making the bed every day, I cried. I’m worthless. I’m too lazy to make a bed? Seriously?

I watched the rest of Admiral McRaven’s incredible speech. The best commencement speech I’ve ever seen Ever. I watched it again. I cried more. Admiral McRaven needed only about 10 minutes to expose every one of my character flaws.

Yesterday, I wrote about things I did wrong with the Tea Party in the last five years. Today, Admiral McRaven told me why I did them wrong. I got sloppy. I turned my back on what I learned in boot camp in Orlando, Florida, in 1985.

So I came home from work and made the bed. I made the bed before I changed clothes, worked out, read the mail, or worked in the yard.

Of all the countless things I’ve done wrong in my life–all things I should cry about and ask forgiveness–I’d never have guessed that making the bed would make me cry.

Only a brilliant warrior-leader could point out the enormity of such a seemingly tiny flaw.

Thank you, Admiral McRaven.

Here’s the video:

Gadsden Flag Cape

What Happened to the Tea Party?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’ll give Business Insider some credit. After Tea Party-backed candidates came up empty across the board in Tuesday’s Republican primaries, the website that has spent years maligning our rule-of-law movement could have taken the low road.

Instead, blogger Brett Logiurato wrote a fair assessment of what’s happened to the GOP since February 27, 2009.

The much-talked about Republican “civil war” is over, at least for the people who thought it even existed in the first place. Both the Tea Party grassroots and the GOP establishment have taken lessons from the clashes over the past three election cycles. Republicans have learned to adopt more Tea Party talking points, and conservative grassroots voters have shown they are willing to back establishment candidates who have adopted their views.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/tea-party-establishment-republicans-2014-5#ixzz32PKbj6XG

Logiurato describes the changes in Mitch McConnell’s behavior to illustrate the fusion of the two factions:

In 2008, as he had been for much of his career, McConnell was a proud promoter of congressional earmarks and the money he was able to bring back to Kentucky. He ran an ad during that race boasting about the more than $1 billion he brought back to the state.
. . .
By 2010, as Tea Party earned a series of election victories and earmarks became a symbol of waste in Washington, McConnell helped end them. He won’t campaign on “bringing home the bacon” this year, and he stands firmly against an effort to bring back earmarks.


“McConnell’s evolving message shows how the real Tea Party can co-opt and win over the GOP establishment when it sticks to its principles,” wrote John Hart, Sen. Tom Coburn’s former communications director, on Real Clear Politics.

Getting Mitch McConnell to talk right is one thing; getting him to vote right is another. 

If the GOP lets the Export-Import Bank of Boeing die a graceful death this year, I’ll be impressed. If McConnell and the House leadership begin turning their backs on corporate lobbyists who use government to thwart innovation and kill competition, then the Tea Party can claim a big victory. But I’m not holding my breath.

Let’s face it: none of us knew what the hell we were doing when 50 little groups held simultaneous protests in February 2009. We had no plan for what to do after that first event, awkwardly titled The Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Protest. After that first wave, some of us got together on a call, and Mike Leahy offered a plan. He said “this is a 10-round, heavyweight fight that will end with knockout on Election Day 2010.”

Yeah, we did that. But we never really had a plan for how we would do it. We knew how to hold a damn fantastic rally, though, so we held a bunch of them. We knew how to change the narrative with video, and we did that. We knew how get under Barack Obama’s skin, and we did that.

But victory is often the cruelest defeat. Following the 2010 election, we thought big. Really damn big. We were certain we’d be calling the shots in 2012. After all, the GOP was on life support after the 2008 elections. George Will scolded conservatives for uttering the word “socialism.” The New York Times predicted a permanent Democrat majority in almost every state.

The only center-right heartbeat leading up to the 2010 election was in the Tea Party. At that first Tea Party, Hall of Famer Jackie Smith said he’d never been to a political rally before. He asked the crowd of over 1,000 people to raise their hands if this was their first time. Almost every hand went up.

