27 September 2008

Roll call - first impressions

I just returned from Alice Polis's funeral. Son Tim picked me up at No. 3 in the new medic vehicle (first time I'd ridden in an MCRS rig in a number of years), and the EMS community had a big turnout of people and apparatus, together with many of Alice's family and friends.

The service concluded with the traditional last honor given a fallen brother/sister, the department roll call. Dispatch alerted all departments on all dispatch frequencies (18 stations in the county, and it takes about 2 minutes to go through all the alert tones), and announced that Paramedic Alice Polis did not answer roll call and was now serving with the Lord.

Then the cortege of the hearse, family vehicles and lots and lots of apparatus with flashing red lights passed slowly through the streets of Fairmont to Station 20, where the hearse passed through the honor guard of apparatus.

We take care of our own.

As the hearse pulled away, a call went out and one of the rigs headed the other direction, Code 3 (lights & siren). As I write this, another rig just came past No. 3 Code 3 on another call.

As always, Pippa passes.


25 September 2008

Requiem for a friend

I was called this morning and informed that a dear friend from my old rescue company died during the night. I sent the following to the Fairmont Times-West Virginian today:

We see Marion County Rescue Squadʼ's ambulances driving at a pretty good speed when their red lights are flashing. Not Wednesday night, though.

Around 3 AM, two MCRS rigs, lights flashing, slowly pulled away from a residence on Coleman Avenue, one behind the other with a hearse in between. They accompanied the body of Alice Polis to R.C. Jones/Ford Funeral Home for her final arrangements. This was not a public display; it was the middle of the night, and there was no one there to see. It was an expression of grief and loving honor to one of the countyʼ's "unsung heroes," and one of the hardest-working founding volunteers of the Rescue Squad.

Alice Polis was there from the start, and was prominent in the "Watson hill" years, when the Squad occupied cramped rental quarters below Bunnyʼs [bar] at the top of the hill. At that time, the ambulances were staffed entirely by volunteers, 24/7. She started as an Emergency Medical Technician, and around 1978, Alice became one of the countyʼ's first paramedics. On her tens of thousands of alarms, when Alice was with patients, she was unflappable. She made decisions, wasted no time, took care of the patient, and took them to the hospital.

A lot of Aliceʼ's work was absolutely invisible to public. Alice was one of the regionʼ's outstanding instructors. She taught many of West Virginiaʼ's EMS people their first EMT class. In fact, she gave the first training to two of the very, very experienced chief officers who now lead the Rescue Squad. Alice served on the Board of Directors of the Rescue Squad, where her business experience helped turn a low-budget volunteer operation into an increasingly efficient and effective healthcare organization. Alice was instrumental in the funding campaign to construct Station 20, the current Third Street station. Alice was one of the visionaries who saw that the nature of the regional economy and the growth of the county required that the Rescue Squad expand its services and hire career EMTʼ's and paramedics.

In the news this week, we have Wall Streeters making tens of millio ns in salaries and stock options crying for handouts and bailouts. What irony. Alice Polis worked well over 1,000 hours per year FOR FREE.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." That can be done in a sudden, brave gesture or with the constant, faithful, devoted and selfless service gave to her friends and to this county. Wednesday night was just the last of thousands of alarms that she answered.

I'm glad that they turned out the station last night. I don't know who that's done for, the dead or the living. But as God is my witness, Alice deserved it.

Pippa passes.


17 September 2008

In your face hokiness

Friend and Brother Phil has a huge Masonic mailing list, to which he sends daily+ news and other items. Last week, he sent one which had originated, apparently, with some Minnesota brethren who were taken with our mountains, and who were touched by the depth of friendship which is found in West Virginia. I have modified it based on my own beliefs.

Friends and West Virginia Friends

Friends: Never ask for food.
West Virginia Friends: Never HAVE to ask, the extra plate is already set.

Friends: Will say 'hello'.
West Virginia Friends: Will give you a big hug and if you are of the opposite gender, a kiss.

