Sunday, February 27, 2011

Small Town Crime

One of my favorite things about living in a small town is the crime. We don’t have much of it. Sure, people get stabbed, and sure, there are gangs, drugs, and domestic violence. People get ripped off . But a cozy little rural town of less than 20,000 people can’t seriously compete with big city crime. Our local small-town newspaper publishes a daily Police Report, which serves to remind me of how grateful I am to live in comfort and safety far from the war-torn strife of distant lands.

Last week a brief news item appeared in our paper reporting that Gadhafi’s mercenaries in Libya had fired an anti-aircraft gun at a mosque and killed 23 people, wounded at least another 150 while at worship. On the same page with this horrific piece of news was our local Police Reports, including the following:
“YELLED AT FOR BRINGING IN CANS – Caller on W. Gobbi St. reported at 5:20 PM that her neighbor yelled at her for moving her garbage cans out of the street; an officer responded and counseled the parties.”
Hmm. Libyan violence or police counseling garbage can bickerers? I choose the bickering neighbors. So don’t take this blog the wrong way. I’m grateful that these are our Police Reports here where I live. But they make for a good laugh. Here are some recent Police Report headings from our newspaper:

Kids Moved Traffic Cones
People Setting Up Camp in Parking Lot
Man Walking in Traffic
Noisy Skateboarders Behind Kohl’s
Son Refusing to Go to School (an officer was actually dispatched and “counseled” the family)
Sunglasses Stealer Caught on Tape
Dog Broke into Yard (did not say it crapped there but we can read between the lines)
Cleaning People Yelling
Man Down in Phone Booth (phone booths still exist?)
Smelly Food (I didn’t realize this was a crime but I always thought it oughta be)
Naked Man Laughing in Street
Man Exposing Himself on a Porch (OK, this was what the naked man was laughing at in the street, it all makes sense now)
Man Denied Alcohol (I wonder if the denied or the denier called the cops on that one)
Pumpkin Smashed (no mention of toilet paper in trees)
Sisters Arguing Over Sweater
Bird Trapped in Car Wash
Having Sex on a Car
Car Being Driven on 4 Flat Tires (can you actually do that?)
Man Yelling Under a Bridge (that sounds kinda like fun)
Man Would Like Gun Back
Water Smells Like Glue (someone is living in a former meth lab)
Man with Pants Down (an officer responded and advised the man to pull his pants up)

Those were actual Police Report headings. Personally, I think the paper should slip some fictional ones in there once in awhile for small town entertainment and to keep us on our toes. Here are some suggestions I have come up with:

Woman Wearing Outdated Unfashionable Sweater
Kids Set up Lemonade Stand without Vendor’s Permit
Two Women Having Sex on a Car in a Car Wash – Men Block Traffic Watching
Naked Man Smashing a Pumpkin with Stolen Hammer Caught on Tape
Choir Singing Hallelujah Chorus Under Bridge
Girl Scout Moons Biker from Porch
Man Cuts in Line at Post Office
Homeless Woman Chewing Gum Does Not Offer Any to Others at Shelter
Cleaning People Yelling at Bird for Taking Man’s Gun in Phone Booth
Man Wearing Pants Backwards in Parking Lot
Sheets Stolen from Clothesline
Cherry Pie Stolen from Window
Yogi Bear Spotted in Todd Grove Park

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Paying the Price for Health Care

A few weeks ago, my son Akili fell off his bike and broke his ankle. I didn’t find out about it until the next day, after he went to Urgent Care. He broke his ankle on a Wed. night. Although he was experiencing blinding pain, he made his biking friends promise not to call an ambulance and not to take him to the emergency room. He instructed them to take him home, which they did. He blacked out en route. At home, he took some prescription painkillers he had leftover from when he had his wisdom teeth removed. The painkillers worked well enough for him to get some sleep. As soon as Urgent Care opened in the morning, he was there. The painkillers were only marginally numbing the pain by then. What is wrong with this picture?

My son should have gone immediately to the emergency room. He didn’t because he feared the cost. A visit to Urgent Care is less expensive than a visit to the emergency room. The cost of an ambulance ride is the equivalent of putting a down payment on a car. Akili has private health insurance to help with these costs, but it does not cover everything and he was correct in thinking that an ambulance ride would cost a small fortune. The emergency room would have been within reach, but he didn’t know that for sure at the time. Fortunately, things worked out fine for him. The break was a common type of break and was successfully repaired by an excellent orthopedic surgeon. Akili is now on the mend, although out of commission for a bit. But it makes me furious that my son endured the pain he suffered immediately after the accident because of the obscene price tag on health care services.