These people were not on Republican walk lists. There not consistent voters. They were ordinary people answering a call. They were sick of a government that took their blue collar wages to spare Wall Street millionaires and 8-figure CEOs the embarrassment of admitting “we fucked up the world.”

Hell yes, we lost our focus after 2010. At least I did. I started dreaming about rebuilding the Reagan coalition. I was thrilled to stand alongside people who’d been in the trenches for decades. I didn’t ask if their one, true passion was letting people live their own lives. I assumed it. That was a mistake.

In hindsight, I should have been far more humble. I should have paid attention to my own warnings about assuming the future will be a linear progression of the recent past. But I ignored myself. I looked at the Tea Party’s (and my own) recent past and projected out into the future. I like what I saw. I saw myself on TV, and I thought I looked damn good. (I’m always too eager to get my stupid mug on TV. I watched way too much Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson starting way too young, but that’s another story.)

Three dangerous developments emerged in 2011 that I should have stopped. I didn’t. Either I didn’t want the confrontation, or didn’t realize the danger, or I was afraid that challenging a bad idea might drive away a faction–a faction I thought we needed.

Those three developments:

  1. Fascination with massive conspiracies.
  2. Hedonistic pleasure from angry protests.
  3. Intellectual isolationism around 18th century political philosophy.

Maybe someday I’ll explain those three developments in more detail. For now, I just want you to know that I saw them–and did nothing.

The right direction is the one my friend Brian Bollmann took. Brian hooked up with the Center for Self-Governance. He didn’t just scream and yell at politicians. He learned how to talk to politicians. And now, they call him and ask how they should vote.

Brian got some power back.

When a handful of people get some power back, you don’t need 10,000 people yelling in a park. You don’t. Sure, we needed 10,000 angry people in Kiener Plaza in 2009. It was a recruitment drive. We had to tell the thousands like us, “you’re not alone. It’s safe to come out now.”

When a handful of Brian Bollmanns get some power back, you don’t need to shout about Agenda 21. Instead, you quietly inform poor people in public housing that Smart Meters will raise their electric bills to $120 a month from $25. That’s what Self-Governance students in Memphis did, and Memphis Power and Light removed the Smart Meters.

When a handful of Brian Bollmanns get some power back, you don’t even think about cloistering yourself in an ideologically safe vacuum and pleasure yourself with the vibrating echo. You talk to people who never heard of Thomas Paine about how they’re going to pay off their student loans.

I know it pisses off some good people every time I say I like Ann Wagner. I do. I enjoy talking to her, and I admire the things she’s accomplished. I can’t imagine myself yelling at her, and I know it would hurt our cause if I did. I’d like her to fight against extending the Export-Import Bank because the Export-Import Bank represents a redistribution of wealth and puts the government in the position of protecting large corporations from the free market. In short, the Ex-Im Bank is a clearinghouse of crony capitalism.

I know Ann and many of her Republican colleagues in Congress believe in the free market. But the free market doesn’t have a lobby. Except us. Except me.

So what happened to the Tea Party? I hope it got a lot friendlier and a lot more effective. Maybe now we can stop trying to topple big name “Republicrats” and start using our power of persuasion and influence to get Republicans to vote the way they talk.


Why Politics is Linked to the Stock Market

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Guest Post by Daphne Holmes.

There has been a lot of discussion recently, about how big business has too much influence on government. Of course, Democrat pundits are quick to point the finger at Republicans, accusing them of being in the pocket of big business, a charge that the Republicans also level at the Democrats.

If you look closely and objectively at how our government does whatever it is that it does, it becomes pretty obvious that both parties are well beyond being “in the pocket” of big business. The truth is, you’d be hard-pressed to find any area in which the political parties and big business aren’t one and the same. While the Republican Party’s stated platform is more closely aligned with the swelling movement demanding smaller government and less intrusion into our private lives, that platform has to a great extent become a philosophy rather than a consistent practice.