Friends: Either don’t talk to your parents or mumble at them.
West Virginia Friends: Smile and call your parents Mom and Dad.

Friends: When they see old people with their adult children, ask the adult children how the old folks are doing.
West Virginia Friends: Talk directly to the elderly, call them “Ma’am” and “Sir” and ask them how the garden is doing.

Friends: Have never seen you cry.
West Virginia Friends: Cry with you.

Friends: Keep quiet while you pray and a little embarassed.
West Virginia Friends: Pray with you and hold your hand.

Friends: Will visit a bit and leave.
West Virginia Friends: Will spend hours there, talking, laughing, and just being together, and you don’t feel time passing.

Friends: Will vanish if your family gets in criminal trouble.
West Virginia Friends: There in Court with you.

Friends: Introduce you to their friend the drug dealer.
West Virginia Friends: Call the police about your so-called friend the drug dealer.

Friends: If you call at 3AM, will give you the suicide hotline number.
West Virginia Friends: If you call at 3AM, will be right over and stay however long it takes.

Friends: Will visit you in the hospital when you're sick.
West Virginia Friends: Will cut your grass, clean your house, do your laundry, and then come spend the night with you in the hospital.

Friends: Will put you on their to-do list.
West Virginia Friends: Will drop everything and come running when you really need them.

Friends: Have you on speed dial in case they want to call.
West Virginia Friends: Remember you number and actually call you.

Friends: For a while.
West Virginia Friends: For life.

Friends: Think this is hokey.
West Virginia Friends: Screw ‘em, we don’t care if it is, it’s still true.

Pippa passes.


15 September 2008

Big News 'Round No. 3, The "Mystery Partner" Unmasked!; And other lesser but still stirring stuff

The “Mystery Partner” Identified

Since May, when Partner Amy Swisher won the primary election for Family Court Judge, I have been planning continuing life in No. 3 Equity Court.

There is a frequent undercurrent in the professions, at least in smaller locales, of who might want to combine with whom in business.

I’m really happy to announce that the “mystery partner” who is moving in to No. 3 is my oldest friend, JC Amos. We met 50 years ago, in kindergarten. She has a JD and LLM (the latter is a second law degree, and she specializes in TAX law) from University of Baltimore, and is also a CPA. She currently practices in Baltimore. Her practice is mostly business, tax, estate planning, probate and commercial work. She will be moving into my areas of practice and I into hers, both doing the OJT thing.

Firm name: That’s been a vigorous debate! In the non-person-name realm, we considered lots of neat stuff. However, we settled on - are you ready for this? - Curry Amos & Associates, LC. Yeah, I know, but also her daddy was a prominent Fairmont lawyer for MANY years, and his name is known here, too. (Fascinating guy - Was with the OSS in China in WWII.)

CAA will begin operations around 15 October 2008 here at No. 3 and perhaps elsewhere, too. The 304-368-1000 phone will stay the same.

What online persona JC takes is her decision. We will have a firm website in short order and I assume there will be some biographical stuff there. JC does not currently have a public blog and I don’t know her intentions in that regard.

She’s a good person, and I’m looking forward to a lot more years of productive service to our communities. Looking forward, hell - I’m thrilled!

Flying your honest flag

I published a comment 2 posts ago from “Fairness to West Virginia,” on a political observation. This person/group has a blog which is taking part in the West Virginia Supreme Court race. So far, so good. But there is no indication who is involved in this effort. I will be considerably more impressed by and thoughtful about the opinions of people who will put their names on their opinions. Even if your flag is the Jolly Roger, for God’s sake, have the guts and class to fly it proudly.

The Old Dad Still Has Some Stuff

SonTim came home from his paramedic class tonight in high spirits. They had a test on pulmonology, and he was ecstatic to have scored a 68. I made a comment about the superior training we received in the “old days,” [which is (1) empty posturing and (2) a lie] and he challenged me to take the test myself. For you ladies out there, this is a direct male bonding and male provocation thing, and I had no choice but to boldly step forward. So, I took the test, and scored a 62, which surprised Tim and which surprised the living hell out of me. I have not given any serious thought to pulmonology since 1989, and the whole gas-exchange, surfactant, pH, rales-rhonchi-wheeze, sats, rates and so forth reminded me of how unfortunate a patient would be who was stuck with me these days. They now use drugs and procedures that I was not trained in.

