Wednesday, April 3, 2013

We've Moved!

Not the humans, but the blog has moved to a new location.  Please check us out at our new home:

Thank you for following my blog, and we hope to see you (or your comments) soon!


Monday, November 12, 2012

The American Idol Election

            For President Obama dial: 1-866-BaddAss and for Mitt Romney dial:  1-866-DAWhimp.  Cast your votes and vote as many times as you want!!  Long distance charges may apply.

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and President Barack Obama debate in front of moderator Bob Schieffer during the final U.S. Presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida

    Big surprise.  Despite record high unemployment, a desultory economy, sky-high gas prices, and scary levels of national debt Barack Obama was re-elected yesterday going away.  Go figure.  Not only that, a number of far left Senate candidates were returned to office and the Senate remains firmly in control of the Democrats.

    Millions of words will be written about this election and I have not read a single one of them.  Too discouraged.  Let me spout off with a few thoughts and then I’m done with politics. 

My first reaction is:  What the Hell are the people who voted for Obama thinking?! Clearly, for the majority of voters performance had nothing to do with their vote.  The first clue for me should have been the popularity of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.  Neither can sing worth a pinch of coon shit yet they are the most popular singers out there.  Likewise, the Kardashians.  Why are they famous exactly? 
During the election Obama did appearances on John Stewart’s show, Letterman and with other celebrities rather than interviews with serious news outlets.  Famously, he had no time to meet with Netanyahu when they were both in NY for the UN meetings but he did find time to go on The View and smooze with the fawning blowhards that host that show.  His handlers obviously knew which were the important appearances to garner the votes.  This election reminded me of one giant playing of one of Jay Leno’s bits called “Street Walking” where he asks basic third grade level questions of people on the street.  Natch, they probably pick the dumbest ones but you are left shaking your head at the end of the bit thinking, “My God, these people are eligible to vote!”  Apparently they voted in large numbers last Tuesday.

While that may offer some amusement, the real issue is the changing demographics in the US.  Blacks voted 95% for Obama and Hispanics were not far behind at 75%.  Women (inexplicably) went 55% for BHO.  (I guess free condoms are important after all.)  Those groups are growing.

 Romney’s candid comment that 47% of the people would never vote for him because they receive direct benefit from the government is, unfortunately, true.  Many receive food stamps, welfare, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.   Additionally, government employees are not going to vote against the party promising bigger government.  Nor are union workers, teachers, environmentalists, lobbyists and trial lawyers who believe that the Democrats will keep the money flowing and some of it will drift their way.  A lot of people don’t want less government spending no matter how irresponsible.

    So in a larger sense, Americans are voting themselves into the same hole enjoyed by a number of European social democracies…. Bankruptcy.  Apparently the metastasizing national debt means nothing to the majority of voters.  Let the next generation worry about it.

    Gas prices and unemployment did not matter either apparently.  The rogue EPA was of no concern to New York and New Jersey voters who overwhelmingly elected BHO and Democrats.  Many of those voters have been out of power for a couple of weeks courtesy of Sandy.  Given four more years of Obama’s EPA when they get done with outlawing fracking and shutting down all the coal fired electrical generating plants and the lights go out in the North East for lack of capacity, maybe they will think again.

    The Obama guys knew they could get away with blaming Bush even as the election approached:  “…Go back to the policies that got us into this mess…” That massive lie was never refuted or even attempted.  Yes, it’s complicated but it had to be addressed.  Think about it.  The current recession is the fault of the unprecedented prosperity we’ve enjoyed since the Reagan era?  Or something else?  Clue to my liberal friends:  It’s the policies of easy money by the Fed and lending money to people who could not pay it back.

This election proved once again that negative campaigning works.  Massive numbers of negative commercials in key states early in the campaign painting Romney as a corporate raider and greedy capitalist and that proved effective.  The first debate overcame some of the negative image but not enough.

The media played its usual role in cheering on the Democrats and ignoring stories harmful to Obama, particularly Benghazi.  This is malpractice but a fact of life.  The media and Hollywood wanted Obama and now they have him. Congrats.

After the euphoria of the Obama supporters subsides the hard reality will set in.  This election insures that ObamaCare will survive and be implemented and the substantial tax increases and policies associated with it will kick in.  The electorate will certainly not appreciate the result.  Taxes are surely going up.  The Republicans who still control the House will not be able to resist the Democrats in their desire to impose a tax increase on the “rich”.  The only question is how far down the income scale they deem the wealthy to be.  Clue:  The Rich don’t have enough money to make a difference so the middle class will get hit eventually.  Creating massive inflation is the only way to corral the runaway debt.  I’m certain that’s the Democrat’s hope and plan.  Gee, this is going to be a lot of fun.

Unemployment is probably going to limp along.  The young people who voted for Obama better be prepared to live in their childhood bedrooms for a few more years.  Or maybe for a long time.


For a little extra amusement, you can see this reinterpretation of the debates.  American Idol, indeed.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

An Open Letter to Mitt

Dear Governor Romney,

I know you have a lot of expensive political advisors and professionals who have been at this ‘getting elected’ business a long time.  However, I hoped you might be open to some thoughts from an ordinary taxpayer out here in the boonies.  If not, you know where to file this.

First off, good choice of Paul Ryan.  That signals you plan to make the remaining days of the campaign about issues of concern to the voters out here:  jobs, the deficit, the control of entitlements and healthcare.  From the line up of speakers it looks like the Democrats plan to make the election about abortion and gay marriage.  Good luck with that.

I’m sure you know that no matter what some people are going to vote for Obama.  He could be photographed waving the Koran in one hand and a Communist flag in the other while buggering Bo, the First Family’s dog and the faithful will still vote for him.  This fact was demonstrated once again when Greta Van Susteren of Fox News was interviewing teachers, friends and family members of Paul Ryan shortly after his selection for VP.  One, his teacher, who has known Paul all of his life and respects and admires him, admitted he will not be voting for the Romney/Ryan ticket. Why?  Because he’s in the teacher’s union and he’s voting his self-interest.

Besides the unionized teachers there are a few other groups that vote in mass for the Democrats no matter what.  The Environmentalists and Trial Lawyers come immediately to mind.  No matter what the Romney/Ryan campaign might promise these groups, they will never vote for the GOP candidate.  If you acknowledge that fact, why not go after them?

Let’s start with the Department of Education.  From what I have been able to determine, the DofEd now has an annual budget of $70 billion, up from $29.4 billion in 2009.  What could they possibly do to justify that amount of money?  It’s just a bunch of bureaucrats living large and not educating one single student.  Look at their org chart!  If ever there was a bloated, inefficient outfit, this is it.  There are 151 individual programs aimed at educating K thru 12 kids.  All that money spent and look at the product coming out the other end.  Soft target.  Hit it hard.  It won’t cost you any votes, that’s for sure.

The EPA is another bloated bureaucracy wielding far too much power and demonstrating Obama’s increasing tendency to rule by decree.  In a recent WSJ piece (“EPA Smackdown #6”) the Federal Appeals Court just spanked the EPA for a ruling aimed at putting Texas coal fired electric utilities out of business.  According to the American Action scorecard this is the 15th time the Obama EPA has been over ruled.

