Thursday, June 25, 2009

Giving up a little to gain a lot

While I don’t have a lot of personal experience, thankfully, with crime, I have had a few incidents occur in years past that you might benefit from knowing about. Here’s one.

Way back in 1986, on New Year’s Eve, I was returning home from someplace lost in the recesses of my memory. It was an hour or two before 1987 was to begin and my car suddenly went dead, totally kaput. At the time the road it died on was a somewhat lonely two-lane highway on the outskirts of the city. (Now, it’s a major six-lane artery surrounded by thousands of homes and lined with dozens of businesses, but I digress.) With the remaining momentum of the car, I pulled off to a side road, locked the car, and footed it to a 7-11 store about a half-mile away. From there I called my dad, who came to pick me up and we drove to take a look at the car. Neither of us could figure out what was wrong with it, so we decided to wait until morning to fiddle around on it. My dad asked me if I wanted to tow it back to the house, but I said, “No, it’ll be okay here until morning.” (You, no doubt, see where this is going.)

The next morning my brother drove me to my car and I found it not quite in the condition I left it. The car’s windshield was broken, its mirrors were ripped off, the instrument panel was covering cracked, a side window was smashed, and the turn signal lever broken off. The culprit(s) was apparently trying to get at my radio/tape player, but was thwarted by a clever (I thought) trick I employed when I installed the player a few years earlier (I keep my cars for a looong time). What was this trick? A short, stout piece of electrical wire tied to the back of the player and through two small holes I drilled into the firewall, rendering the unit practically impossible for a smash-and-grab thief to lift. Unfortunately, it also had the unintended consequence of infuriating the would-be filcher who, I am certain, took out his frustration on my car. The radio was saved, but at a price of more than five times its value when compared to the damage done to my car.

When I got my car back from the repair shop, the first thing I did was to untie and remove the wire. I didn’t want lightning to strike twice; I’ve learned my lessons. What were those lessons?

1. Be aware that crime can happen at anytime, practically anywhere, and that you are not immune.
2. Make value judgments as to what you are willing to lose; in other words, leave easily-taken fall-guy items for the low-lifes.
3. Listen to and follow through with good advice about preventing crime. (Had I listened to my dad, this could have been avoided, and my net worth would be about $500 more, or greater with interest, today).
4. Crime, and criminals, suck.

I hope this helps you, or someone you know, from repeating my mistakes.*

Take care.

*I realize that macho wisdom says to he*l with giving any kind of quarter or reward to criminals, but I have the distinct impression that those who say this are too imbued with Hollywood's scripted versions of how encounters will go down to see reason. Sure, there are things worth defending, but inanimate objects are not usually among them. Giving up a small thing to protect the bigger, more valuable thing doesn't make one a loser, but a winner. You were able to put one over on a predator; that should be cause for celebration.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Same ol', same ol'

I can't fathom that anyone would be surprised at the apparent chicanery going on behind the recent Iranian presidential election. What is especially surprising is how the Iranian people themselves could be hoodwinked into believing that they have any real say in their government. Free elections are instruments of change only for the relatively free; sham elections are an attempt by totalitarians and tyrants to lend themselves authenticity and credibility.

To the Iranian people: I guess it's time for another revolution, eh? Just be careful next time who you hook your wagon to. Sure, the Shah had to go, but who took his place? That's right, another cruel tyrant. You're about as dumb as the French who overthrew a corrupt monarchy in the late 18th century and then turned right around and installed a dictator, Napoleon, into power. Never forget that great line from the rock group the Who: Meet the old boss / same as the old boss.

In practically every nation it seems to be that the MO of the populace is to exchange one government for exactly the same type of government and then expect different results. It must have something to do with the human psyche; one example is an abused daughter that grows up to choose an abusive spouse because it's a familiar, known quantity that fits the patterns she was raised to believe are normal. Now, extrapolate that thinking to a national scale and you'll get the picture. It takes a truly strong, independent people to go in a completely new direction, which is why the American revolution was so rare and wonderful. Unfortunately, Americans no longer have the sense or stones to see the mess they've made and take a truly new path. I expect that kind of locked mindset from foreigners; I am ashamed of it from Americans.

Take care.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Now that's teamwork!

