Monday, July 24, 2017

Epilogue: The Great BofA Bank Robbery...

Those of you patriots who have been following the little saga of the Bank of America's refusal to return the Chuckmeister's money following the sad and untimely demise of his lovely and patient wife, will be anxious to read this, the Final Chapter, the "post mortem," so to speak, in that painful drama.  

Those of you who haven't are invited to scroll down and acquaint yourselves with a situation no one could have possibly predicted: one of the biggest banks in America decided to screw a loyal customer by hanging on to his money far beyond what would have reasonably been...reasonable.

But I, The Chuckmeister, after more than two months of screaming, shouting, pounding my fists on the table and threatening to call in "Lawyer Daggett," have finally wrestled this mess to the mat and the referee has named me the victor!  Dammmmmm-n-n-n-n!

Anyway, to continue from where we last left off, BofA demanded that I fill out and have notarized a certain affidavit unique to the State of California.  I asked the lady on the other end of the phone at their Estate Unit if she would fax me one.  She said no, I had to find one on my own. I asked her where I should look to find one.  She said, "Google it. You'll find it."  Now that was helpful.  I guess that's customer service in today's America.  At least in the Bank of America's...America.

So I jumped on the Web and located just such a form. Downloadable and printable for only $5.00.  How nice.  So now I'm $35.00 in unrecoverable fees from this little adventure.  I fill out this form, go find a couple of family members to serve as witnesses, employ another notary for another $15.00 and fax the whole paper pile away.  And then wait. And wait.  Three weeks I waited.  

Was the check finally in the mail?  Ummmm, no.

I get a letter letting me know that I sent the affidavit before the State's arbitrary 40-day elapsed time requirement.  I sent it to them in 34 days. Of course, they didn't tell me about this little nicety, nor did the website offering up the form for sale. No amount of begging and pleading could get the Banks' flunky to agree to a waiving the rules.  I was instructed to do it all over. Let that sink in: all over again...

So, grumbling out loud the entire time, I return to the wilds of the Web, find another form, pay $6.00 this time, down load and print it, and fill it out.  I ferret out two more witnesses, pay another $15.00 for a notary (that's $65.00 in fees in you're still counting), and then re-fax the package back to the Estate Unit.  Hoping that this nightmare will now, finally, be over.

No such luck.  I get a call from a BofA dimbulb kindly informing me that I had now "chosen the wrong affidavit."  I needed, the person told me, a form that specified the amount the Bank was holding from me, plus the account number.  I remarked that the Bank should know the account number and the amount they've been holding, and that none of the forms I had thus far reviewed had such a statement.  She told me to go to "www.courts.CA.Gov" and I would find one. Really.

So, not-so-slowly shaking my head side-to-side, I head back to the Internet and scope out this website.  Was there an affidavit that offered up instructions according to the Bank's demands?  Ummm, no.  In fact, there was not even a form available with the affidavit's name.  There were a couple of forms that seemed close in the probate section, so I downloaded them ($14.00 more dollars...$79.00 now total), filled them out, got them witnessed and the packaged re-notarized ($94.00 the new total!), and sent them in.  

Room Temperature-I.Q. lady on the other end of the phone at BofA was suitably sorry to hear of my plight when she called to tell me that, once again I had chosen the wrong form. That's three so far, I told her, and I was becoming more than a little bit off-pissed.  I let her know that I had three options seemingly available to me at this point:  One, I could just agree to give the BofA the money they were holding, hoping that it would help them have a really, really nice Christmas party.  Of course, that option would also involve me contacting the Media and conducting a press conference on my front yard.  I would first short BofA's stock, doncha' know. 

Or second, I would take a large caliber weapon and start blowing holes in the nearest Bank branch.  Or, in third place among options, I would call in a lawyer and sue the crap out of them.

Whilst contemplating among those options, I chose a fourth. I went to the largest branch here in Chuckmeisterville, marched my crippled body in an arrow straight line to the largest desk I could find, plopped myself down and told the poor dweeb sitting there that I had come to solve a perplexing problem, that he was going to help me do so, and that there would be Hell to pay if he didn't.