With the price of oil once again flirting with $100 per barrel and gas nudging at $4.00 a gallon this is a good time to go after the enviro-wackos and the out of control EPA.  Obama said repeatedly that his policy was “all of the above… nuclear, oil, coal and gas”.  Bulls___!  The first thing they did was shut down Yucca Mountain  ($12 billion down the drain) and go after the coal industry.  Then they put all public lands and the coasts off limits for oil drilling and now they are trying to figure out how to shut down “fracking”, the enormously successful natural gas method that has cut the price of natural gas nearly in half.  And today they announced some new CAFÉ standards for autos that mandate 55 mile per gallon autos by 2025.  That will guarantee adding at least $2000 to the cost of a car and make them all that much more dangerous to drive.  Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, (by the way, what do those guys at the Department of Energy do?) famously said that “somehow we need to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe.”  Really?  Does eight dollar gas sounds like a good path to economic prosperity?

Finally, (and I’ll keep this short) it’s time to take a swipe at the Trial Lawyers.  I know no President ever mentions them because almost all the folks in Congress are lawyers.  But, you and all businessmen and women know that the tort lawyers add to the cost of everything in a significant way.  They drive people out of business and add enormous costs to healthcare and insurance.  It’s time to put an end to their gravy train.  Go after them and call for significant tort reform.  They give almost all their money and votes to Democrats anyway. Nothing to lose.

Anyway Sir, good luck to you.

Dick Draper
Dedicated Taxpayer

Friday, July 27, 2012


You don’t see that many people hitch hiking these days.  Certainly not like in the late ‘50s and ‘60s when I was doing it as a matter of necessity.  Where we lived up in Whistler, BC you see quite a bit because we have many young people from all over the world who come to work in the resort.  Many do not have cars and hitch back and forth to work.  Of course, it’s a closed community with only one road in and out so it’s pretty safe.  I will pick up these kids unless they are wearing their trousers at half-mast, have their baseball cap on sideways or are carrying a skateboard.  I know. So shoot me.

Back in 1959 when I went off to Cornell I frequently hitch hiked back and forth to my home in Buffalo.  Generally it wasn’t much of a problem to get a ride, but that was before well-publicized abductions and car-jackings came into vogue. And, before 24-hour news channels came into being. In 1960-61 I put my thumb to the test in what turned out to be about 10,000 miles of hitch hiking around the US.  I had good luck and bad on the road and certainly some bizarre experiences.  Before getting into all that, maybe a little background.


I went off to college at 17 and was quite naive. Public high school had been great fun and not too difficult but, Cornell was another matter.  I figured everyone there was smarter and better prepared than me.  I had to work my ass off to catch up and survive academically.  It was also necessary to work for my food since it became clear early on that this college thing would be a self-financed deal.  On top of all that I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life.  In short, I was a confused young man.  I quit my job two weeks before the end of the term to study for my finals.  My roommate had flunked out already and I knew he was a Hell of a lot smarter than me.  (You know it’s true Laddie).  Of course, that cut off my meals and being broke I subsisted on wheat germ mixed with sugar that I stole from the cafeteria… and lots of coffee.

Returning to Bay View I found out that my Mother had run off with the guy who would become husband #3 of an eventual four.  My stepfather had become bitter and more ornery than usual over this turn of events and I found it impossible to live with him.  So I spent the summer with my good friend Bill living in his family’s cottage on Lake Erie.  We both worked at a nearby beach as lifeguards and spent the summer in a blissful bachelor existence.  During the long evenings in the beach house I discovered that Bill, who was in his second year at Kent State, felt as disillusioned with college and vague about his future as me.  Over the course of the summer we agreed that we should both take a leave of absence from college and hitch hike around the country.  Our goal was (at least mine) to “grow up” and see what the world had to offer.  The universal opinion on this plan seemed to be that we were “ruining our lives.”  We went anyway.

When the beach closed for the summer we each shouldered a Navy sea bag and headed south.  To make good our escape and get clear of Buffalo, we took a bus to Pittsburgh.  From there we hitched in the rain to Washington, DC.

After a night in a cheap motel we spent 15 hours the next day going 300 miles.  Following a pleasant night in Lucy Nathan’s Tourist Home in Raleigh, ten minutes of hitching got us a 700 mile ride to Leesburg, FL where things once again went dead.  It was the middle of the night with no one on the road.  When the cops came by the third time, they invited us to sleep in their brand new jail.  We accepted.  I must say I was a little nervous when they took our ID and locked us in, and I was relieved when they let us out in the morning.  Not as nice as Lucy’s but, certainly better than sleeping in the ditch with the snakes.  The next day several rides took us to Miami.
File:Liften in de woestijn.jpg
In hitch hiking you never know what the day will bring.  Often you can stand on a likely spot for hours with no luck.  Or, you will get rides of short distances and get dropped off in the middle of nowhere.  And then suddenly you will catch a ride of hundreds of miles with someone who is going exactly where you want to go. It’s totally random.
In Miami Bill and I set up housekeeping in a one room apartment near the Orange Bowl and started looking for work and sailboats to sign on as crew.  At a local shipyard we found that we could sign on as crew and do the dirty work that the union guys did not want to do anyway.  We spent our days sweating in the sun chipping and painting anchor chain and doing other grunt work.  It paid the rent and kept us in beer.  We found an opportunity to get on the yacht “Holiday” owned by the Squirt Company.  That chance kept moving around and getting delayed so, (impatient me) signed on with the “Brigantine Yankee”.  Bill waited it out for months but finally got to make some great trips on the “Holiday” that took him all through the Caribbean, up the coast to Acapulco and on to California. We both got what we were looking for, I guess.
I made two hitching expeditions to Rollins College in Orlando where my good friend Pete was a student.  On my second visit we drove back to Buffalo together for Christmas.  The Yankee was undergoing renovations below decks at the time.
Returning to Miami I rejoined the Yankee and stayed until early April.  I knew it was time to try to earn some money if I wanted to go back to school, so the brilliant plan was to hitch hike to Alaska where, I had read, opportunities to make big bucks abounded.  I had joined up on this leg of the adventure with a fellow named, Rip Bliss who had been a fellow deck hand on the Yankee.  The trip would be complicated by the fact that Rip had no money.  Thus, our sleeping arrangements on the long jaunt from Miami to Chicago and LA were on various occasions:  An orange grove; a tomato hot house; a railway car and the odd field.  We also relied on the kindness of strangers.  

We often got picked up by religious types and were invited to their services.  We always accepted for the pitch usually included a meal.  I attended in my year of travels; Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Mormon and even Jewish services.  I regarded it as a broadening of my understanding of my fellow man.
File:Map of US 66.svg

Our goal was to hitch hike the length of Route 66 which stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles.  As usual we had good and bad luck and we met some interesting characters along the way.  One day after spending all night trying to get out of Springfield, MO (and searched by cops three different times) we got a ride from a guy who owned a cave…. as in tourist attraction cavern.  He gave us a free tour of the caverns lunch and a ride back to Rt. 66.  We struggled to get to Tulsa and then got a long ride to Ft. Sumner, NM where we slept in a railroad car.  

