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Late in his first term as President, Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack. It was September 24, 1955 and it happened in Denver. The following quotes come from Ike’s Bluff by Evan Thomas, an excellent history of Ike’s Presidency focusing on his foreign policy.

President Eisenhower did not like to have his golf game interrupted. On September 23, he played a morning round at the Cherry Hills County Club outside Denver. Ann Whitman [his private secretary] recorded in her diary that she had never seen him “look or act better,” possibly because he had just spent four days fishing in the mountains or because his popularity polls stood at an astronomical 80 percent in the afterglow of the “Spirit of Geneva.”

Ike was a frequent golfer. The Presidency is such a stressful job maybe we should stop getting mad at Presidents who play “too much” golf. Ike often played the Cherry Hills course when he was in Denver.

By lunch he was in a foul mood. Three times he had been summoned from the course to take a call from Secretary of States Dulles — only there was a mix-up, and Dulles (who often spoke as often as eight times a day by phone with the president) had not been on the line. The president’s game collapsed after the 14th hole. At lunch, Ike wolfed down a hamburger slathered with Bermuda onions and headed back for nine more holes. Again he was interrupted to take a call from the secretary of state. “These onions are backing up on me,” he told his golf partner, the club pro. At dinner, he felt some indigestion and skipped his usual cocktail. Ike was staying in Denver at the home of his in-laws, the comfortable eight-room house on a tree-shaded street where Mamie Doud had grown up.

The Doud house is located in the middle of the 700 block of Lafayette Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver. It is of special interest to me because I grew up next door. We bought our house in 1966 and lived there for over 40 years. The Colorado State Historical society has a photo of Ike sitting in a convertible in our neighbor’s driveway with our house in the background.

Ike & Mamie visited her parents often and when they did, Ike would sit on the front porch with his Secret Service detail and chat with neighborhood kids. One of those kids, John Archibold, lived in a beautiful house on the corner of 7th & Lafayette. John gave an interview to the Eisenhower Presidential Center about chatting with Ike and talked about how Ike once gave him a free ride to the East Coast on the Presidential plane. John was heading back to college but this use of taxpayer dollars became a minor nationwide scandal. After college, John came back to Denver, bought the house from his mother, and his son Steve was a childhood buddy of mine.

Back to Ike and his indigestion next door. Ike loved reading western novels, unless a woman appeared and there was romance, at which point he moved on to the next western.

He retired early to read a western. At about 2 a.m., Mamie, sleeping in the next room, got up to go to the bathroom, and she heard her husband stirring in bed. Looking in, she thought he seemed troubled and asked if he was having a nightmare. “No dear, but thank you,” he said. He complained of pain in his upper abdomen. Accustomed to Ike’s stomach troubles, she gave him some milk of magnesia and called the president’s doctor, Howard Snyder.

At age seventy-four, Snyder was old to be the president’s person physician, and Ike’s millionaire friends fretted that he might not know the latest diagnoses and treatments. But the handsome, six feet three Snyder, whom Ann Whitman affectionately called “Old Duck,” knew his patient, including his anxious stomach and mild hypochondria, and was attentively if sternly sympathetic. Arriving at the house shortly after 2:00 a.m., Snyder checked his patient’s vital signs and decided, he later said, that the president was having a heart attack.

According to some notes that Snyder later made, the doctor engaged in a lonely bedside drama. He immediately injected Ike with morphine for the pain and drugs to stop his blood from clotting. He tried to put an oxygen mask on him, but the patient resisted. Ike began to sweat profusely. By four o’clock, his blood pressure was dropping and he seemed to be going into shock. Snyder tried to warm him with rubbing alcohol and then told Mamie to climb into bed and wrap herself around her husband to keep him from shaking. Ike finally fell asleep at about five.

At eight, Snyder told the deputy press secretary to put out the word to reporters that the president was suffering from “digestive upset.” He would later claim that he wanted to let the president rest, that he didn’t want to unduly alarm Mamie (with whom he had not shared his apprehensions of a heart attack), or the staff, and that he wanted to wait to confirm his diagnosis.