Here we go. How coincidental is this news story, you know, with more government meddling into healthcare in the offing? Not very coincidental at all. This is part of what will likely become a blitz of stories by the MSM meant to soften resistance to what will essentially be ever-increasing controls and restrictions on healthcare. Isn't teamwork, in this case the MSM and government, great?


Medical bills underlie 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies: study
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor Maggie Fox, Health And Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Medical bills are behind more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, U.S. researchers reported Thursday in a report they said demonstrates that healthcare reform is on the wrong track.

More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine.

"Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy," Harvard's Dr. David Himmelstein, an advocate for a single-payer health insurance program for the United States, said in a statement.

"For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection," he added.

The United States is embarking on an overhaul of its healthcare system, now a patchwork of public programs such as Medicare for the elderly and disabled and employer-sponsored health insurance that leaves 15 percent of the population with no coverage.

The researchers and some consumer advocates said the study showed the proposals under the most serious consideration are unlikely to help many Americans. They are pressing for a so-called single payer plan, in which one agency, usually the government, coordinates health coverage.

"Expanding private insurance and calling it health reform will fail to prevent financial catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of Americans every year," Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen said in a statement.

About 170 million people get health insurance through an employer but President Barack Obama says soaring healthcare costs hurt the economy and force businesses to drop medical insurance for their workers.


"Nationally, a quarter of firms cancel coverage immediately when an employee suffers a disabling illness; another quarter do so within a year," the report reads.

Obama told Congress Wednesday he was open to making mandatory health insurance part of the overhaul.

Neither Congress nor Obama are considering the kind of single-payer plan advocated by Public Citizen, Himmelstein and his colleague Dr. Steffie Woolhandler.

"We need to rethink health reform," Woolhandler said. "Covering the uninsured isn't enough.

"Only single-payer national health insurance can make universal, comprehensive coverage affordable by saving the hundreds of billions we now waste on insurance overhead and bureaucracy."

The researchers studied 2,134 random families who filed for bankruptcy between January and April in 2007, before the current recession began.

They used public bankruptcy court records and surveyed 1,032 people by telephone.

"Using a conservative definition, 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92 percent of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000, or 10 percent of pretax family income," the researchers wrote.

"Most medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes and had middle-class occupations."

The researchers, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the share of bankruptcies that could be blamed on medical problems rose by 50 percent from 2001 to 2007.

Patients with multiple sclerosis paid a mean of $34,167 out of pocket in 2007, diabetics paid $26,971, and those with injuries paid $25,096, the researchers found.


I'll paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke here: If you think U.S. healthcare is expensive now, what 'til the government gets involved to make it more affordable.

I believe that government intervention at all levels is already the reason healthcare costs have become so outrageous. To drink more of that Kool-aid is asking for even more problems.

This subject, more than anything else the government does, reminds me of the wisdom of the saying "Government: A disease masquerading as its own cure."

Take care.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Through the past, darkly...

A few years ago I submitted this memory of a family ordeal to another site, where it still remains posted. I guess it's about time to publish it here. Perhaps you'll find it interesting and instructive.

Way back in March of 1977 I learned firsthand the awesome, frightening power of nature. Up until that time, I hadn’t really experienced anything scarier than a thunderstorm. The lessons learned that day stayed with me, and to this day I don’t play chicken with Mother Nature.

After spending a little over three years in Germany, my father had rotated back to the States. His new, and final, assignment was Fort Carson, Colorado. After arriving at JKF airport in New York City, we proceeded via taxi through New York city to New Jersey to pick up our 1975 Plymouth Duster we had shipped weeks earlier. Of course, the weeks of sitting had resulted in a dead battery--an inauspicious beginning. After getting that taken care of, we were on our way to Colorado.

The trip was routine. Living in a military family, you get used to long, often boring, car trips. My two brothers and mother did their best to adjust to hours of sitting while my father drove. Around the third day of the trip, we found ourselves nearing our destination state, Colorado. While listening to the radio, however, we heard that I-70 was closed near the Colorado/Kansas state line due to weather. Since my father had planned on getting to our destination, Fort Carson, by early evening (it was then early afternoon), he decided to turn off of I-70 and go around the roadblock. This was a decision that nearly killed our family.