Reminds me, Friend Tom’s son Luke is now a Firefighter/Medic in Montgomery County (MD), and is well on his way to membership in the Order of the Black Cross. Wow, I remember quaffing a couple with Tom at a conference while Luke was in utero.

Church as Personality Cult?

We come to depend on professionals and leaders in our lives, to the point that we identify the message with the messenger. When I think “Boy Scouts,” my first thought is Johnny Pitcher, long since deceased, who was my scoutmaster when I was a kid. I do not have the words to say what a wonderful guy he was, and he represented everything good about Scouting to me. After I left that troop, I learned to appreciate the “brotherhood,” and the entire movement, not just that one individual. But we still depend on these personal relationships. My doctor is a great person, and it makes me feel good to know that she’s there. And so forth.

I’ve found this phenomenon with church, and haven’t learned to move beyond it yet. When I joined Central Christian, Parson Jim Norton was the interim pastor. I’ve known him for years, and he is a great fellow, supportive and understanding. When he hung up his spurs (Robe? Stole? Whatever ministers hang up . . . ), I was disturbed. I was learning through him and through his gentleness. Then, along came Pastor Josh Patty. He’s a younger guy, a genuine scholar who can communicate, which isn’t all that common a combination. I really love the guy, and we have had some of the most delightful talks, often lighthearted intellectual sparring seeking to find ever more obscure references that the other may or may not recognize. It is a fact that in most Protestant churches, the pastors move on after a while. Josh is going to be a high flyer – He has honest scholarship and the loving message of a Joel Osteen without Osteen’s idiotic grin. We are sooooo fortunate that he is with us. In the Fullness of Time, he will move on in all likelihood. I hope that by then I will have learned the church as a community, not just as it’s leader.

In a much, much broader sense, I’m thinking that Christ wasn’t going for the personality cult thing, but for results. But those thoughts are rather elementary and not terribly well supported at this point.


Oh, the “Order of the Black Cross” is that faux honor society into which medics (at least in the mid-Atlantic area) are inducted when they just can’t catch a break and patients are dying like flies whenever they touch them. At various times, it's also been called "The Order of the Boatman" or "Friends of Thanatos."

Pippa passes.


13 September 2008

Political Dogma, Cynical Karma, and the Sweet Smell of Heretics Roasting on an Open Fire

You heard it first here. I’m a terrible person. I have more angles than a tesseract, and I throw words around like “tesseract,” and that’s an angle, too. (A “tesseract” is a “hypercube,” a theoretical construct of what a cube would look like in four dimensions. When contemplating tesseracts, fractals and stuff like that there, I look thoughtful and intellectual, especially if I remember to put on the tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches, but I don’t have a hoot in hell what I’m talking about.) Where was I? Oh, yeah, angles. I get ideas and little hypotheses and I do quasi-proto-scientific or if–only-it-were statistical testing of them. I have a modest, but uneven and very dated background in science, and a decent but VERY dated background in statistics. The last time I did formal statistical analysis, chi-squares, all of that, I prepared the data for processing on a punch card machine. I doubt that anyone under 50 even knows what that is.

Liberal/conservative doctrine - no, dogma - is all the rage right now. Is Obama a (shudder) capital-L Liberal or a (shudder-more) hidden New Democrat Clintonesque Red-shaded Progressive? Is McCain worthy of the Conservative Crown of Father Reagan? (He wants it; he claims it; so does every other self-identified conservative – it’s the Gold Standard.) And as we all know, If You Are Not With Us, You Are Against Us. Get On Board or Get Thee Behind Me, Satan.

My hypothesis is this: There is a “club,” a tribe for Liberals, and one for Conservatives. Everyone else is a Fence Sitter, and not worthy to spit-shine the boots of the Believers. If you agree with Dogma on merely Most Issues, you are still Unworthy because you are Unreliable.