Well, as it happened, the guy I chose had a bit of horsepower.  He listened raptly to my tale of woe, and then started making phone calls.  I suspect one of them was to the local PD Swat unit, but I can't be sure. Anyhoo, within an hour the guy had sorted through all the difficulties and been given the assurance from whoever was on the other end of the line that I could finally rest easy; my nightmare was almost over.

Oh wait:  what Mr. Desk Guy found out, and what enabled this whole ugly situation to obtain a successful resolution, was...wait for it...I had been an owner of, and signer on the account right from the beginning!  The lazy oafs at the Estate Unit hadn't taken the time to dredge up some microfiche from back in 1986 to verify just who owned this account. And my very loud claims that I had been writing checks on it for more than 40 years fell on deaf ears.  I co-owned the accounts, and they had wrongfully put me through unnecessary grief for two and one-half months.  

Oh yeah, and then they informed me that I would just have to wait somewhere from 7 to 14 BUSINESS days to get my check.  

Update:  Today I opened my mail.  In it was a cashier's check from BofA for all my money, finally.  No letter of explanation, or regret.  Just a check. But it did not include all the unnecessary fees they'd forced me to expend trying to get my money back.  I'm sitting here trying to decide whether or not to sue them in Small Claims Court to get back my $94.00. Still might...

For those of you out there who need a recommendation regarding banks, you can be certain that my commentary regarding BofA will not be at all positive...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Absurdity of "Pre-Existing Conditions."


The big debate on Capitol Hill these days is how to "repeal and replace" the failing Obamacare health insurance program with something else for which 50 out of the 52 Republican Senators can bring themselves to vote.  Or, maybe modify it, or tweak it, or adjust it, or something. Anything...

That's because Republicans can, for the very first time, use an arcane parliamentary Senate rule to pass new legislation using "reconciliation." It normally takes 60 votes in the Senate to end debate and discussion on a particular piece of proposed legislation and head off to a vote, which then will pass or fail on a majority rule basis.  But, because then-Majority Leader and Democrat "Dirty" Harry Reid used reconciliation to pass Obamacare back in 2009, for the first time in more than 230 years, Republicans can now use the same trick to replace it. It's much more complicated to explain then that, but hey, for the purposes of this unassuming little blog posting, that's good enough.

Anyway, one of the key components of the 2,700 page, five and one-half foot tall Obamacare legislation, which I have read, painfully, by the way, is that it covers "pre-existing conditions." Doncha' just luuuuv Swamp Speak? That little term means that you don't have to buy health insurance under Obamacare until you get sick.  

Whaaaaaaaaaat?

That means the whole principle of shared risk and shared responsibility and shared reward that our insurance markets have been based upon since before our ancestors boarded the Mayflower and sailed off from Jolly Old England have been turned on their ear. Now, under Obamacare, you can wait until the thing you're insuring yourself against has ACTUALLY HAPPENED before you have to insure yourself against it.

Huh?

Lemme' say that again.  The simple fact it, when you buy insurance you're betting the insurance company that the thing you're insuring yourself against WILL happen, and they're betting you that it WON'T. That's how they can sell a package of car or home or fire or casualty or theft or health insurance to a broad swath of people, betting that only a small percentage of the total number of insured will suffer any kind of loss for which the policy purports to insure them against.  

In other words, out of, say, 100,000 health insurance policy holders, the insurance company might discover from its actuaries (professional, highly-paid, math whiz guessers) that 1 or 2 will get brain cancer, 65 or 70 might suffer a broken bone, 26 will get measles, and 34 are expected to develop diabetes, etc..  The others will happily pay their premiums without getting anything of substance in return, but knowing that they're covered, just in case.  And that those self-same premiums will cover the other folks' calamities while they themselves remain healthy, and that there will be some profit for the insurance provider left over.  That's the incentive for the insurance company to place these high-stakes bets. And that's the way the game is supposed to be played.

Buuuuuuut, when you permit people to wait until they get sick, the cost of insuring the entirety of the whole will go up EXPONENTIALLY!  Think of it this way:  You buy a car but don't buy insurance.  You have a wreck. And then you want to buy insurance to cover the cost of the loss you just suffered.  "Hello, State Farm? You don't know me, but..."  Fat chance! So why would you expect to be able to wait until you get sick to buy health insurance?