All this was almost surely a lie. As historian Clarence Lasby has convincingly shown from the documentary evidence (which Snyder did his best to cover up), Snyder misdiagnosed Eisenhower in the early morning hours. “Indigestion” was not a cover story; it’s what Snyder mistakenly believed was causing Ike’s suffering. He did not administer the anti-coagulants or try to fit the president with an oxygen mask. He probably did help him to the bathroom. Snyder did not realize the president had suffered a coronary thrombosis until Ike was given an EKG after he woke up at 1:00 p.m. Then the president was finally driven to the hospital.

When the news got out, the stock market crashed, heart specialists were flown in and Ike spent seven weeks recuperating at Denver’s Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. He had 66 visitors during this time period including Vice President Richard Nixon and while there was an attempt to keep up appearances, visits were limited to 15 minutes and Ike was not allowed to read the newspaper. He recovered and went on to win re-election and serve a second term.

In Ike’s Bluff, Evan Thomas argues that Ike’s determined leadership saved us from several potential nuclear confrontations. Ike thought nuclear weapons meant the end of war because any war could lead to total war and total war meant mutual annihilation. He began to think the enemy was war itself, not the Russians or the Chinese. His “bluff” was that he never told anyone — not a single person ever – whether or not he would use nuclear weapons. So other international actors always had to fear any escalation could lead to nuclear war, which nobody wanted. Even Khrushchev thought nuclear war was insanity. Because of Ike’s military background, international actors also knew (or suspected) he was capable of retaliation if provoked.

What if Ike had died in Denver that night due to Dr. Snyder’s improper diagnosis? Richard Nixon would have been at the helm starting in 1955 instead of 1969. Evan Thomas talks about how Vice President Nixon favored military intervention in Vietnam in 1954 to help the French as Dien Bien Phu was falling. Ike said no. How would a President Nixon would have handled the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 or the Formosa Strait Crisis of 1958? How would that earlier President Nixon have handled the Soviet Union?

I hate parking tickets. Who doesn’t? Sometimes you take a risk and get a ticket. You deserve that ticket. Other times you think you did everything right but get a ticket anyway. These blindsiding tickets are my focus here.

When I was little and my family celebrated every 4th of July in the mountains, my friend Annie and I used to put firecrackers in cowpies. We lit them and ran like hell. Getting a blindside parking ticket is like walking into an exploding cowpie. It is the opposite of paying it forward. It is a cowpie splattering across your day courtesy of your local government.

A few weeks ago, I parked in a one hour parking zone while I lunched on pizza. As I walked back to my car, I made eye contact with the parking guy and he quickly scuttled away. As he departed, I saw the yellow envelope of a parking ticket tucked into my car door. Cowpied! I was annoyed and confused. I had been gone for less than an hour. I inspected the ticket. The only clue was, “License plate 54-62,” so I knew something was wrong with my plates, but what? I looked at my front plate. It was leaning forward slightly. Still visible to anyone in front of me but leaning forward. I assumed that was the problem and was dumbfounded.

The City of Denver has cowpied me many times. Usually, they get me with street sweeping. It would be the second Wednesday of the month and I would forget. When you hear street-sweepers in the distance, my friends, it is already too late. Street swept once, shame on me, street swept twice — more shame on me. I was dumb to not learn my lesson. But let me tell you about the ticket that really pissed me off. I went to the hospital for a clinic appointment and parked at a meter. When I came out, I got splattered by the yellow cowpie. I was irate. I knew I had paid the meter. A closer look at the meter verified this. I checked the ticket. Swept again! I walked a few cars up and sure enough, there was the street sweeping sign. I bet they rake it in at those meters with the street sweeping. Pretty low, even for them. Because nobody goes to the hospital for fun. Most are patients or are visiting patients and they have more on their minds than parking.

Back to my pizza lunch ticket. I looked up Denver City Ordinance 54-62, which says, “It shall be unlawful for any person to drive, stop, park…any vehicle that has been assigned a license plate or plates, pursuant to Colorado law, unless the license plate or plates assigned to the vehicle for the current registration year is properly attached to and displayed on the vehicle….” An internet search revealed that most people with this type of ticket were not displaying one of their plates properly, such as putting one plate in a back window.