And so, I’ve come up with 11 issues for which there is a Liberal Dogma and a Conservative Dogma. I have made these somewhat bland. For example, some conservatives insist that absolutely any abortion is unacceptable under any circumstances. Others, who are still accepted into the conservative Club, make limited exceptions. Some liberals require that any written material be afforded First Amendment protection. Most, though, admit at least a few exceptions. I’ve also left out things that most people (meaning me and I certainly hope intelligent people) find totally moronic, such as reparations for pre-Civil War slavery, returning Florida to the Seminole nation, and joining Vincent Bugliosi in an actual indictment and trial of George W. Bush for murder regarding the Iraq debacle.

What our political blather (I will not call it discourse, because it isn’t) cannot stand is the person who doesn’t adhere to all of the tenets of one basic dogma or the other. We do not THINK, we follow. We do not reason about issues, we sign up to our particular version of the Lone Ranger Code, and follow it point by point, even when we don’t understand some of them. We substitute authority for thought. What does Michael Moore say? Or Dick Cheney? John Hagee? Jesse Jackson? Fox News? Nancy Grace? Mike Huckabee? Britney, Lindsay & Miley? We might as well pray that they convene Liberal and Conservative Councils of Nicea behind closed cloisters, and publish the results so that we will know the creed that we will recite at bedtime.

Well, I’ve been testing these for some months and so far, the hypothesis is holding up pretty well. If I express 3 conservative positions and 1 liberal, a conservative listener will give me a “how could you?” Ditto the reverse.

(A word on reasoning - The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, is a superior discussion of the shrillness and closed mindedness of contemporary anti-thought. The fact that it’s Al Gore makes Conservatives believe that it’s political blather and Liberals believe that it’s divinely inspired. It’s neither. The point is to quit adopting other people’s rules and THINK.)

So, here is my first attempt at basic political dogma. I think that I’ve avoided giving any of the positions an unfair slant in accordance with whatever my opinions might be, although you may disagree. The Conservative Club is in bold; the Liberal Club, in italics.

1 - Guns -

A law-abiding citizen should be able to possess a handgun in his/her home and, at reasonable times and with reasonable limitations, at other places, and use it to defend themselves from deadly force.

Only police and the military should be permitted to possess handguns without a good reason and a government license.

2 - Porno -

Some extreme pornographic materials are so destructive and abhorent to society’s values that banning them is wise and permitted under the First Amendment.

Pornography which hurts no identifiable victim and involves no minors is protected speech under the First Amendment.

3 - Flag burning -

Burning or intentionally defacing the American Flag is so abhorent and disrespectful to our nation that it is either not protected speech under the First Amendment or a Constitutional Amendment to the contrary is appropriate.

Flag burning and defacing is disrespectful and while I certainly don’t do it, it is protected speech. Banning it would betray the very values that the flag stands for.

4 - Abortion -

Abortion for purposes of economics, family planning or gender selection should not be permitted. It is the taking of human life, and therefore fundamentally immoral.

Abortion for any purpose should be permitted at the decision of the mother within sound medical practice in the first trimester.

5 - Detailed government regulation -

Government regulation of lawful action (e.g., the manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs) is an improper interference on citizens’ rights and the free market.

Government acts in the broader public interest by regulating or correcting actions (e.g., manufacture and sale of terribly energy inefficient incandescent light bulbs) which individual desires and market forces will not be sufficient to fix.

6 - English -

No matter what your opinion is on how much legal immigration should be permitted or what to do with illegal immigrants, once they are here, it doesn’t matter what language they speak at home, but they need to learn English.

America has room for many cultures, including those without any English.

7 - Health Care -

Health Care should be permitted to progress and expand without artificial limitation, should be driven and paid for by market forces, and the government should stay out of way between me and my doctor.

We must have some form of basic universal health care, and government action is necessary to bring that about, whether the private sector remains involved or not.