Let’s look at how the process works, oversimplified of course, in a few steps:

Stock prices drive legislation

Say the shareholders in Corporation “A” want to increase their dividends. The way to do this is to either tap an undeveloped market or increase the company’s share of an existing market. Right off the bat, the company discovers that there are government regulations in place that impede their efforts. Some of those regulations make perfect sense, such as those that make it illegal to sabotage a competitor.

Naturally, the company is under pressure from its investors to proceed with the expansion or product release. Since it will cost far less to donate to elected officials than to re-gear the expansion or abandon the product, the company hires lobbyists to “grease the wheels” by offering much-needed financial support to those elected officials in charge of regulating the company’s operations. The promise of a few hundred thousand (or a few million) dollars to a campaign fund goes a long way toward convincing a candidate to reconsider his or her position on a piece of legislation. Corporations large and small have come to view those contributions to be a normal cost of doing business.

Legislation is met with resistance

Special interest groups with unique agendas stage their own campaigns to impede expansion. Every possible rationale for halting the process comes into play, often appealing to the public’s emotions rather than good business practices, science, or common sense. These special interest groups find ways to appeal to those emotions, so their own funding continues to increase.

The end result is that we have extensive legislation and regulation drafted and passed, only to be challenged ad infinitum, rewritten, and then challenged again. The never-ending cycle, with moneyed interests on both sides, keeps the conflict alive with an increasingly complex mountain of laws and regulations. The more laws and regulations we have in place, the more our elected officials justify investigations, large staffs, and committees – all funded by the lobbies. In the end, stock prices fluctuate accordingly, thus perpetuating the cycle.

Who profits from this cycle?

  1. The businesses’ investors. To them, money spent on lobbying efforts and legally-rationalized bribes are a drop in the bucket compared to the billions they hope to earn from their companies’ ventures. So long as their profits and dividends remain high, they are happy to accept the cost of doing business.
  2. The lobbies that represent opposing factions. The lobby machine can be likened to the arms dealer who sells to both sides of a war. There is no incentive for the conflict in either theater to be resolved. On the contrary, so long as there is conflict, the lobbies are assured of making their money.
  3. The elected officials. They are able to remain in office and exercise their own power as long as there is some reason for them to take a stand. Ironically, our elected officials’ primary efforts are devoted to fighting against something, rather than working for a free and prosperous country.

Who loses?

The American people are the biggest losers in this game. With almost every new piece of legislation and new regulation, our freedoms are limited a little bit more. Elected officials could clean up the mess in a heartbeat, but there is no incentive for them to do so. On the contrary, they recognize that their own jobs and power could be in jeopardy if they decide not to play. As a result, change is slow in the relationship between politics and the stock market.

About the Author

Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from www.ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.


Angela, Bill Loves You

Reading Time: 1 minutes

We’ve been together

With the roof right over our head

We’ve shared the shelter

Of that single bed

We’ve shared the same room

Now watch this . . .

Four Reforms for the 2014-2015 St. Louis Blues

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you’re reading this, the Blues blew it. Again.

I’m writing this six hours before Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks. If I wait to write this after the game, I’ll get a lot of complaints about foul language.

Yes, I expect the Blackhawks to end the Blues’ delusions of Market Street parades this afternoon. The Blues’ tenacity, hitting, and heart can’t overcome their lack of goal scoring and playoff goaltending. The 111-point regular season accurately reflects their design for regular season hockey. And their second consecutive one-and-done playoff exit reflects their playoff design.

A friend of mine is a fabulous data analyst. When clients wonder why their business isn’t flourishing as they expect, he likes to say, “you’re perfectly designed for the results you’re getting.”

That’s how it is for the St. Louis Blues. They’re designed to get the results they get.

I’ll spare you reminders of the remarkable similarities between the Blues’ 2013 first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings and their 2014 disappointment in the Blackhawks series. I will let you know, though, that I started worrying about the pattern after Game 2. I’ll also spare you a long list of excuses. This team has no excuses. Tom Stillman’s ownership group was more than generous with time, talent, and treasure. The officiating was underwhelming, but the bad calls and missed  calls cut both ways. The Blues’ early exit from the playoffs is on them—the players and their coaches.

