Reflections From My Chair #8

2016 was surely a nightmare of a year for many, especially my family. My family was getting chemo treatments, surgeries and taking trips to the hospital. It’s been a crazy year and despite 2017 starting off weird, I am looking forward to some things in the future. In a few months, my dad’s chemo treatment will end and the leftover cancer cells from his surgery will be obliterated. Also in a few months, I will be receiving treatment for my disability. I will be taking a breakthrough drug that is for those like me with a specific mutation of Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. It basically halts the progression of my muscle wasting disorder and there is a possibility that I could regain a small percentage of muscle strength. This treatment is a weekly infusion and it is very expensive yet the company manufacturing the drug is seeking ways to help patients fund the treatments through charities. At the moment, I am waiting for the hospital to set up the treatment but there is a long process for new medications.

I am not working at the moment but since the summer, I have been finishing up my autobiography and searching for a publisher. I may have exceeded in sending over 30 query letters to these publishers but they all declined to work with my book. I am sort of annoyed because my manuscript is ready to go for the editing/publishing stage. I would like to have my work professionally done but I am considering the self-publishing route. I have discovered a self-publishing website called Lulu Press, which allows me to create my book, print it, and sell it all for free. Apparently, the company only receives 20% of my book sales. I will utilize this website soon. However, I am still waiting for a response on a query letter I sent recently to a normal publisher.

I am giving them another week, then I am taking action and self-publishing my book. I am nervous about it, however, since nobody edited my work. Yet I am thinking, editing or not, on the self-publishing route, the outcome would be the same. I am mostly doing this for myself and others with my disorder and not solely for profits. Before I publish, I still need to insert pictures from my life into my manuscript. Also, my Grandmother is designing my cover by hand so I will need to wait and convert it digitally. (AKA take a picture and format it) So I would say everything will be ready to go by the end of the month.

Look out for my book soon online. My title is, “My Wheels Keep Rolling” and my name is Michael McDonnell. In this autobiography, I aim to showcase the positive as well as the negative experiences during my life with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. Throughout my life, I have experienced many personal battles that have tested my strength and in the end I have come out accomplishing more than I ever imagined. My mission thus far, has been to be considered a normal human being. I believe that I accomplished just that through my arduous journey through school and college. The stories and messages that I shared within these pages hopefully will inspire disabled individuals that the path to a normal life can be possible despite the challenges. Also, I would like anyone else to understand that the disabled life is worth living and all that disabled want is to be treated as normal human beings.

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American Intelligence Before Attack On Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941 was truly a date that will forever live in infamy but could the attack have been prevented? Some argue that if Japanese ambassadors met with Americans in Alaska to resolve diplomatic issues in November 1941 that war could have totally been prevented. During that time, relations were strained since the United States placed an embargo on Japan for their attacks on China. The U.S had significant interests there and as a result, Japan no longer received oil and iron from us. For that reason, I believe war was definitely imminent; it was just a matter of when and where it would begin. Japan, according to intelligence, was certainly building up a navy which was probably why we docked a significant portion of our navy at Pearl Harbor. The American government knew that Japan was a threat but radio codebreakers did not see a connection corresponding with an attack on Pearl Harbor specifically.

There was a specific message decoded from Japanese radio chatter on November 19th about the weather which would warn Japanese posts that relations were to be cut off. According to Historynet, “If Japanese-American relations were in danger, the forecast would predict ‘east wind rain.’ American code-breakers solved this message on November 28. Immediately, a frantic effort was made to pick up this broadcast.” Officials believe that “wind” meant that relations were cut which would suggest possible Japanese aggression. But no mention of an attack on Pearl Harbor.

Some intercepted radio traffic was alluding to movements of American ships, which is suspect in itself. But as mentioned by Historynet, “from August 1 to December 6, 59 such intercepts dealt with the Philippines and only 20 with Hawaii.” So it seemed more likely that our ships in the Philippines were in more danger. These movement details were thorough and one intercept shows that the Japanese consulate in Hawaii was gathering Intel on ships in Pearl Harbor. But again nothing implied an attack that the US saw possible on Pearl Harbor. Also even if the evidence was deemed credible that an attack was possible there was the matter of when it would occur.

Another intercept was decoded as “Climb Mt. Niitaka 1208.” “The 1208 in the message meant December 8, the attack date on the Tokyo side of the international date line. Mount Niitaka (Hsin-kao in Taiwan) was the highest peak in what was then the Japanese empire.” (Historynet) However, this specific message was not decoded until later. But it probably would have warned that a large scale attack was coming. Also other materials were later discovered that showed a Japanese oiler ship was ready to refuel ships on their way homeward after the attack on Pearl Harbor. If intelligence officers and codebreakers would have received these bits of information sooner, maybe the attack wouldn’t have been a surprise.