The next day we got picked up immediately by a WAC (as in female Army) who took us all the way to Rip’s home in Carpinteria, CA. – 1000 miles or so.  Now every guy who’s ever stood by the side of the road with his thumb out has fantasized about being picked up by a sexy female.  Our female did not inspire lustful thoughts. She did, however, stop every 100 miles or so and buy another six-pack.
After a couple of days of food and rest at Rip’s home we continued our journey up to Seattle and arrived (both of us at this point) pretty much broke.  The Alaska thing would have to wait.  Funny thing…  I never have made it up there.  We needed jobs quickly and after getting turned down by the smoke jumpers, hooked on with the Forest Service with their Pine Shoot Moth Survey.  The purpose: To discover the extent of infestation of the pine shoot moth in the ornamental shrubs in various communities in Western Washington.  They were worried that these critters would get into the commercial timber and raise Hell.  

This job had one advantage and one major drawback, the latter being, we would not get our first paycheck for a month.  The advantage was we would be paid per diem while we traveled around the state.  At least we would eat and have a place to sleep.  This worked fine for a couple of weeks until they discovered I had one semester of Entomology and other science courses.  I got yanked off the road and brought in to run the lab and manage the office.  I also got to live in the office located in an abandoned lumber warehouse.  I slept on a half-couch with my feet propped up on a folding chair. I kept milk cold by plugging the bathroom sink and running the water slowly. I salvaged a hot plate and a couple of pans and for amusement trapped mice. 
I was desperately low on cash when I got a well-traveled letter from Jack Alexander, a guy who had come aboard the Yankee as a guest.  He wanted me to call him about a job.  When I called, he offered to send me a round trip plane ticket to Minnesota to look it over.  I was suspicious.  It sounded too good to be true.  On the other hand, what did I have to lose?  Besides, I had never been on a commercial flight and, I was extremely tired of my own meager meal plan.  I had never experienced luxury like that jet flight to Minneapolis and back!  The job involved ostensibly working for the family owned Cold Spring Granite Company, then the largest in the World.  But, the real job was playing big brother to his young sons, aged 13 and 9. His wife was a wheelchair bound MS patient and he traveled all the time.  He wanted me to spend the summer with the boys at their lake cottage and teach them swimming, sailing, gymnastics and anything else constructive I could think of.  The money, with food and lodging included, would be generous enough to enable me to go back to Cornell.  It was a summer job that I would do for the next three summers and always included an extensive canoe trip into the border wilderness between Manitoba and Ontario at the beginning of each summer.
That first year as the summer wound down Bill hitch-hiked up from Southern California and we spent a few days at the lake before hitching together back to Buffalo.  Thus we finished the trip as we had begun a year before…. Standing together at the side of the road with our thumbs out.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Healthcare Follies, Part Two

 In this post I will chronicle my own personal journey through the Canadian and US healthcare systems with my recent heart surgery. Perhaps that will more clearly explain what you can expect if ObamaCare is not spiked by the Supreme Court with their decision next week.

Late last summer I noticed that I was getting out of breath walking up hills or even climbing stairs.  I was well aware that I had a flaky aortic heart valve.  Four or so years earlier when I had some work done on my knee, the “gas passer” in his pre-op exam, told me that sooner or later I was going to have to replace that valve.  I figured that time had arrived so I went to my family doctor in Whistler and he referred me to a specialist.  My appointment came back four months in the future.
Through the hunting season I was taking it slow.  Moose hunting at 5500-foot was not a sprint up the mountain and putting out the decoys a bit of a challenge.  I managed to land a 7-foot sturgeon without keeling over.  Finally, my appointment with the cardiologist came up on the calendar. (January 18.) For my legal protection let’s call him Dr. J.  He gave me a stress test and I flunked.  I checked into Vancouver General Hospital the very next day and they gave me the angiogram.
Turns out that in addition to the flaky valve I had some serious blockages in my coronary arteries (common among long term diabetics like me) and a triple by-pass was the major plan.  While they had my chest cracked they would give me a pig valve too. I would have to sit in the hospital until my surgery hit the top of the waiting list.  The average wait time, I was told, was two weeks but one poor fellow had already been sitting in the hospital waiting for a month.  You could be bumped at any time if someone showed up in worse shape than you.
I did not want to wait.  Once it was clear what needed to be done, I was anxious to get on with it.  Besides, sitting around twiddling my thumbs is torture for me.  My daughters and I were looking for alternatives for heart surgery in Bellingham and Seattle and I had accepted that heading south and paying cash was the way to go.  I needed my medical records to leave and my daughters fought through the bureaucracy at the hospital to get the required documents signed.  “Fine,” they said.  “We’ll send them to you in six weeks.”  That kinda put a kink in my plans to head south.
I don’t know if my threats to leave had anything to do with it (probably) but one week after my stress test I was headed to the operating room.  Nine hours later I had new plumbing and a dandy new valve.
Five days later and already coughing, they sent me home.  The coughing got lots worse and I was passing out because I couldn’t catch my breath.  I could feel the stress on my chest incision and my wired together sternum.  Loi drove me to VGH Emergency where we spent the day with me mostly laying on a gurney in the hall with dozens of other folks.  Finally they sent me home with more prescriptions.
The next week was Hell.  Fortunately, Loi kept notes because I don’t remember much of it.  I did not sleep much except in the recliner in the living room.  All night I would pace to keep the coughing at bay and when I had a “spell” I generally wound up passed out.  Early one morning I woke up to find myself lying in the middle of the living room.  No idea how hard I hit when I went down.
The only way I could communicate with Dr. J., my cardiologist, was via email.  I was begging him to take me seriously and do something.  I explained that I could feel the bones in my sternum moving around.  He was not concerned and his only suggestion was to move my appointment for the following week from the afternoon to the morning.  What a prince!
On the 9th of February.  I asked Loi to take me to Bellingham and St. Joseph’s Hospital.  They examined me and discovered that my chest cavity was half full of fluid and one of my sternum closure wires broken.  They sent me home.  (After this whole thing was over I pressed St. Joe’s to explain why they sent me home.  They explained that they had phoned my Canadian cardiologist, Dr. J., and he had told them he had it under control and was seeing me one week hence.  He suggested another cough syrup.)
That weekend was the worst yet.  No sleep, constant coughing and chest pain.  At one point I passed out and fell out of my chair. On Monday Loi drove me back to St. Joe’s Emergency.  This time they admitted me and Dr. Douglas, their head of cardiology,  came down for a look.  Xrays showed that my chest cavity was full of fluid and I had broken all three wires holding my sternum together and two of them had actually pulled right through the bone.  My incision had ruptured and fluid was running down my chest.  Infection was the big worry.
They sent me down to “Echo” where a doctor with a scary long needle went in through my back and started drawing fluid out of my chest, eventually getting 2.3 liters of juice.  My collapsed lung mostly re-inflated.  Dr. Douglas explained that they would have to crack my chest again and repair the damage but couldn’t do that until they got my chemistry sorted out.  Everything was a mess and it would be three days before they could get things under control and operate.
So, under the knife again only this time with big worries about infection.  They left tubes in my chest to drain and flush and a plug in my arm to pump me full of antibiotics.  I spent nine days in St. Joseph’s and for a couple of weeks afterward still had a thing in my arm where Loi pumped antibiotics into me twice a day.
Prior to the fix-it surgery I had told Dr. Douglas that if he successfully brought me through this that I would treat him to a round of golf and kiss his ass on the first tee.  He has yet to collect, although I am prepared to pay up at any time.  I am fine now.  Back to fishing and playing golf and making plans for travel with Loi.  She was a saint through all of this and it was probably more stress on her than me.