8- Teaching Evolution & Creation -

Public schools should teach at least the existence and basics of Creationism and Intelligent Design Doctrine, in addition to the Theory of Darwinian Evolution.

Creationism and Intelligent Design are religious doctrines to be left to the churches and parents. Unlike evolution, they are not science nor scientifically provable, and public money should not be used to teach religious doctrine.

9 - Executing criminals -

It is permissible to execute some persons who have committed horrible crimes after they have been given a fair trial, and that punishment should be accomplished quickly and fairly.

Executions are neither practical (i.e., they do not prevent or reduce crime) nor are they moral in a just society.

(By the way, let’s use plain language - “Capital punishment” is a mealy-mouthed way to say that we kill people in an intentional and planned fashion.)

10 - Use of Natural Resources -

A free, growing and thriving society requires the continued development and use of natural resources, even where those resources may be depleted permanently or landscape permanently altered, or some acceptable level of pollutants released. We should, of course, do so in as responsible a manner as is reasonable. (Some would add that the Bible gives Man dominion over the Earth, etc.)

Physical, chemical and thermal pollution are much more serious problems than we generally acknowledge, will require a commitment to fix, and failure to do so will have dire consequences.

11 - Iraq -

America has vital interests in the Middle East. If we don’t take the conflict to them, they are bringing it to us, so this is a moral and necessary war.

It’s a shitty little country, but it’s THEIR shitty little country, and we have no business being there, taking their lives and sacrificing American life and limb.

By the way, a word on the use of terms: Why "Liberal"? Why not the modern-speak, “Progressive”? That is the language of TR, which is not the doctrine of those who identify themselves as Progressives today, any more than it is the doctrine of those who brag that they are the party of Lincoln and TR. The term “Conservative” has not (yet) become a negative term. When it does, some euphemism will emerge, and adherents will trot out distinctions without differences.

Oh, by the way, I’m not a member of either Club, I don’t adhere to a pure dogma. I score 5 points conservative (I was expecting 3, tops), 5 points liberal, and 1 point (abortion) fie-on-both-your-houses. (I didn’t know whether to add this, but I am waiting with amusement to hear the first person assign some hidden motive or agenda for who got the bold and who got the italics. I’m also looking forward to calls & emails from those who will be miffed that I dared to write down without condemnation a political philosophy with which they disagree.)

How about you? My score is a thoroughly confused 5-5-1. How about you? Will you be burned at the stake with me?

Pippa passes.


07 September 2008

Sheila Wins Contest: and Observations Too Numerous Even For Me to Title

The Still Unnamed Law Firm Thanks You, and You, and You Especially, Sheila!

The mysterious new partner and I reviewed the submissions to the help us name the firm contest with a lot of interest and even chuckles. We haven’t QUITE decided yet, but are down to a couple of alternates. My favorite, “Armageddon Legal Group” has been vetoed. So sad, what a delicious image that has. In any event, we have agreed that the winner hands down of the contest is Sheila222 for her multiple submissions which were original, creative and enjoyable. Sheila, dearest, email me your snail mail, and the cornucopia of books will be heading your way! And thank you!

The new partner and new name will be announced in about 2 weeks, projected start date is about 20 October.

Follow-up: My brother Pete’s tattoo -

As a legitimate practitioner of Oriental spirituality, I’m betting that Bro. Pete wasn’t depending on some tattooist telling him what the Chinese symbols meant. That’s the flip-side of the tattoo thing, an irrevocable commitment to take a stand and make a statement.

Service? Hints of Sex? What are they selling?

In the Fairmont Times-WV today, they stuck in an insert for “Palm Springs Massage Center” or some such. The primary visual is that of a 20-something smiling, attractive, blonde woman. It doesn’t say that she is one of the massage therapists, that that is the fairly implied conclusion. My opinion of massage is generally more positive than my opinion of chiropractic. Massage therapists are simply claiming that they make your muscles feel better temporarily and that seems to work most of the time.