The Japanese seemed adept in hiding their intentions. As stated by Roberta Wohlstetter in her book Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, “‘We failed to anticipate Pearl Harbor not for want of the relevant materials, but because of a plethora of irrelevant ones.” The Japanese were never specific about their intentions and seemed to have our intelligence looking elsewhere for probable threats. The Japanese also never mentioned Pearl Harbor in their messages and their attack force maintained complete radio silence on their journey. It seems we didn’t know and couldn’t have known where Japan’s ships were located.

I have heard of theories that Roosevelt and officials in fact knew about the attack hours before it occurred. I am not sure of the truth of that theory but it makes one wonder. If he withheld information was it because it was in fact too late or was it for alterior motives? America was an isolationist nation, a “Sleeping Giant” so to speak but is it possible Roosevelt realized that a surprise attack would galvanize citizens to war to finally support our allies? I think it is a possibility because if Pearl Harbor was warned, the severity of the attack would probably have been lessened and not as shocking. Would a simple Japanese attack with no surprise have been enough to convince Americans to go to war? It’s all speculation about what could have happened but either way, war with Japan and the Axis powers seemed imminent regardless. Maybe the question is why we waited so long to join the war effort.

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The Scary Future of Trump’s America

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For the first time in my life, I am afraid for the future of America. This was not a typical election between a simple Republican candidate and a simple Democratic candidate. Trump was clearly not qualified to be the leader of this great nation and lacks the proper temperament. Many disliked Clinton but she was obviously the lesser of two evils. We knew what we would get with her but Trump is a wild card and there is no telling how he will lead. I’m not scared of that uncertainty because I know how terrible that he will be.

Trump’s foreign policy will be a total disaster. Putin is most excited to have a puppet that will do what he wants. Trump has stated that he will not assist NATO (especially Estonia, a NATO ally) if they were threatened by Russia. NATO has kept Europe safe for years because of unity among allies especially the United States. Trump will play right into Putin’s hands. If our nation leaves NATO, Russia will be emboldened to make more land grabs into Ukraine and other buffer states. Putin wants to bring back the old empire and regain the territory that Russia lost in the Cold War. The world would turn chaotic if that happens.

Our relations with Mexico will certainly be strained. If Trump has a Republican Congress, he may just get his wall. Then getting Mexico to pay will be an outright fiasco and may push our countries close to war. Also destroying NAFTA may just disrupt the Mexican economy enough that they cannot even afford the wall. This plan seems counter-productive. Even if they do provide some funds for the wall and he uses income from American taxpayers for the rest; that money will be taken away from schools, welfare, Social Security, transportation and roads. Above all, the wall is a complete waste because illegal immigrants will just tunnel under, go around by boat or smuggle in another way. This is the 21st century not medieval times, walls are completely useless.

Another problem I see is an increase in terrorism. If Trump is truly serious about a ban on Muslims, we are in trouble. Terrorists will see this as a direct assault on Islam and prove to possible recruits that America is at war with Islam. Trump’ attitude will not scare these terrorists, it will only strengthen them. Also banning Muslims or Syrian refugees is completely against our American values. Our nation has and always has been a safe haven for those fleeing war or religious persecution. Even Lady Liberty has a plaque that states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Should we just close the door because we are afraid? No, because there is already a system in place to vet immigrants coming into the country. It’s not like they are coming in, no questions asked.

Also Trump’s plan to locate and deport illegal immigrants is unfeasible. It seems like he wants to go door to door to crack down on them. That is totally insane and reminds me of Nazis searching for Jewish families. If his policy is to round them all up, how will he deport all of them? They will need transportation and food and it could get expensive. I’m imagining that there will be a camp of illegals locked up awaiting clearance to return to where they came from. I’m sure in this situation, these illegal immigrants will not be treated fairly and some may even die. Our nation may start to resemble Nazi Germany if we don’t pay attention. Also many illegal immigrants take jobs that nobody else wants. Who will replace them?

Many people are concerned about their rights as well. The LGBT community has achieved marriage equality and are afraid that will be taken away. Trump wants to let the states decide about marriage equality, which would devastate many who planned to marry. People should have the right to live how they please. Also I’m concerned about my rights as a disabled individual. It seems that Trump has no respect for the disabled and he won’t make life any easier. I’m somewhat worried that he may crack down on Social Security and limit benefits. Even though I try hard to find work, I sort of rely on these payments for income and health insurance.