The lesson here is simple.  The original surgery was fine.  My Canadian surgeon did an excellent job.  The follow up care was where the screw-ups occurred. My cardiologist was incompetent or simply did not give a shit. I’m pretty sure it was the latter and if I had not taken the initiative and headed south, his inattention might well have killed me.

In my experience, Canadian hospitals are understaffed both in nurses and housekeeping personnel.  Hence, the nurses are stressed and the hospitals are not as clean as their American counterparts.  There are not enough doctors.  You cannot get a family doctor in south Vancouver.

Canadian health care is what you will get if ObamaCare becomes the US system.  Canadians hope it does not because they want someplace close to go when they really need quality care quickly. And, my liberal friends….. if you get ObamaCare you are going to hate it. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healthcare Follies

This is going to be a two-parter.  The first part focuses on ObamaCare and some generalized discussion on the differences between the US…shall we say…“Commercial”, privately-funded healthcare model and the socialized or single payer (government) model.  Part Two will discuss my own personal interaction with both systems earlier this year.

Part One

Any day now the US Supreme Court is going to rule on the constitutionality of the so-called “ObamaCare Law”, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It was signed into law in March of 2010 after a divisive battle featuring some unseemly political bargaining like the “Louisiana Purchase” and “Cornhusker Kickback”, both the blatant purchasing of votes.  Of course, that was just the beginning of the political maneuvering to get the bill passed and of the granting of exemptions to the provisions of the bill to supportive politicians.  If it’s so great, why do you need an exemption?
26 states joined together in challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare, which is essentially a federal takeover of the healthcare system and a giant step toward the “single payer” system currently used by the UK and Canada among others.  It had been a liberal/progressive dream for years and with a left wing Democrat in the White House and liberals in control of both the House and Senate, the perfect opportunity to cram it down the throats of a reluctant nation.  One of the more onerous provisions of this 2700-page monster was the forcing of every citizen to purchase health insurance from the Federal Government. That provision represents one of the principal sources of funding for the program and one of the pieces most likely to annoy the Justices.
The other major source of financing the program is the looting of Medicare, an already bankrupt program.  One half of the costs are provided by these cuts mostly from chopping $204 billion in funding to the Medicare Advantage Program, a highly popular and effective program enjoyed by some 12 million seniors.  Have not heard about this?  The Obama Administration and their allies in the media know that seniors vote in high numbers and when they figure out that they are the ones getting shafted by Obama, they could cost Obama his re-election. 

To help mitigate the bad karma, Obama spent millions of dollars in taxpayer bucks to run TV ads featuring Andy Griffith touting how great ObamaCare would be. Obama’s soldiers also came up with an $8.5 billion “demonstration project” sponsored by the Dept. of Health and Human Services designed to postpone the cuts until after the election.  The Government Accountability Office called this project a “scam” and said HHS should cancel the program.  In other words, the Administration is spending $8.5 billion of taxpayer money to help insure Obama’s re-election chances. Gee, does this sound like it might be a tad illegal?
Anyway, we’ll know soon when the Supremes weigh in. As a side bar, Obama insulted the Supreme Court yet again when the issue of ObamaCare came before them as he did once before in his State of the Union address.  I dunno, but I have never considered it wise to piss off people in a position to decide your future.
I have never been able to understand the liberal/ progressive obsession with government run healthcare.  It does not work very well, certainly not as well as the US system.  Statistics prove it.  For example:
               Breast Cancer:  US % fatal= 25%                      UK % Fatal= 46%
               Prostate Cancer:  US Fatal= 19%                      UK % Fatal=57%
               Heart Death    UK 19.5% higher than US

Canada has 1/3 fewer doctors than the OECD average.  You must wait an average of 17.3 weeks in Canada before you can see a specialist.  9.7 weeks for an MRI and 36.7 weeks (9 months) to visit an orthopedic surgeon.  Often Canadians will journey south of the border and pay cash rather than wait for their “free” homegrown healthcare.
And it’s really not free.  There are fees and, of course, taxes are high.  British Columbia spends 40% of its budget on health care demonstrating once again that the economic laws cannot be contested, this one being:  “When something is free, there is never enough of it.”  Financial pressure on the system in Canada has brought on cuts in housekeeping staff and increase nursing workload.  That and aging infrastructure has resulted in an increasing number of hospital-acquired infections (MRSA, VRE and C. difficile) killing hundreds.
Then too, there’s always the question of how the money is being spent.  Anything run by the government tends to get bureaucratic and top heavy with administrators.  The UK public health system, for example, has more bureaucrats than doctors.

Canadian hospitals spend a much larger percentage of their budgets on administrators than do their American counterparts.  ObamaCare has mandated whole new bureaucracies by the hundreds.

The flaws in the US healthcare system can easily be improved and corrected by some simple changes.  I have written about these in detail in the past.  That seems a much preferable solution than tossing out the entire system in favor of the single payer model with its demonstrable failures.

But, the political left instinctively favors the government solution and they refuse to learn from experience or accept facts that conflict with their group dogma.  They believe that once adopted that “free healthcare” will become another “third rail” of untouchable government largess and help keep the most generous party (them) in power.  How’s that generosity working out for European socialist economies right now?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Duck Hook

Doug Smithwood stood on the sixth fairway of the Deer Hollow Golf Club gazing up at a red tailed hawk carving lazy circles in a perfect azure sky. He was not so much interested in the hawk as in not looking at his playing partner’s swing. John Stein was a client and played golf with him once a week. It was a big sacrifice, but to keep John’s business, a painful necessity.

John’s swing, which was only slightly better than Charles Barkley’s, annoyed Doug but he also played so slowly that Doug nearly went mad waiting for him. His pre-shot routine surpassed that of the pros playing the final hole of the US Open.

He carefully lined up each shot, plumb bobbed the fairway, took four or five practice swings and waggled and re-gripped like Sergio. Then the mighty lunge at the ball, that invariably screamed down the fairway about eight inches off the ground, usually winding up anywhere but the short grass. Then the same thing all over again for each-and-every-shot. The one good thing you could say about John’s game: his pre-shot routine stayed consistent. A fast round for the two of them was about 5 1/2 hours. The golf club usually left five or six tee times open behind them to prevent mayhem on the course. John spent heavily in the bar and had donated the engraved granite tee-box signs so everyone made allowances.

Doug endured this torture because John had all his personal and company business with his insurance firm, and John, ever cautious, had a lot of insurance; life, health, disability, fire, theft, auto and liability…lots and lots of liability. He even had a ridiculously expensive policy to pay off the IRS estate taxes to preserve his fortune for his two lazy and ungrateful children. A meteorite could strike his Cadillac Escalade in the club parking lot and he would be well covered.