It is no big secret that “sex sells.” If it didn’t, young, conventionally attractive women in somewhat revealing attire wouldn’t be featured in auto parts calendars displayed in most automotive repair shops. What is the message in the massage ad? Well, I’m thinking that the implication is that you come in and give us your money, and this woman or her twin is going to run her hands over much of your body and probably carry on a scintilating conversation with you and even admire your now-flabby/once-average body (if you’re a guy.) I’d like to know what this and similar therapists think about this. They are not being marketed, at least in this ad, for their qualifications and skill as a massage therapist. A few months ago, I met a massage therapist when I was doing a business deal. This was a 50-something year old lady who obviously kept herself in excellent physical condition. She was wearing short sleeves and had remarkable upper body strength and the kind of hands you see on wiry auto mechanics. I asked about her work, and it included work for semi-pro sports teams, so I presume that she is real good at what she does. That, to me, would be a far better thing to advertise and far more germane to the decision to patronize her services than conventional physical attractiveness.

(Some months ago, I talked about “conventional physical attractiveness” being so much hogwash. I’ve never met a woman who wasn’t pretty.)

As bad a a Klan hood . . .

West Virginia has a statute prohibiting wearing hoods and masks in public (which has a Halloween exception). Code section 61-6-22 provides, in part:

[N]o person . . . while wearing any mask, hood or device whereby any portion of the face is so covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, may:
(1) Come into or appear upon any walk, alley, street, road, highway or other thoroughfare dedicated to public use;
(2) Come into or appear in any trading area, concourse, waiting room, lobby or foyer open to, used by or frequented by the general public;
(3) Come into or appear upon or within any of the grounds or buildings owned, leased, maintained or operated by the state or any political subdivision thereof;
(4) Ask, request, or demand entrance or admission to the premises, enclosure, dwelling or place of business of any other person within this state; or
(5) Attend or participate in any meeting upon private property of another unless written permission for such meeting has first been obtained from the owner or occupant thereof.

This statute was enacted when, for some odd reason, there was fear of a resurgence of the Klan in West Virginia. (That resurgence never came about. There has only been one prosecution I know of under that statute.) I don’t know if the idea is constitutional – I can make the argument that if you have the right to speech, that right includes having the lack of guts which leads you to hide your identity. But the idea is still good, in the marketplace of ideas, we can make a LOT better analysis of an argument or factual representation if we know who is making it and, therefore, what their interests are to tint it one way or the other, or simply to make stuff up.

We have a Supreme Court election coming up. Two seats are in issue. Former Justice Margaret Workman is a shoe-in for one of them. (I strongly supported my friend Justice Spike Maynard in the primary, and he lost big time. His friends say, dirty politics, his enemies say, justice prevails, at the end of the day it’s the number of votes and we have to move on. I like Justice Maynard, always have, always will.) The other seat in play has two candidates. The Democrat is Menis Ketchum. Prior to the primary, I had never heard of him. I was talking to a major plaintiff’s lawyer in Morgantown a month ago who’s his friend, and he gave me a glowing recommendation. Mr. Ketchum is a plaintiff’s lawyer who is a good-to-great trial lawyer, is very respected, and has largely escaped the “tacky” designation that much of the advertising plaintiff’s bar gets stuck with. I still haven’t met him. The Republican is Beth Walker. She is younger (40's?), has stellar academic credentials (Ohio State), great community service credentials, and is a partner at a major defense-oriented/business-oriented law firm, Bowles Rice. I hadn’t heard of her prior to the campaign either. With Justice Maynard out, she’s a strong contender despite the difference in party registration. Justice Benjamin did it against Justice McGraw in 2004.

Since there is a clear liberal-conservative, plaintiff-defendant-orientation split, this election is going to smoke out BIG MONEY. That is unpleasant to contemplate. Welcome to Earth. It is NOT necessarily corrupt, even though it presents a really bad appearance. The winner will not vote in a liberal or conservative way because s/he receives lots and lots of money from liberal or conservative interests. S/he will receive lots and lots of money from liberal or conservative interests because s/he already believes strongly in a philosophy which benefits those folks financially. But those donors and advertisers aren’t going to have the guts to admit that this is a cynical dollars-and-sense decision.