I see that much of this could happen but I do hope that I am wrong. Even though Republicans seem to have control of Congress, it appears that not all Republicans are in full support of Trump. Trump does not fit the typical Republican mold, which may be enough to halt his crazy policies. Our representatives in Congress will need to step up and speak up, for they are our only hope. We as citizens need to be watchdogs and speak up when something is not right and not be intimidated in the media by Trump.

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Battlefield 1 Review

As some of you may know, Battlefield 1 just came out on October 21st. I luckily made it to the mall and picked it up. Since then, I spent a considerable chunk of my weekend playing this game and boy is it fantastic. This game obviously is not the first of the series, as the title implies, but it focuses on the battles of World War I. Before diving into multiplayer matches, I played the single player missions. The campaign was divided into six separate war stories. I really enjoyed the first few stories. In one set of missions, you are part of a tank crew that is to break through the German lines. You get to capture sectors by rolling your tank through hardened defenses and it was amusing taking down multiple enemies in this indestructible machine. These tanks were not known for maneuverability but they could take a pounding. I didn’t worry about tank damage in these missions until the last one in this section. In that part, you had to face a column of tanks that were difficult to counter. Yet you can use buildings for cover and it becomes easy to complete the onslaught.

My second favorite war story focuses on a soldier who wasn’t supposed to be flying. He impersonated a pilot and moved on to training missions. While training, you get into a minor dogfight and uncover an enemy base. I was amazed at how easy it was to fly and I made quick work of those German pilots. Throughout these missions you get into tense dogfights and destroy anti-air weapons. In the last section you have to defend London from bombing raids. It was pretty simple until the Germans brought two large attack blimps. It was time consuming to bring down since the blimp had so many anti-air guns. It was a hell of a sight to see it go down in a huge ball of flames. The other war stories were decent but were more difficult. Those missions required more stealth especially in the desert. I am very bad at stealth and I ended up shooting everybody. It did remind me of the Far Cry series because you had to scout an area to tag enemies and decide how best to attack.

The multiplayer matches are amazing as well. Like most Battlefield games, there is conquest and rush. But there is something inherently different for there is a mode called Operations. There is a storyline with each operation and it features rounds that take place over two maps. You have to attack or defend a sector at time. It is essentially like rush but instead of setting bombs, you conquer the sector. If attacking and your team takes the sector, you move on to the next one. If defending and you prevent the attackers advance, the round is essentially over. But that is easier said than done for the attacker seems to have more firepower in terms of tanks and planes. This mode is really awesome and it makes the battle more interesting and rewarding.

My only complaint is the guns. I am struggling to find a gun that I like using. From single player missions, I figured out what I liked but it will take some time to unlock in multiplayer. In the Battlefield classes, such as assault, you need points called war bonds but you also need to reach a certain level in your class to unlock certain guns. It turns out the guns I like are the most points and the highest level. So I’m stuck with the default MP 18, which actually is not that bad but it is just not too accurate. On the other hand, the tanks and planes are fun to use. I prefer the heavy tanks since they are hard to destroy and many times, I have lasted almost an entire match in the tank. The planes are okay but it handles different from the planes in single player missions. I’m a terrible pilot so I avoid the air if I can. Overall this is an impressive game and I have to give it a 10/10 despite the issue with the guns. I’m usually very picky and rarely rate anything a perfect 10.

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My Opinion on the 2nd Presidential Debate

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After last night’s Second Presidential debate, Trump’s campaign seems to be finished. He completely failed in explaining his joke about sexually assaulting women without consent over a decade ago. He downplayed the incident by calling it “locker room banter” and apologized to America. Yet he stated these lewd comments when he was 59 years old. If he said it at that age, it simply shows how immature and disgusting that he is. His temperament is the opposite of presidential. Trump really went low in saying that his comments were just words and accused Bill of doing worse. He was told by advisors and the media that this was a bad idea but as Clinton said, “Trump just runs his campaign any way that he wants.”

This nonsense took up quite some time in the beginning of the debate. Clinton did take jabs at Trump for his previous comments that offended a wide variety of people. I’d hate to repeat all of that for it makes me feel like throwing up. Anyway Clinton seemed to be the only one fully answering all the questions. She realizes that there are problems with Obamacare and, unlike Trump, wants to fix it, not abolish it. When both candidates were asked how to combat islamophobia, Clinton revealed that she wants to make Muslims feel comfortable in our country for our nation was built on religious tolerance. However, Trump showcased his islamophobia by basically saying that Muslims need to report extremist Muslims. (Like they know about all other Muslims.) Even though Trump changed his mind about banning Muslim immigrants, his idea of extreme vetting will ensure that nobody gets into the country.