Doug played a pretty fair game of golf, except, of course, when he played with John. His usual handicap of 10 swelled by a dozen strokes on these dreaded Tuesdays, meaning that even with the strokes he had to give John, he still wound up buying dinner and drinks. Doug wrote it off as “client golf” but nonetheless suffered the weekly ritual.

While some might dispute it, Doug thought of himself as a reasonably good-looking man. At least he told himself that each morning as he gazed into the mirror. At just under six feet and lean, or skinny, depending on the light, he tried to imitate the casual stroll of Freddie Couples. He had sandy hair that at 45 showed some thinning. A careful comb-over disguised the worst of it. A lot of days on the golf course in summer and three weeks in Florida in winter, not to mention the odd trip to the tanning salon gave his somewhat irregular features a healthy glow. A weak chin and close-set eyes torpedoed any hope of making the sexiest men of the year list. The eyes he simply covered up by wearing sunglasses rain or shine. The chin? Well, not much could be done about that. He tried a beard, but it grew in clumps, like bunch grass in the high desert. He practiced jutting it out in front of the mirror. It didn’t help. As he often said to himself, “Well, you’re no Hugh Jackman, but you’ll do.”

The towns folk found his vanity harmless, if a bit amusing, and he was generally liked and regarded as honest; an essential character trait for a small town businessman. His insurance business thrived on that opinion and perhaps more so because of his sexy office manager, Melanie.

On this Tuesday, as he stared unseeing at the hawk, he thought wistfully about the lovely Melanie. In the midst of this revelry, a ball struck by the beefy arms of Dr. Eberley, the town’s veterinarian, screeched in a nasty arching hook from the adjacent fifth fairway and collided with Doug’s skull. Witnesses later remarked that it sounded like it had hit one of the substantial oaks that lined the fairways of Deer Hollow. Some uncharitably thought that “oak” pretty much described the consistency of Doug’s head. The impact caused the instant liquefaction of his skeleton and he flopped to the turf like a jellyfish tossed on the shore.

John, of course, missed the whole thing. The loud thwack occurred in the middle of John’s backswing and subconsciously altered his swing such that he struck the ball perfectly. It sailed high and straight, landing softly on the sixth green and rolled to five feet from the pin. Clearly, he had just executed the best shot of his entire life. He screamed with joy and began leaping in the air, waving his arms like a Zulu warrior. After several moments of wild celebration, John turned toward Doug to receive his praise. Only then, spotting his friend inert on the ground, did he realize he probably should go see what was up. But, first things first. He retrieved his divot, stomped it into place, carefully wiped off his five iron and placed it in his golf bag before climbing into the cart to drive over to Doug.

By that time, Doc Eberley and his playing partner, Joe, were already sprinting toward Doug’s lifeless body. Doc was in the lead and the ground trembled as the ex-Notre Dame offensive guard lumbered to the fallen golfer.

“Call 911!” gasped Doc as John’s cart skidded to a stop beside them. Doc gently rolled Doug onto his back, checked his pulse and peeled back his eyes for a peek.

“What happened?” Asked John.

“I hit a duck hook and apparently hit Doug in the head. Look at that lump on the side of his head.”

“Uh, oh,” muttered Joe. He, above all, knew Doc attacked the golf ball like he would a home invading terrorist and that when he got his 320 pounds behind a shot, anything in the path of the ball was in danger. “He gonna live?”

“I dunno. I’m a vet not a doctor, you asshole.”

“Hey look”, exclaimed John. “There’s your ball Doc! I think you have a pretty good angle to the green from here.” Doc swung his huge head toward John, his beefy face red from exertion and stress. He opened his mouth to speak and then turned his gaze back to Doug and shook his head in disgust.

They all turned in the direction of the clubhouse as the sound of a siren carried on the wind. “They’ll be here soon”, Doc said. He bent down to check Doug’s pulse and breathing again.

“Hey guys, you want to join up to finish the round after they haul Dougie away?” asked John.

“You must be kidding. We got a guy here who may die ‘cause I hit him with my golf ball and you want to keep playing?! He’s your friend, for Christ’s sake!”

“Well, shit, I’m layin’ two up there on number six and I don’t get many chances at a birdie.” John gave a stubborn pout and turned away.

“I’m going to the hospital and I’m going to call his wife… Maryanne, is it?”

“I’m going to the bar,” Joe mumbled.

The ambulance careened into view, lights flashing and sirens blasting. It fishtailed alarmingly as it accelerated toward them. The ambulance raced up the middle of the fairway and skidded to a stop, tearing up 20 yards of turf. The two EMTs jumped out and ran up to the group. “Whataya got, Doc?” the tall driver asked.

“Hit in the head with a golf ball. Hasn’t moved since. Pulse weak and eyes dilated,” replied the vet.

“OK, you guys stand back. We’ll take it from here.” The golfers moved off to watch the EMTs check Doug’s blood pressure and pulse before loading him into the ambulance, and with sirens wailing, stormed back down the sixth fairway. Three golf carts pulled up containing the head pro, marshal and several clubhouse hangers on. They all strode quickly up to Doc.

“What happened?” They all shouted in unison.

“I wonder how many times we’ll get to tell this story?” muttered Joe.

“I’m outta here guys,” shouted John as he mounted his golf cart and drove off in the direction of the sixth green and the inevitable three putt.

Doug lay inert in a hospital bed with a Circuit City inventory of electrical equipment beeping and flashing behind him. A nurse was checking his pulse when his wife, Maryanne, swept into the room like an overweight model from the Mother Earth Catalogue. “Is he going to live?” she demanded.

The nurse turned, both startled and curious at the substance and tone of the question. ‘It almost sounds like she’s hoping for a negative response.’ She thought. “Sorry Mrs. Smithwood, I’m not allowed to discuss the condition of patients. You will have to wait for the Dr. Tyabji. He should be here in a couple of minutes.” Maryanne started pacing impatiently up and down at the foot of the bed. Nurse Jones found it odd that Mrs. Smithwood never once looked at her husband or went to his side. She stole sidelong glances at the wife to size her up more carefully. Maryanne stood about 5’6” with a stocky build tending to fat. The auburn hair cut in a short, straight pageboy framed her chubby face that was devoid of make up. The mannish clothes didn’t do her any good, the nurse mused…. ‘Sorta looks like Kathy Bates.’

Dr. Tyabji burst into the room like a greyhound out of the gate, startling them both. “Ah, you must be Mrs. Smithwood!” Tyabji said. His face weaved in a broad grin and his glasses slid dangerously down his long slender nose as he spoke. “I think I have good news.” Nurse Jones noticed a slight frown ghost across Maryanne’s face like the shadow of a vulture before a weak smile creased her chunky features. “Yes, indeed,” continued the doctor in his crisp Indian accent. “We have given your husband an extensive series of tests including a CAT scan, and while he has a slight skull fracture and some minor brain swelling, which we are treating, of course, we are quite confident that he will make a full recovery.”

“But Doctor, he’s still unconscious.”

“Yes, quite. However, you must remember that he has received a severe blow to the head with some minor brain swelling, as I mentioned. When the swelling subsides,” (a difficult word for the good doctor) “he will regain consciousness. I would estimate within 24 hours he’ll be back with us.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I’ll be back tomorrow.” With that, Maryanne turned and stomped from the room. Tyabji turned to the Nurse and they both shrugged.