So let’s get a head  start on next season.

1.A Playoff Goalie.  The hockey press pulled a fast one on St. Louis hockey fans. They convinced us Ryan Miller was a game-stealer. They convinced us he’s built for the playoffs and thirsting to drink from the Cup. They were wrong. I like Ryan Miller, and I think he’s an excellent goalie. He’s not Roman Turek. He’s . . . Jaro Halak. He’s Brian Elliott. He’s a good goalie. He can stand on his head, but he usually does that after giving up an iffy goal or two every game. If you buy the thinking that Stanley Cup winners require a lights-out playoff goalie, then the Blues need to keep looking.

2.A Goal Scorer. Back in November, a lot of people harassed me. The Blues were the scoringest team the NHL. Steen led the league. “Do you still think the Blues need a goal scorer?” people asked.  “Yes,” I answered. Look, I love the Blues scorers. But hockey doesn’t award the Stanley Cup for your record at the end of November. The Blues rely on every player scoring to his career average and two or three players to have once-in-a-lifetime seasons. That’s called relying on luck. Without a bona fide natural goal scorer, it’s unrealistic to expect a Stanley Cup in St. Louis.

3.A Shooting Coach. I probably don’t have to remind you that the Blues led the league in wayward shots this year. The Blues fire more shots high, wide, and into opposing shin pads than any team in hockey. That’s 100% psychology. The Blues need to hire a shooting coach who’s grounded in brain science.

4.A Special Teams Coach. Specifically, a power play coach. The Blues’ power play is dull, predictable, and impotent. It simply doesn’t work. Opposing teams with the lead have little reason to avoid penalties. They know the Blues are unlikely to put a single puck on net during a two-minute advantage. If opponents don’t fear a Blues power play, the goal scorers we might acquire or develop will never blossom.

That’s it. Four reforms to bring the Cup to St. Louis. Only two related to the players on the ice. So how do we get a scorer and a goalie?

First, I’d look in our system. Vladimir Tarasenko might be the scorer we need if paired with a top-notch play maker. I know Adam Oates is busy with the Washington Capitals, but we need a guy who thinks set-up first the way Oates did. The Blues have too many players conditioned to play every role: checker, shooter, passer, defenseman. A couple of specialists would help.

In goal, I think we need to look in the system, too. Brian Elliott is as serviceable as Ryan Miller, and he won’t cost the Blues two number one draft choices – the price to retain Miller beyond this year. Jake Allen also looks like a potential brick wall for playoffs as Jaro Halak was for the Canadiens. (But that’s water under the bridge.)

If we have to make a deal, think about what we could get for Shattenkirk. I realize Shatty oozes talent. He’s our most offensive-minded defenseman and a great playmaker. He’s also lazy. And he still makes too many rookie mistakes handling the puck. But the hockey world loves Shattenkirk. The press has built him up in the minds of NHL GMs the way Ryan Miller danced in Doug Armstrong’s dreams. With Ian Cole looking for a spot to play full time, Shattenkirk could attract a world class goal scorer to take some pressure off Tarasenko and off the Blues’ goalie.

Also expendable are Berglund and, sadly, Hitchcock. On the coach, let’s face it. The Blues did not progress from 2013 to 2014. They regressed. At least Game 6 last year was a contest.

Finally, Doug Armstrong has done a remarkable job as the Blues GM. He’s built a solid core. But he made a panic trade at the deadline for a goalie is clearly past his prime. And he sold that goalie to the fans as their playoff savior. Blues management needs to take a hard look at the GM position.

I’m done writing about hockey, now, until next fall. Thank you, St. Louis Blues, for another exciting year. It didn’t end well, but you warmed our hearts through the coldest winter in decades. For that, we all thank you. And we’ll bleed Blue forever.