Turning south from I-70 onto highway 27, we headed for what we thought was an alternate, safe route. After a short time on highway 27, the wind started picking up and small wisps of snow (called snow snakes out here) began to appear on the pavement. A few more miles brought a steady, wind-driven snow, but visibility was still acceptable. Within the space of just a few subsequent minutes, however, all hell broke loose. We were being hit broadside by a genuine Kansas blizzard that made me think 17 years was all I was going to get on this earth.

Visibility had dropped to no further than the hood of our car. To this day I don’t know how we kept from running off the two-lane highway; divine intervention must have had a hand in it. There was really no way to turn around, and sitting still wasn’t an option, so we kept creeping forward for what seemed an eternity. If you have never been in a blizzard, it is difficult to imagine the sheer terror of being disoriented, blind, and surrounded by bitter-cold wind and snow.

Finally, mercifully, we made it to a small whistle-stop of a town named Sharon Springs, Kansas, thirty miles due south of I-70. Waist-high drifts were already forming up against anything that impeded the wind-driven snow’s progress. As I recall, Sharon Springs consisted of nothing more than a few houses, a gas station, a diner, and a motel, but it looked like a heavenly oasis to me. I remember begging my father to stop in the town, fearing he might have had a notion to continue. He assured me that there was no way we were going to continue. We got a room in the motel (we actually had to dig our way IN to the room because of the drift against the door), ate in the diner, and had a fitful night’s sleep.

The next day, the storm had passed and the sun came out. Looking outside, there was very little snow on the flat-as-a-pancake Kansas fields surrounding Sharon Springs. Against buildings, however, snow was drifted all of the way to second-story roofs. The contrast was amazing! Since there was almost no snow on the roads, after one last meal in the diner, we proceeded to our destination.

What were the lessons learned here? One, when an area is closed due to weather, do not try to find an alternate route into said area. Find out more information and then go home or find a safe place to stay. Two, don’t underestimate the weather and/or overestimate your ability. Three, keep your wits about you in a bad situation; they are really the only chance you have of surviving.

I hope I have been able to convey the seriousness of respecting nature’s weather whims. Although we often like to think of ourselves as prepared for any eventuality, the best preparation is to not get into a dire circumstance in the first place. No amount of survival gear we could have carried (had we even known about survivalism then) would have saved us if we had stalled on the highway. Had we stalled, we would have been buried alive under 20 feet of snow.

Please, for your own sake, as well as the sake of your loved ones, learn a lesson from my family’s ignorance and respect the weather.

Take care.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Casualty of the times

According to an e-mail I just read, it looks like Knight Rifles is going belly up. I don't own, nor have I ever fired, one of their products, not being too terribly interested in black powder guns at this point in my life (especially in-line black powder guns, which I consider a travesty, but to each his own) , although that could change someday.

This latest casualty of the times started me thinking about the hunting firearms industry as a whole. When you stop to think about it, aside from the collector who feels compelled to acquire multiple guns in multiple chamberings, how many customers can the hunting firearms industry count on? The average hunter, unless he is a habitual shooter, looks at his rifle as a tool, a part of the total picture of hunting, a means to an end. He has little need for a slew of rifles, even if he can afford anything he wants. It's my position that this type of customer makes up a substantial part of the hunting firearms market. So, in good economic times companies like Knight rifle can depend upon the collector to keep them in business, but when things turn downward, collectors cut back and average hunters already have their guns, so the whole market for hunting guns sours.

Realistically, once you have a good deer/elk rifle, you don't really need much else if you're a big-game hunter. Barring theft or act-of-God destruction, and assuming reasonable care and maintenance, you could hunt with that same old friend from womb to tomb and likely never wear it out. Gun companies know this, which is why they continually come up with new chamberings that do little more than gild the lily and goad folks into buying their latest and greatest offerings. A wise person/hunter sees through this barrage of advertising and turns a blind eye towards it. Perhaps this, coupled with a severe recession, had something to do with Knight Rifles's demise.

Take care.

P.S. When Remington stepped into the AR15 field, I wondered about the wisdom of the move. Now, however, I realize it was a good decision for the company's survival. To the best of my knowledge, Remington was heavily tied to the hunting firearms field, which has been static for some time. By encompassing the red-hot black rifle market, Remington is able to stay afloat and not end up like Winchester. A shrewd move, I'd say, even if the world doesn't need another AR15 maker/marketer. (The world could use a few more ammo makers, but I digress.)