The next morning Doug’s best friend and personal attorney, Larry Corcoran, sat in Doug’s room talking quietly with Melanie Kulkowski, Doug’s office manager. For the last two hours Larry had been trying his best not to look at Melanie’s shapely legs clearly displayed by her very short skirt. She liked to wear them short and tight, and favored open toed high-heeled sandals. Melanie also preferred to show ample amounts of her considerable cleavage. Thus, whenever he shifted his gaze from her cornflower blue eyes, Larry was confronted with tempting glimpses of Melanie’s considerable assets. Despite her stunning body, Melanie came up a surprising dollar short of being beautiful. It was something about her face that no one could quite figure out.

With her long blond hair and preference for revealing costumes, it would be easy to conclude that Melanie was just another witless bimbo. Larry knew otherwise. He knew that behind the façade of the ditzy blond lurked a shrewd intelligence and keen judgment. She ran Doug’s office with the efficiency of a Chief Boatswain's mate and the charm of an English hostess. She was obviously very concerned about Doug and every few seconds glanced his way as she twisted a damp wad of Kleenex in her lap.

Doug mumbled something incoherent and began thrashing around in the bed. Larry and Melanie jumped up simultaneously and nearly knocked each other over. “Get the doctor!” Larry shouted as he lunged for the bed to restrain Doug. Even as he grabbed him, Larry watched Melanie’s magnificent derriere bunching rhythmically under the snug skirt as she rushed to the door, high heels clattering. He gave a guilty sigh.

Doug had his eyes open and stared up at Larry in confusion as Dr. Tyabji and the Nurse Jones rushed into the room with Melanie right on their heels.

“Ah, Mr. Smithwood, I see you have decided to rejoin us,” beamed Tyabji. Doug, mouth agape, shifted his eyes from one person to another in obvious confusion. “Calm yourself, Mr. Smithwood. You are in the hospital. You were brought here from the golf course where you were struck on the head by a golf ball. Do you remember playing golf?” Doug slowly shook his head no.

“Do you recognize me, Doug?” asked Larry.

Doug studied him carefully as if he were studying mug shots. His brow creased in concentration for a long moment before he shrugged, “No idea.”

“I’m your best friend, Larry. We went to school together… K through 12. I’m also your attorney.

“Sorry. No clue. My name is ‘Doug’?”

“How about me?” Melanie piped in, thrusting forward her unforgettable chest. “I’m your office manager.” Doug’s eyes traveled from Melanie’s face to her generously filled blouse, down to the ringless fingers gripping the bed rail, and back.

“Nope. Nothing. Sorry.”

“Well,” interrupted Dr. Tyabji, “Temporary amnesia is not unusual in cases like yours Mr. Smithwood. You received a nasty crack on the noggin, as they say. Your memory will return in a day or two and then you will be as good as new. For now, that’s quite enough. I think you two should move along and let Mr. Smithwood get some rest. You can come back tomorrow. The nurse will give you a little something to relax, Mr. Smithwood. I will look in on you later.”

Larry and Melanie reluctantly moved to the door and were nearly run over by Maryanne and one Stephen Cotter, Pastor of the New Hope and Commitment Church. Tall, serious, sporting a graying van dyke and ridiculously slender sunglasses, Cotter nodded a greeting at Larry and Melanie. ‘Asshole’, thought Larry. Doug had confessed one night after a few too many beers that he thought the church was a cult. On one of those drunken evenings he’s said they should call it “The Church of What’s Happening Now”.

Maryanne had joined five years ago and had become obsessed with the place, spending all her time there. She had let herself go, gaining 50 pounds and refusing to wear feminine clothes or make up. Their sex life regressed from “not too often” to “never”. And, as Maryanne gave increasing amounts of money to the church, the battles over money escalated to epic wars. Larry had grilled Doug repeatedly on whether he was bonking the charming Melanie who obviously held more than feelings of respect for her boss. Doug had vehemently denied ever touching Melanie and said he respected his marriage vows. Larry believed him. Doug held out the hope that she would get over this fixation with the church. Larry, being the cynical lawyer, remained convinced that Maryanne was doing more on her knees than praying with the slimy pastor. He thought Doug likely shared this suspicion.

Maryanne glared at Melanie and growled, “Out of my way, Ms. Kulkowski.” They’d known each other for eight years and never managed to get beyond the formal form of address.

“You shouldn’t go in there, Mrs. Smithwood. He’s awake but the doctor wants him to rest now.”

“Bullshit!” Maryanne swept Melanie aside with an effortless swing of her thick arm and lurched through the door. She immediately collided with the slight Tyabji knocking him on his backside. As he skidded to a stop on the polished floor, his stethoscope spun to the floor, his glasses dangled from one ear and his careful comb over flopped over his eyes. He uttered a loud expletive, probably in Punjabi, and gave Maryanne a black scowl.

“M-M-Mrs. Smithwood, you must leave. I will speak to you in the hall.”

Maryanne ignored him and stomped to the foot of the bed. “So, you’re awake.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m your wife, Turkey. Don’t pretend you don’t know who I am.”

“Get out of my room. I have no idea who you are.”

“Mrs. Smithwood,” Tyabji pleaded, “I must insist. Your husband needs no stress at this time. You must leave at once.”

“Butt out, Dr. Curry Powder!” Maryanne shouted.

Pastor Cotter eased up next to Maryanne and gently grasped her arm. “Let’s go Mary. He needs to rest.” She relaxed, shot Doug a final glower and then let Cotter lead her out the door like an obedient dog. Tyabji looked at Larry and Melanie standing stunned in the doorway and raised his arms, palms up in the international sign of “beats me”.

“Mary?” Muttered Melanie, “That’s weird!”

Larry and Melanie strolled down the hospital corridor heading for the exit. “She hates my guts,” observed Melanie. Larry stood a head taller than Melanie even in her high heels. It afforded him an excellent angle to admire the delightfully mysterious valley between her breasts.

“Why’s that?” he asked without much interest.

“You’re staring at my tits, Larry…”

“Sorry, Melanie.” He flushed a bright crimson and cleared his throat in embarrassment.

“I think you’re gaping at a couple of reasons.” She replied dryly.

Doug awoke when the first glimmer of dawn brightened his window. He tried to open his mouth and discovered his tongue felt and tasted like a dried buffalo chip. He turned and reached for the plastic cup of water on the side table and the motion provoked a headache that pounded like a huge Japanese drum. After taking a few gulps he lay back on the pillows and began to think.

Where am I? Hospital. Golf ball. Check.

Who am I? Douglas R. Smithwood. Check.

Where do I live? 527 Maple Grove Drive. Check.

What do I do? Own an insurance agency. Check

Who is my wife? Maryanne. Check.

Who is my best friend? Larry. Check.

Who is Melanie? Hmmm. Check.

He closed his eyes trying to ignore the throbbing pain and feared that his skull was about to explode. As he pondered his circumstances and his current situation, a crude and diabolical plan started to take shape. Despite the pain, he smiled.

