The boogie man is going to get you!

I remember working at a boy’s camp where we had a problem with the boys leaving their shoes all over the place.  The solution to this problem was to tell the campers that there was a boogie man by the name of THE JERSEY DEVIL who prowled around camp at night stealing shoes and taking any camper who dared to venture out of their cabin.  This worked quite well to take care of the shoe problem, so well that some kids would pee their bed to avoid leaving the cabin!  That’s not good!  Somehow our culture has taken the path of peeing in the bed instead of leaving the cabin and finding out that there really is no boogie man.  One of our biggest fears is crime.  How many of you know that crime has been decreasing since somewhere around 1990. Almost every measurable crime statistic has dropped since 18 years after Roe v Wade in 1972, but that is another discussion.  The problem is a media that reports every situation that occurs around the world, so that they can cram it into a news show with video and interviews and 27 8×10 glossy photographs!  Of course there are murders, of course there are other crimes, a small portion of humans have no problem doing these things.  The problem is with the immense amount of information we are inundated with is staggering.  Statistically we will not be murdered, our houses will not be broken into, our cars will not be stolen (unless you own a very expensive car)  and the chances of being involved in a terrorist attack are almost non-existent! THAT DOES NOT MEAN STUFF WILL NEVER HAPPEN, but the chances of any of these things happening to us is very small.

The following link is loaded with data on our chances of being involved in a crime.  It points out some rather obvious facts about crime.  In short, if you go to, or live in rough places, hang out with suspect people or just make dumb decisions, your chances of being in a crime are much much higher.  Well duh… The data boils down to your chances of being in a crime are about 2% overall.  That is an all-inclusive number which groups the almost zero chance of being in a crime with the absolute boneheads who constantly put themselves in crime’s backyard.  You probably should glance at this data just to make sure you are not doing some dumb things that put you in harm’s way.

http://www.crimeinamerica.net/2010/12/13/what-are-my-chances-of-being-a-victim-of-violent-crime/

I guess the point of this article is to help people understand that YOU CANNOT LIVE IN A BUBBLE!  When I would discuss this issue with my students, I would tell them that they should consider some of the real threats that face our planet, like earthquakes, or plagues, or meteor impacts, or cosmic events like a black hole within 50 light years of earth, or the warming ocean spewing out methane and destroying our air, or just general pollution of our environment causing who knows what kind of problems!

Life is a gift to all of us and it would be a shame to spend its entirety worrying about every possible catastrophe that could happen.  Should I go skiing, I might break my leg or should I ride my bike, I might get hit by a car, or maybe I should stay indoors so I never get any sun.  Where does it stop?!  I wrote this once before, SHIT HAPPENS!  There is no way you can anticipate everything that can happen, you can only weigh the choices and the risk and make a decision.  Remember, life was meant to be lived, not sheltered just to stay alive.  There is little use in being alive if there is not a little challenge.  Sure, as we get older certain activities become increasingly risky but that is when you have to adjust your decision-making so that you can do other things.

To wrap this up I want to emphasize my main point.  News media is about ratings.  The more people who watch their shows, the more money they make, it is that simple!  The way to make you watch these shows is to convince you that your survival is based on staying tuned in.  Fear is the driving force behind most news.  The next time you watch a news show, make a mental note of everything they say that is based on fear of something.  You will be surprised at your findings.

One final point a little off topic.  The young people in our country are generally restless.  Violence in youth and drug use seem to be on the rise. Maybe the rebelliousness of youth in general is reacting to this constant onslaught of fear based media.  By its nature, adolescence usually does not react properly to fearful situations.  Just thought I would throw that in.  I need to spend some more time contemplating this idea.  I would love to hear what some of you think about this or any issue I write about.

 

My pot holes are filled!

Call it the power of the pen, God’s divine wisdom, luck or just plain random events, Martinsburg Grade Rd has been patched!

Today’s ride was much less eventful with no near fatal crashes due to potholes.

Thank you someone.

Now we need to talk about Ed Arnold Rd and Bear Wallow Rd!

Riding my bicycle on our lovely Hampshire County state roads

Yeah, the scenery is often wonderful but most of the time during my 9 mile trek I have to keep my eyes on the road for fear of hitting one of the gargantuan potholes that inhabit our back roads.  I would love to watch the trees zoom by and the beautiful green hills all around but noooo, I can’t, because the minute I take my eyes off the road I risk hitting one of the canyons in the road and possibly dying!

I have decided to make a pictorial of my bike journey on Ed Arnold Road, Martinsburg Grade Road, Bear Wallow Road and finally Ed Arnold Road.  The trip is about 9.3 miles and requires lots of steep climbs and exhilarating downhills, which are lots of fun, when you are not dodging potholes.  It generally takes anywhere from 38 minutes to 45 minutes depending on what kind of physical condition I am in.  For the last several months I have been attempting to ride the loop, but the condition of the roads is deplorable! I have decided to take pictures of the road so that you can see what challenges lie for travelers on the back roads of Hampshire County.