I have problems with the primary liberal group, the “West Virginia Association for Justice.” It’s the name which bothers me. It’s like “People for the American Way.” Who could possibly be against justice? Or the American way? Or motherhood? Or Twinkies? The the WVAJ website has this neat symbol with the caption: “People Over Profits - Your Grassroots Network to Protect Civil Justice” There is nothing grassroots about it. It is the organization of trial lawyers, the people who represent civil plaintiffs, and who make a living from those cases and who, therefore, want a liberal court so that they make more money. I was a member of that group when it had a different name: West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. That was open, honest, and hid nothing. If we were interested only in justice, we would give everything away to the poor, found the Order of St. Michael (random choice of saint, my favorite because he’s patron of public service including paramedics) which would send brothers and sisters from the cloisters into the courtroom to represent the injured against the unGodly. Well, if you look at the WVAJ website long enough, you do twig to the notion that it’s a lawyers’ group, it’s just hard to find.

I have a disagreement with one of the conservative players, the state Chamber of Commerce. However, that disagreement is over policy. The state Chamber is flying an honest flag, there is no concealment of where their money comes from. Another conservative player, though, is a snake in the grass. The West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also bills itself as a “grassroots” group. It is gearing up to trash candidate Ketchum, ostensibly because the poor consumer is getting stuck by the nasty trial lawyers. There is NO PLACE where the CALA reveals that it is the insurance industry that is funding it, that an insurance person runs it, and that he makes a HELL of a lot of money doing so. They have attracted a lot of right wing deluded conspiracy theorists as a sort of citizens’ veneer, but the organization is an insurance shill through and through. This is an immoral LIE. If they advertise exactly as they do and state that this group is funded by Aetna, Allstate, and so forth, I will disagree with the message and respect the messenger. As it is, they are moral cowards. Let's see (1) where the money comes from to run the organization (IRS filing would be good) and (2) the CEO’s salary. All in the interest of truth, you see.

Footnote - Judicial races in West Virginia are partisan. Locally, in partner Amy Swisher’s Family Court Judge contest, she features that she is the Democratic candidate (Marion County is 65% registered Dem) and her opponent (Friend Shirley Stanton) hasn’t mentioned her Republican affiliation once.

Rescue Me?

According to the NY Times, the feds are talking a bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even though government economists say that they ignored clear warnings that the mortgage market was tanking and took no protective actions. Well, hell, I’m not all that financially responsible. I wonder if the feds will bail ME out? I would also like to avoid responsibility, have a golden parachute and get paid a bonus for driving a business into the toilet. Isn’t that the American way? President Clinton didn’t end welfare for the corporation, why should he have ended it for me?

White Heritage Festival

I almost used poor judgment here. (Oh, I can hear the chorus from Friend Dave, from the Bookshelvers, from myriad others, "Oh, Roger, why stop now?) A friend was featured in the Times WV Saturday as having been picked as King of the Black Heritage Festival. A funny but rather rancid post could have been made extolling the contribution that white people have made, yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s all bullshit. We are going to get NOWHERE until we stop prancing around in diversity and start talking in Unity. I think I mentioned, I saw a billboard for a Scottish Festival this summer, and the thought of it is sickening - idiots in kilts who’ve never been closer to Glasgow than the East Coast cavorting around tossing cabers, endangering bystanders by swinging inaccurate reproductions of claymores (swords), and talking in hideous accents. With every respect to my black, white, hispanic, english, italian, icelandic, indian and so forth friends, get over it. You’re in America. Be American. The Curry ancestor got to this continent in 1649 from England; the Stiab ancestor around 1900 from Germany. There’s an Indian (probably Shawnee) in there somewhere. I’m not English. I’m not German. I’m not Shawnee. I’m American. I probably had an ancestor in Oldevai Gorge. I’m not African, either.

Language - Is there a “rest of the story”?