But I had both plates on. What was up? After staring at my back plate for a while, I realized my problem. My car registration renews in December of each year. Are you one step ahead of me? So when I renewed my registration, I accidentally put my new year sticker (“13″) over my month sticker (“12″) instead of my old year sticker (“12″). But was I in violation of the ordinance? My plates did in fact display my “registration year” — just not my month.

I filed a protest and my ticket was reduced from $75 to $25. Did they see my argument or do they offer a reduced fee to everyone who bothers to protest? I paid because it was worth $25 to put the matter behind me. The larger question is, do we want our local governments dropping cowpies on us? We have made the choice to allow this. Government claims they seek only to promote public safety. The street sweeping tickets, they say, are about keeping debris off the streets. Okay, let’s call their bluff. How about an ordinance saying they can only issue street sweeping tickets when there is actual street sweeping? The streets are not swept on every street sweeping day but tickets sure are handed out on every street sweeping day.

The truth is no city government wants to admit they are using parking tickets to raise revenue. Here in Colorado, such a practice might in fact be illegal. So they claim it is all about safety. Like my registration year sticker being over my month sticker? In Denver, parking management has said there are only more tickets because there are more parking officers. So all these new parking officers magically appeared on the streets one morning? Someone decided to hire more parking officers — to get more revenue.

Every company cultivates goodwill. With blindsiding tickets the city spreads ill will. The city cowpies its citizens and ruins our days. Is the added revenue worth the damage to our view of our government?

What can you do? Complain to your mayor, city manager, city council and so forth. They can change policy and the ordinances. Or, when you contribute to their political campaigns, deduct the cost of your most frustrating parking tickets and tell them you are doing so. This will make you feel better and, if enough people do it, it will get their attention.

I’m branching out to get more views so a cross-posting of this commentary will be available on my new Yahoo! Contributor Network page.

In case of a zombie apocalypse, your #1 goal: get away from the zombies. Create a safe zone, a home base. Short-term survival. Once you collect all the survivors you must assess your new society’s resources. What skills do the people in your group bring to the table? Do you have a doctor? A general? A builder? Do you have supplies? Do you have access to more supplies? How long can you hold out? Then you worry about long-term survival because you cannot hold off the zombie horde forever.

You need a cure, a way to stop the zombie infection so no more zombies are created and eventually all the zombies can be eliminated. So if you have any surviving scientists you get them to work on a vaccine. What if you don’t have any scientists? Or the scientists you have fail? Or, more likely, the scientists you have take steps toward a vaccine but don’t find one. Then what?

You look to the next generation. You create scientists. You get all the children together in your safe zone and educate them. If you knew which kid was going to find the cure, you could focus your resources on educating him or her. But you do not. So you must educate ALL the children. Because you never know which brain is going to find the cure, or take the key step toward the cure. In your post-apocalyptic society you cannot afford to waste any resources.

In our pre-apocalyptic society, we cannot afford to waste any resources either. Because you never know which brain is going to cure cancer, or provide the critical breakthrough that leads to a cure. For that matter, nobody knows which brain will be the next Willa Cather or Raphael or Mozart — or King, Patton or Lincoln.

Every society rests on the blood, sweat and tears — and brains — of millions of its ancestors. Nobody knows which brains will provide the crucial innovations in a thousand fields. So if we don’t make it a priority to educate all children, we are wasting our country’s greatest resource, our brains. Not only that but uneducated brains are far more dangerous than zombies.

It would be terrific if every parent made the education of their children their top priority. That would be the most efficient way to run education. But not every parent does, so the rest of us must. This is why it is not enough to worry only about educating your kids. It is in the best interests of YOUR kids to educate ALL kids. And this is why education is not just an issue for parents. Education is an issue for everyone who lives in this society. We will all benefit from the cures, breakthroughs, great works of art and courageous acts of leadership, or we can spend our lives dodging the zombie-minds we chose to create.

I’m branching out to get more views so a cross-posting of this commentary will be available on my new Yahoo! Contributor Network page.

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