I start out on Ed Arnold Rd which is bumpy but somewhat rideable.  Here is the first trench I must navigate around.

As I continue on Ed Arnold Rd the holes get bigger.

And bigger….

And deeper….

And more extensive….

And wider….

and scarier….

Do you think that might take out a ball joint?

Hard to get around this one.

I need a wider angle lens to take these scenes.

After leaving Ed Arnold Road I travel up the mountain on Martinsburg grade which , for some reason, has been patched.  Then I turn onto Bear Wallow for some real hole-dodging.

and….

And….

Just a few more….

and the final hole for the day.

What is really crazy is that I wasted several hours of time taking these pictures, downloading them and putting them together for the worst blog in the history of blogging!  Being a bike rider in West Virginia is hard enough with the narrow roads and sometimes unfriendly drivers, but some of our roads are not even safe for a slow moving car, let alone a fast moving bike! Well, I have wasted enough of your time as well as mine.  If you know someone who has any authority on road maintenance, please forward this to them and you may save the life of a biker.

Apologies

Cosmic Charley has not left the county, which may cause some folks remorse.  I am still here and must apologize to my three readers for not writing much lately.  It’s summer and it is hard to sit in front of this terminal and not be outside working on projects or riding my bike.  I will return soon with more useless dribble to occupy your time and new PODCAST to listen to.  I saw Sally See, from the Hampshire Review, my sponsoring newspaper, in the Food Lion the other day and asked her if she listened to my new PODCAST and she said no, I was heartbroken!  Don’t worry, I will recover from that.  I must admit it is hard not writing, with President Meathead providing so much amazing, funny and scary material to write about, so I will be back soon.  I hope you all are having as fantastic a summer as I am!

Shalom

I think the Federal budget can be balanced

 

If you would rather listen to my charmingly delightful voice rather than read it, you can click on the following link.

 

This seems like a no-brainer to me: if there is one thing this country needs to do as soon as possible, it is balance the budget!  Unless we want to end up like Greece and many other countries, this needs to happen now.   We all know what happens to us personally if we continue to spend more money than we have.  There are three basic things that must be done to balance the budget without taking away essential programs from the needy.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Everyone talks about how social security is going to implode in about 20 years.  This is the easiest of all our problems; raise the taxable social security amount a whole bunch, say to a million dollars.  Us middle class folks are the backs the rich stood on to make their fortunes, why can’t they pay a little more?  Last time I checked the maximum salary to contribute to social security is $117,000, everything made over that amount is social security tax-free.  Change that!

MILITARY

Reduce the military budget by a mere 10%.  You could even do it over a couple of year period so as not to impact the economy too severely. That would amount to $60,000,000,000 (that’s billion).  Do you know that 20% of every dollar we pay in taxes goes to the military, of which 4% is spent on veterans from our many conflicts?  And that is just the part that shows up in the budget.  No wonder there is little money left for education or roads or most everything!  Does that seem nuts to you?  It does to me.  According to a survey done in 2015 by Ashley Kirk, with The Telegraph, we spend more than the next 10 civilized countries added up!  There is no doubt that we need to remain a strong military force on the planet but at what point does this become absurd!  If you look at the chart you can see how crazy it is.

 

The world’s 25 largest defense budgets

Country Defense budget
United States 569.3
China 190.9
United Kingdom 66.5
Russia 53.2
France 52.7
India 49.7
Japan 49.3
Saudi Arabia 46.3
Germany 43.8
South Korea 35.7
Australia 34.3
Brazil 30.7
Italy 29.0
Canada 17.2
Turkey 15.9
Israel 15.6
United Arab Emirates 14.7
Taiwan 14.5
Spain 13.9
Algeria 12.4
Poland 12.2
Netherlands 10.6
Singapore 10.4
Pakistan 10.3
Iraq 10.3