The next morning Doug had just pushed aside his breakfast tray when Dr. Tyabji walked into the room followed by Maryanne. She was attired in her usual costume of bib overalls, a green, waist-length, cloth coat and work shoes. Doug stared at his wife, his eyes wide and his mouth twisted in the distorted oval of horror. “Good morning, Mr. Smithwood,” chirped the ever-cheerful Tyabji. And, seeing the look on his face, “Are you alright?” Doug gaped open mouthed at Maryanne as the doctor continued. “I have great news, Mr. Smithwood. We are discharging you this morning. You can continue your recovery at home. I am confident that your memory will ret……”

Doug broke him off with a scream. “Noooooo!!! She wants to cut off my legs!” He flailed and thrashed as his screams assaulted their ears. The breakfast tray went flying sending plate, cup and silverware scattering in all directions. An IV stand next to the bed crashed to the floor and skidded to Tyabji’s feet as Doug continued screaming at the top of his lungs.

“Out, Mrs. Smithwood,” shouted Tyabji. “Out, out, out!!” Maryanne bolted for the door, narrowly avoiding another head on collision with a nurse and orderly that were rushing in. All three grabbed Doug who went limp once Maryanne had left.

“She wants to cut off my legs!” He moaned as tears welled in his eyes. “She wants to tie me to the bed and cut off my legs! She’s crazy! Keep her away from me…. Please!”

“Now, now, Mr. Smithwood. Everything is fine now. You just relax.” He nodded at the orderly who jabbed a needle in Doug’s arm. In seconds the drugs delivered Doug to a quieter world.

The doctor left the room muttering with his head down in deep thought. As Nurse Jones approached he asked, “Is Mrs. Smithwood still here?”

“No, Doctor. She ran straight out the door.”

Dr. Tyabji walked briskly down the hall to his office. He punched in a number on his phone and sat back in his chair. “Dr. Goldstein, please. Thank you.” He waited. “Ira. Ashok here. Fine, thank you. Look Ira, I have an unusual case here and was hoping you could stop by this afternoon? Sure, 4 o’clock would be fine. Yes, thanks.”

At mid-morning the next day, Larry and Melanie sat in the waiting room of the hospital as Dr. Ira Goldstein approached. He was dressed in a natty checked suit, tailored white shirt and a red bow tie. The bushy mustache and dark rimmed glasses vaguely reminded Larry of a younger and better-dressed version of Joseph Stalin. After introductions and identifying himself as the clinical psychiatrist called in on Doug’s case, Dr. Goldstein got down to business. “Mr. Corcoran, I am told you are Mr. Smithwood's attorney?” Larry nodded. “Do you have power of attorney?”

Again, Larry nodded and added, “Yes, I do.”

“Good. Well, here’s the situation. Mr. Smithwood seems to have developed a case of trauma induced paranoid schizophrenia.”

“What?!” they both responded in unison.

“Yes, regrettably. He seems to have developed an unnatural fear of his wife. I met with his wife and I think I have discovered the root of these fears.” Larry and Melanie leaned forward. “I noticed that she bears a striking resemblance to Kathy Bates as she looked in the movie ‘Misery’.”

“Huh?” exclaimed Larry.

“You know, Larry. The movie with James Caan. Bates kept cutting off body parts to keep him around,” Melanie explained.

“Precisely, Ms. Kulkowski.” Replied Ira, sneaking a peek at the restless puppies undulating under Melanie’s sheer silk blouse. “The amnesia is blocking his normal memory, so his deep subconscious fears are coming to the surface. Apparently the movie made a lasting impression on him. However, given time for Mr. Smithwood’s injuries to heal and treatment, I think we can manage a full recovery for him. Umm, he does have adequate medical coverage, I assume.”

“Yes, Doctor. He’s an insurance executive,” said Melanie.

“This hospital is not a suitable environment for treatment of this type of illness. I would like to recommend the Greentree Rehabilitation Center over in Avalon. It’s an excellent facility with plenty of activities and a first rate staff. No high maintenance patients, if you know what I mean. I think he would be very comfortable there, and quite convenient for me to continue his treatment. What do you say Mr. Corcoran? Shall we sign the paperwork now and get Mr. Smithwood on his way to recovery?”

“What about Maryanne… his wife?” asked Larry.

“Well Mr. Corcoran, since Mr. Smithwood is incapacitated and you have his power of attorney, you are tasked with the responsibility of acting in his best interests. His wife really has no say in the matter.”

“OK. I guess long term care is what’s best for him,” Larry replied sadly. “Can we see him and explain this to him?”

“Of course. I think that would be appropriate. I’ll see you in the waiting room when you are ready.”

Larry and Melanie slipped quietly into Doug’s room. He was awake and watching a baseball game on TV with the sound muted. “Hi Doug,” said Larry. Melanie waved. Doug just nodded. “I suppose you don’t remember us?” He shook his head. “Look Doug, the doctors think you’d be better off in a place where you could relax and get well, some place other than this damn hospital. That OK with you?” Doug simply nodded. “Alright, buddy, we’ll take care of it. We gotta run now so you just take it easy, man. We want you to get well soon.”

As Melanie followed Larry out the door she turned back to look at Doug. Tears blurred her vision as she stepped out the door. She stopped, stood motionless and thought, ‘Did he just wink at me? Nah.’ As Larry headed down the hall to meet with Ira, she turned back and opened the door, peering around it. Doug was grinning at her… a big shit-eating grin. He waved and winked again. She shut the door and said aloud, “Damn!” With heels clicking on the hard floor, she pulled out her Blackberry and typed, “Larry, we gotta meet.”

Maryanne sat across from Pastor Cotter in the curiously over decorated living room of his rectory house. She was garbed in her usual costume while Cotter sported a carefully tailored dark suit, custom made shirt and red Hermes tie.

“That asshole Corcoran signed the papers to get Doug committed. He’s going over to Greentree in Avalon.” Spat Maryanne.

“What’s the diagnosis?” asked Cotter.

“Paranoid schizophrenia from the crack on the head. At least that’s what the Jew psychologist, Goldstein, thinks.”


“Yeah, whatever.”

“Look, maybe this is the answer to your prayers. Let him sit there for a few months and then file for divorce on the grounds of loss of companionship and sexual services.”

“Ha. What sex?” Maryanne snorted.

“Hear me out. Whether he recovers or not you can still claim the same grounds. Keep in mind that his insurance and settlements for his injuries, plus his other assets will amount to a considerable amount of money. You should be able to get at least half, especially with the right attorney.”

“Go on. I’m listening.”

“We have an excellent lawyer representing the church. I’m sure I can convince him to take your case free of charge, assuming, of course, that you would go ahead with that large donation to the church we discussed.” Cotter looked up with a benign expression.

“Deacon Mary?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“You’re brilliant, Stephen! I love this plan.”

“Wonderful. I’ll call Eldridge in the morning.”

“Er, Stephen…. Right now I’m so excited I think I need something to relax.”

“Were you thinking a drink or something more ah, physically relaxing?” Cotter made an obvious effort to adjust the bulge in his trousers. She caught the move and smiled shyly.

“Do you think we could change into the white silk prayer robes? The sensation of the silk against my skin makes me feel very spiritual.”

“Of course, Dear. Let me fetch them.”