In terms of foreign policy, Clinton was on point and had more information. She stated what we need to do to fix the Syria problem by holding Assad and the Russians accountable. She also considered arming the Kurds to essentially combat ISIS. But she was firm on not sending troops on the ground. Yet it seems Trump wants no parts of countering Assad in Syria for he believes the Syrian regime is killing ISIS. Even though they want to focus on killing the country’s rebels. This debate was pretty sloppy. There was less focus on the issues and more name calling. Trump barely answered any question and wanted to berate Clinton the entire time. If the debate questions were essays on an exam, Trump would certainly fail for rambling and deflecting. Clinton would have been okay for she focused on providing the best answers for the American people. That is simply the reason why she is more presidential and according to Trump, “she never gives up.” Clinton will not give up fighting for the American people.

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Rodrigo Duterte: Democratic Dictator of the Phillipines

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I realized that I have not written any blogs recently about international politics. I have been focused on derailing Trump. This time I will write about another demagogue named Rodrigo Duterte, who has been elected the President of the Philippines a few months ago. In the late 1980’s, Duterte was the mayor of Davao, which was a city flooded in crime and murder on a daily basis. As mayor, he supposedly organized death squads composed of vigilantes to kill drug dealers, petty criminals and even those that opposed him. At least 2,000 people were killed. He was even reported to personally finish off some of these targets. Believe it or not, he somehow restored law and order to the city. The problem is that now he believes the same logic will apply to the entire country.

The Philippine government is a democracy that functions very much like the United States with three branches of government. There is certainly a system of checks and balances but it apparently has no power. Duterte back then and now has taken the law into his own hands and has ordered numerous extrajudicial killings. Many that are killed are only suspected criminals or drug users so their Intel could be incorrect. Since being elected at least 500 have been killed. According to the Washington Post, “the street executions are taking lives without trials or proof of criminality. Drug addicts and abusers who need medical attention and counseling are getting a bullet instead.”

His supporters like the hard line he takes on drugs since it is such a rampant issue yet this is not the way to approach it. As stated by Sheila Coronel of the Atlantic, “Duterte’s uncouthness and vulgarity, by contrast, are the source of his broad appeal. His supporters applaud his vulgar rhetoric, so different from that of the feckless and fork-tongued politicians who have failed to address the country’s myriad problems.” However, in Duterte’s efforts to achieve law and order, he has created complete chaos. I can’t help but relate this past quote to the rhetoric of Donald Trump. Many in America have grown tired of government inaction that they believe a character such as Trump will shake things up. Yet this is where the similarities end because Trump has not proposed extrajudicial killings to achieve his plans. What we can learn, however, about characters such as Duterte is that dictators can take form in a democratic environment. If you vote for somebody to be your leader that is noticeably dangerous and uncompromising, know that there is no turning back.

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Reflections From My Chair #7

Over the past few months, I have sent about a dozen queries to publishers for my autobiography. The majority of these publishers did happen to respond after a while but they were simply not interested. Most of them just could not take on any new projects while others just preferred not to get involved with autobiographies. Apparently autobiographies are very difficult to market. Sending queries to publishers is the traditional way to get a book published. It is the first step but I am getting aggravated that I cannot get by this step. It is frustrating because my book is finished and I am waiting so long for a publisher to want to work with me. I’m anxious to begin the editing process and finally start manufacturing my books for sale.

I also know that many people have had success in self-publishing their books. There are various ways to do this and sometimes one needs to provide their own funds to print their books. I have heard of a self-publishing company that has a system that allows you to create your book easily. I am not sure if I would need to provide any payment for this service but it is great that this company can market my book through large retail mediums such as Amazon.

However, I am not completely satisfied with this route of publishing. I fear that my work will not be considered professional. If I self-publish my book, I will not have the guidance of a professional editor to perfect my work. I can edit well but when it is my own work, I am not as critical as I probably should be. I would certainly have others like my parents read it over but they are not professional editors either. I really do not know where to go from here. I do not want to keep wasting my time sending queries to uninterested publishers yet I do not want to self-publish a book that’s not properly edited. I am a perfectionist and I accept nothing less than perfect.

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