Why I don’t want to go to heaven

While I was contemplating the mountains, rivers and valleys of life the other day, a strange notion came over me.  All my life I have listened to people expound on the wonders of heaven and how they hoped to be there some day.  I have never been particularly religious, but I have wondered and pondered what this special place might be like.  The only information I have to go on is my limited bible study and what I hear ministers and priests talk about in the many church services and funerals I have attended.  Funerals seem to be the best occasion for promoting the heaven idea since someone you are probably close to has passed away and in your grief you are hoping they have gone to a ‘better place,’ and you are also wondering about your own demise.  Many preachers look at this moment in life as an opportunity to recruit more members into the fold so they hypothesis over and over again about the beauties of heaven and why we all should come to their church, thus ensuring a place at the heavenly buffet.  Although the renderings of this special place one goes to at the end of life are somewhat consistent in many ways, there are some subtle differences.  The most talked about benefits of heaven are the meeting of past friends and loved ones.  When I mentioned this to a friend he responded in this way:  “What if your wife died and you remarry?  Who would you hang out with in heaven?  Who would you go to bed with, or do you sleep in heaven?”  I am not sure if you can have two wives in heaven-probably not.  That is more likely the heaven down the street.  I shrugged my shoulders to imply that I did not have an answer to that.  I assume that obesity is nonexistent in heaven since every one is healthy, which means you may be on some stupid diet the rest of your existence.  Or alternatively, you can eat anything you want and as much as you want and not get fat!   I use the word ‘existence’ because in heaven you never have to die again which could pose a population problem.  I have to tell you, I LOVE TO EAT!  In fact, when I think of heaven, my second thought is that again, eating the best food I can imagine and plenty of it is the way heaven was meant to be.  If you are wondering about my first understanding of heaven, it is that it is more carnal in nature.  If you tell me there is no such activity in heaven, I will be quite disappointed; in fact, I may start doing bad things to ensure I am not sent there!

I have always believed that heaven and hell are right here, right in one’s everyday life.  I would certainly love to believe that after I die I am going to this beautiful banquet with lots of loving people where everyone is nice, such that he helps you when your car breaks down or holds a door for you when your hands are full.   But it’s hard to believe that the multitude of people, whose only interest seems to be their own well-being, are going to suddenly turn into loving, caring people!  In my early life I led a folk group for a service at a very large church in Prince Georges County, Maryland.  The one thing I remember most is the lemming-like exodus, with little to no regard for their fellow Christians, to get out of the parking lot after mass.

I am one of those people who stop when someone needs help or holds a door when someone needs it, but I do it because it is the right thing to do and not for any other reason.  It also makes the world a better place to live in.  My calling here on earth is to make my life and the people’s lives around me as much like heaven as possible.  Christ told us how to be good people, and even though I do not expect to see him when I die, I live by his rules.  Let’s work hard to make heaven right here on earth!  As for the folks who are convinced they are going to heaven at death, I hope they do. For myself I hope your God is forgiving enough to look past all my skepticism and scientific way of thinking and let me in as well. To this I say, amen!

The facts about health insurance

Bernie Sanders said it best, “Health care is a basic human right”.  It is only right that all people in a first-world and third-world country should have access to very affordable insurance, if not free (government subsidized), not just the rich or famous, but all people!  Currently we are one of the least healthy countries in the civilized world.  You have to go down the list of total health indicators all the way to #37 to find the USA.  The more important factor is that our expenditures on health care are one of the highest in the world at 17% of GDP.  Connect this idea with the fact that we have some of the best medical care on the planet and one has to wonder where lies the discrepancy? It is true that in our country many hospitals and doctors practice some of the most sophisticated and incredible medicine known to man but it is also true that much of this service is not available to the common person.  Many folks receive second class care because the first question that is asked of the potential patient is, “Do you have health insurance?”.  If the answer is no, then you are treated differently and in some cases denied service or told to go to another hospital.

Where do we rank in WORLD HEALTH as a country?

World Health Organization Ranking; The World’s Health Systems

1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 USA

Much of the following information was taken from this site: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective You can see many other related charts at this site. Notice how much more we spend than all the other first world countries!  Don’t forget that all the countries on this chart other than the US have government supported health care.

France is rated by the World Health Organization to have the best health care in the world, and spends 11.6% of its GDP for health insurance for every person living in France.  In France it is a basic human right to have health care.   In America we spend 17.1% GDP on health and we insure only about 70 to 80% of the population.  We spend almost 50% more per person then the next country on the list, Sweden, and we do not even cover all Americans!

Again, look how much money we spend on health care!  So, where is all this money going?  Who is getting rich off our medical system?  Congress is so focused on cutting health care, you would think they might want to find out where the money is going. Lets ask Dr. Obvious where all the money is going. His answer might be something like this: Its going to the pharmaceutical, insurance and instrument companies.  Why do the republicans want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and not fix it?  Because it is trying to take money from the rich corporations and many of our congressman’s pockets are lined with money from these giant companies!

Check out the average age of Americans on this chart.  We die sooner than citizens of all the countries on this list! We often spout off about taking care of our young, so how come we have the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world? It is not often that the answer to our many problems are so easily solved but this one is.  We need to go to a single payer insurance plan and eliminate the money from health care. As long as money is the key driver in our medical care, we are going to receive second class health care and the poor are going to suffer greatly.  Wake up America, we are being fleeced by large corporations and it is only going to get worse if we continue on the path we are on!