Judge Harry Blackburn lumbered into the conference room like the big bear that he resembled. He carried himself with the round-shouldered slouch of large, heavy men. Peering over the glasses perched on his prominent and very red nose, he twitched his Groucho-like eyebrows and rumbled, “Good Morning, folks. I am Judge Blackburn and we are here today to consider the matter of the divorce between Mr. and Mrs. Smithwood and the disposition of assets in that divorce. All parties have agreed that my decisions will be final. Correct?” He glanced around the table for agreement. They all nodded in agreement.

“You folks will have to answer verbally so the steno can record your answers.” They all responded with a muted ‘yes’.

“Mr. Corcoran, I understand you will be acting for Mr. Smithwood who is indisposed and currently residing at Greentree. I have a copy of the power of attorney authorizing you to do so among the other documents provided to the court in this matter.” He glanced at Larry who voiced his agreement. The Judge flipped open a file and hummed to himself, his eyebrows bobbing like two mating marmots as he shuffled the papers within.

“Mr. Eldridge, in addition to representing Mrs. Smithwood I understand that you are also the attorney for the New Hope and Commitment Church. Are you here representing any interest for the church in this matter?”

“Oh no, Your Honor. As you know, an attorney has many varied clients. The church’s interests are not an issue here.”

“Then you see no conflict of interest with this case?”

“No, of course not, Your Honor.”

“Good. Then in the interest of full disclosure I should state that I had my grand daughter abducted from that same church and sent to deprogramming. I am happy to state that she is doing well now and is a sophomore at Colgate. This presents no problem for you I expect, Mr. Eldridge?”

“Ah…..” Eldridge hesitated and frowned. Thinking.

“Come, come, Mr. Eldridge. We both have a past experience with the church but it is in no way connected to this case. Right?”

“No, certainly not Your Honor.” The judge glanced over at the court stenographer who nodded slightly. Maryanne shot Eldridge a worried look.

“Very well, then. I have read the doctor’s reports on Mr. Smithwood’s condition, especially the extensive file submitted by Dr. Goldstein who has been treating Mr. Smithwood for the past six months. It appears that his condition has not improved and the prognosis is that he will remain as he is now for the balance of his life.” He again glanced at Larry who responded.

“Yes, Your Honor, all medical authorities recommend permanent long-term care. Therefore, I….”

“It’s bullshit!” Maryanne interrupted. “He’s faking it. He just wants all the money and that won’t leave any for the chur--OOOOPH.” Eldridge had jabbed a sharp elbow into Maryanne’s ribs. She glared at him with angry porcine eyes.

“What my client means, Your Honor, is that she feels the division of assets, as proposed by Mr. Corcoran, are unreasonable and will not allow her to live in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.” Eldridge smiled at the Judge who was frowning skeptically.

“I think we are getting ahead of ourselves here,” offered the Judge. “Why don’t we let Mr. Corcoran lay out the assets in question and his proposals and then we can have that conversation? Proceed, Mr. Corcoran.”

“Thank you, Your Honor. As you know from the report, Mr. Smithwood had two insurance policies for disability: one for a catastrophic occurrence, i.e. his total inability to function; and another under his medical policy for long-term care. In addition, there is the award from the suit against Dr. Eberly for his errant golf ball and the settlement with the golf ball and club manufacturers as well as the Deer Hollow Golf Club. Since he can no longer manage his insurance business, I have negotiated the sale of that business.”

The Judge smiled. “You have been busy Mr. Corcoran.”

“Yes, Your Honor. Everyone seemed quite happy to settle this matter quickly.”

Maryanne jumped from her chair and slapped away her lawyers restraining hand. “You assholes are being conned. Doug is no nuttier than I am,” she shouted.

Judge Blackburn slowly raised his pale blue eyes and stared at Maryanne. “That seems to be a matter for some debate, Madam. Now sit down and kindly shut up. Continue, Mr. Corcoran.”

“Thank you, Your Honor. I have proposed placing these assets in the trust fund established for Mr. Smithwood’s care. He is quite a young man and the costs of hospitalization and treatment over many, many years will be considerable. A projection of these costs prepared by a firm specializing in this area is attached to my proposal.”

“I object,” interrupted Maryanne’s lawyer.

“You can’t object, Mr. Eldridge” the Judge responded. “This is not a courtroom. You have no jury to impress with theatrics here.” Eldridge slumped in his chair.

Larry continued, “I have further proposed that Mr. Smithwood’s other assets; his house, summer cottage, two automobiles, boat, stock portfolio and 401K be allocated to Mrs. Smithwood. The value of these assets is in excess of $1.5 million dollars and should sustain her comfortably for the rest of her life..”

Maryanne howled in protest, “This is robbery! He gets nearly $8 million dollars and I get screwed! This is a scam!”

The Judge turned his steely gaze at Maryanne. “Mrs. Smithwood, I should point out that it was YOU who petitioned for divorce. Now then, I have carefully studied this matter and thoroughly reviewed the figures with full consideration of Mr. Smithwood’s requirements. I am entering a ruling that the divorce is final and the assets distributed according to Mr. Corcoran’s outline. This matter is concluded.”

Maryanne pivoted in her chair and cuffed Eldridge on the back of the head knocking his careful hairdo askew. “Idiot! You said I’d get at least $5 million in cash, then I could give the church a million!” Eldridge ducked another swing at his head.

“Control yourself, Mrs. Smithwood or I shall call a deputy!”

Larry casually strolled barefoot down the white sand beach relishing the warm sun and the views of the swaying palms and the sparkling Caribbean waters. He carried a tall, sweating glass and was dressed in a floral Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks. With dark sunglasses, he scanned the long stretch of beach looking for his friends. He finally spotted them on lounge chairs in the partial shade of a tall palm tree and approached. “Hi, guys. You look comfy.”

“Hey, Larry. Looks like you’ve gone native already. When did you get in?” asked Doug.

“Last night. Hi, Mel, you look ravishing. I wasn’t aware that they made swim suits smaller than my sunglasses.” The microscopic blue bikini defied the laws of physics and any pretense at modesty. The jewel in Melanie’s perfect navel transfixed him as it twinkled in the sunlight.

“Eat your heart out, buddy,” Doug laughed as he followed Larry’s gaze.

“Any problem getting out of Greentree?” Larry asked.

“Nah, remember you set it up that I was in there at my own request, so I just packed up and walked out.”

“Excellent. I went over to the bank this morning. I transferred your trust fund to the Caymans Bank and Trust. I also signed the papers creating the “International Rehabilitation & Treatment Center”. Your care will now be under their auspices. It’s a numbered company with Melanie as the only director.

“My, my,” Doug exclaimed. “You’ve been a very busy boy since you got to town.”

Larry acknowledged the compliment with a modest bow. “So Melanie, what kind of treatment does the famous IR&T have in mind for our Mr. Dougie here?”

“We’re thinking that an extended European tour might do him a lot of good,” Melanie responded.

“No doubt.”

“I will be going along to insure his care is adequate.”

“Totally appropriate, I’m sure.”

“By the way Larry, we have a tee time at 9am tomorrow,” Doug interjected. “You’re gonna have to give me at least ten strokes. Due to the long lay off, I seem to have developed a nasty hook.”