It is ironic that Obama’s Health Care Reform legislation is perceived as a new paradigm in health services delivery when instead it is simply a feeble attempt at health insurance reform. It has done nothing to reduce the cost of health services. I am all for keeping the greedy health insurance industry in check. And I am all for reducing the cost of health insurance coverage. I think that the reaction of health insurance companies to the legislation is proof positive that it’s a move that will benefit us consumers in the long run. But in the short term, the legislation seems to have sufficiently angered the health insurance companies for them to raise their rates astronomically and blame it on Health Care Reform (who believes this hogwash?) in order to turn people against the legislation. When I called Blue Shield to complain about the rate hikes, the person I spoke to told me that he had been instructed to tell callers that the rates went up because of Health Care Reform! Corporate bullies. All of it makes me sick, but I can’t afford to see a doctor until I pay off Akili’s medical bills.

We need a new paradigm that ensures that health care professionals are well-paid while at the same time making medical care affordable to regular folks. Everyone should be able to call an ambulance or go to the emergency room without fearing they are selling their soul to the devil to pay for the services they need. If socialized medicine will do the trick, then I invite you to convince me that something is wrong with it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


If I didn’t talk about Egypt this week, then I’d be ignoring the elephant in the middle of the room. I doubt that the families and friends of those few people who lost their lives in Egypt during the past two weeks of protest would call it a peaceful revolution, nonetheless that’s pretty much what just happened. And it was spearheaded by the younger generation, sparked in large part by several years of social networking conversations and then young Google employee Wael Ghonim’s Facebook page entitled “We are all Khaled Said,” named for a political activist who was killed by the police. Could this peaceful revolution have coalesced and been successful before Facebook or Twitter? That question should give us all pause.

I have to wonder what if. What if we had had Facebook and Twitter in 2003 when Bush invaded Iraq? What if all the people who marched in the streets to prevent and protest that War on Iraq had gone to Washington and stood on the mall? Millions of people, like the people in Tahrir Square. What if we had stood outside Bush’s window and refused to go home for days and weeks until he ceased and desisted? What if we had stood until he stepped down? What if the U.S. military had seen the reason in the argument and had kept the peace, refusing to take sides, until the issue was resolved? Until the war was abandoned. Until Bush was sent scurrying back to Daddy in Texas.

Instead we all stayed home in our comfy houses with our big screen TVs, our cars in the garage, our cell phones blinking, our refrigerators full of food going bad because of the over-abundance. We paid our taxes and were complicit, pacified, silent. We did not risk our lives to make history. We failed to change. In 2003, there was no Facebook to spread the word or organize and there was no Twitter to communicate instantly in real time to everywhere. But even if these tools had been at our disposal, we would still have given up and gone home and let Bush annihilate Iraq to protect the oil interests of his family and the corporations that still gouge us at the pump. The young people of Egypt have shown the world what is possible with the courage and righteous rage that Americans lack. We are spineless. Egypt, you put us to shame.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

End of Football Season

Since I am not a Steelers or Packers fan, from my perspective this football season is fading out with a whimper not a bang. Although I know a little bit about some of the players, and have some favorites (including Aaron Rodgers who grew up in nearby Chico and spent 5 years in Ukiah in elementary school), I have not followed these teams in recent years. That won’t stop me from watching the Super Bowl. I just won’t be on the edge of my seat. But football is football and I continue to be amazed at the life lessons the game teaches me. Today I am celebrating 10 years of conversion to football adoration, this being the 10th Super Bowl I will have watched since I started paying attention to the game.

My favorite football aphorism is “It’s a game of inches.” I love the way players take a leap at the end of a run to secure even the shortest gain because it could and sometimes does make a difference, the way a defensive line can sometimes stop a touchdown even a hair from the goal line, the way a downed player will extend his arm to place the ball as far further down the field as possible because every little bit helps. And sometimes the difference between success and failure is without a doubt measured in those inches won or lost. Football reminds me to put out my best effort, trust in the potential impact of seemingly trivial things, strive to promote the positive in thoughts and gestures both large and small, and believe in miracles.

Oh, Football. I will so miss you. It’s a long way to September.