Last week, the newspaper had a headline about a “Tragedy at Valley Falls.” Just about every summer, there is a similar headline. For those readers not familiar with Marion & Taylor Counties, there is a porion of the Tygart Valley River near the county line which runs through a narrow section at an unusually steep drop for a ways, and it’s really rocky. What do you get? White water, with strong currents that are not readily apparent or predictable to someone who hasn’t been there before. This section of the river and the bottom around it constitutes Valley Falls State Park, which is a comfortable and pleasant place to take a six-pack and spend the afternoon. (That’s illegal, by the way, drinking beer in a state park.) There are lots of large signs saying “Keep off the rocks,” “No swimming,” and so forth. Nevertheless, anybody reasonably sure footed goes out on the nearby rocks, where the current isn’t bad and indeed, there’s one large rock that is a favorite place for couples to have pictures (especially engagement pictures) taken. And despite the fact that the water a little further out is really fast, there are people who go way out.

The tragedy to which the paper referred happened when a Mexican national here working went onto the rocks and fell in. He was taken under by one of the wicked currents and held underwater. His younger brother attempted to rescue him, and the same or a similar current got him, too. Water rescue responded as fast as you could expect, but it was still 30+ minutes before one of the men was brought out of the water. Both men died.

The signs at the park are in English. These men did not speak English. Hispanics aren’t numerous in Marion County, so it took the police a little time to find a Spanish speaker to communicate with relatives and friends in the park, none of whom spoke English. Could signs in Spanish have avoided the deaths? Is that a reasonable precaution? Should my oft-stated position, if you’re here, learn English, yield to this sort of need? This is troubling and is yet another example of the utter folly of assuming that every problem can be solved with an “if only” simple solution. “If only we allow no immigration,” “If only we require that they ALL speak English,” “If only we cut out welfare, they’ll work,” and so forth. There are some absolutes. But we are lazy and stupid if we look for them everywhere.

I’m troubled by this, but I still come down on the speak English side. Moreover, the danger is pretty clear. If you know fast water, you should know that the currents are stronger than you are. If you don’t know fast water, you should stay the hell out of it. One of my favorite places is Coopers Rock State Forest, on the Monongalia-Preston County line. If you are really, really stupid, you can walk a step too far and walk into the Cheat canyon, the last step being 400 feet or so straight down. Humans fly real good. They land real bad. There are no signs and no fences. Someone who needs those should stay out of the woods.

The Potent Power of Video Games

Amazon publishes a frequently updated blog for its Kindle ebook users. A recent article was delightful. It extolled the video game “Grand Theft Auto 4" because a family had a rollover car wreck. Their 11 year old daughter had played the game and she knew that in rollovers, cars blow up. So, she dragged the other family members to safety before the car blew up. Fortunately, however, it didn’t explode.

Hollywood idiocy, now idiocy of reality-null pudgy savants who design video games ---- Folks, cars do not blow up unless the Hollywood stunt people have put (usually petroleum based) explosives in the car with some sort of command detonator. Cars seldom catch fire. When I worked EMS, I went to some thousands of car wrecks. I saw three car fires from them. One was from a car which was annihilated by a train. The second was an engine compartment fire that we accidentally started after we started freeing the driver. (Boy, did we get noise from the Chief about that one.) The third was at an accident I ran across on vacation which was a slow engine compartment fire (probably oil) that spread to the interior after the occupants were out and which I put out with a fire extinguisher from the first ambulance, which had only one guy on it. No other fires, no matter how much gasoline, fuel or chemicals were spilled. No explosions at all. Oh, there were incidents where dragging people out of the car improperly because some moron taught children to do that would have hurt or killed some occupants. A good friend for years was in a car wreck in the 50's. He would recount how he was dragged from the car and how he knew the moment that the cervical fracture cut the spinal cord, making him a quadriplegic. (Hell of a guy - he went to work full time and retired normally.)

And you wonder why the Iraq situation is screwed up?

Even after the start of the war, some of the administration policy makers (the political ones) were surprised to learn that there is a difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Pippa passes.