But then-President B. Hussein Obama and his cadre of sycophantic Progressives saddled America with a "poison pill" that will haunt us forever.  They subsumed fully one-sixth of America's economy and put it in the clutches of the Gummint. And they did it without a single Republican vote! 

Using it, they gave us what we think of as an "entitlement," and we all know that once an entitlement is given, it MAY NOT be taken away.  So now the Republicans are suffering through trying to figure out how to "repeal and replace" something the electorate may not be willing to let them retrieve from those clutches.

And don't give me that crap about health care being a "right." It isn't. Here in good ol' 'Murica it was written by our Founding Fathers that we have, via the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the right to..."Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."  Notice there's nothing in there about "health care."  Except the lefties in our Great Land wishes there were.  And if they wish hard enough, I mean really, REALLY hard, they think, maybe they can convince us sheeple that it should be.  And "should be" should be enough to pass a passel of laws making it so. Got it?

So, thus far every single proposed "fix" to Obamacare has included "pre-existing conditions" as a foundational part of the proposed plan.  Trump wants it.  The female senators want it.  Squishy moderate Republicans want it.  And Democrats demand it, even though they are uniformly unwilling to even discuss repealing Obamacare.  But Obamacare is going down in flames, and they know it, but they won't acknowledge it. And the majority of their followers blindly accede to the marching orders their Lefty masters puke forth.  Truly sad, my friends.  They are what's wrong with America.

The ONLY way to make this whole mess work is to repeal it and replace it.  With what?  Lemme' tell you...

1.  Catastrophic Coverage:  What we need is a basic health insurance policy that assumes responsibility when a catastrophe happens. A serious car wreck.  Stage 4 cancer. A stroke.  Something that doesn't happen every day, like a simple broken bone, or to everyone.  Just the unlucky ones. My dad used to sell health insurance and his Number One Product was catastrophic coverage policies.  No dental, no vision, no nothing except catastrophes. We should do that again.  And we should demand that our citizens purchase it so that any illness or injury that befalls them will not impose a burden to their fellow 'Muricans.  

And the price of the premiums for this coverage should be based upon your age and sex and lifestyle choices and pertinent other factors. Your next door neighbor shouldn't be made to pay for your poor lifestyle choices.  Or your bad luck. You should. That's the way it has always been, and should return to being. Makes sense, right?

2.  Government-Run Health Clinics:  It has been illegal for years for a health care provider to turn away someone in need. That's why our hospital emergency rooms take anyone, anytime, legal or not, and whether they can pay or not.  And that's why it costs those with health insurance $5,900 to set a broken bone, instead of a hundred bucks or so.  This is a stupid system.  

The solution:  Have the Gummint offer a paid-for medical education for would-be qualifying physicians, physicians' assistants and Registered Nurses, require that they work in government-run health clinics for, say, ten years in exchange, and pay them a fair wage during their work-off period.  Just like the Feds offer the GI Bill for returning military veterans, they should offer a freebie education for those willing to trade a few years of their newly-trained life in exchange.  Oh, and get them a starter Cadillac too.  That would eliminate doctors leaving med schools with $500,000 in student loans. It would prevent doctors from refusing to see Medicaid/Cal patients because the reimbursement rate is so low.  And it would also eliminate the costly burdens placed on community hospitals by vote-hungry politicians.  

Put these clinics next door to or near hospitals, require that they take anyone, anytime, and charge them based on their ability to pay, or even free, if necessary.  Hospitals would no longer be burdened with the unreimbursed cost of treating the indigent, so their charges would go way, WAY down.  And the community would have a health care resource for those in need.  Find fault with that scenario, if you can...

3.  Permit Health Savings Accounts (HSA's):

Permit "HSA's" so The People could pay for their own minor medical problems with pre-tax dollars. Kind of like paying for your retirement with a 401(k).  And then require that the hospitals and other health care providers publish their charges for all medical and surgical procedures, so patients could shop and compare, thus putting We The People in charge of our own health care and enabling competition to finally break into the medical field (Whaaaat a concept!). And then let taxpayers transfer anything left over from their HSA into their 401(k) retirement accounts.  Smart, huh?

Did you ever ask a doctor or nurse what a procedure or test or X-ray or drug or shot they want you to undergo actually costs?  Well, if you did, as I have, the odds are likely 100% that they won't know the answer. Nobody except the hospital's Chief Financial Officer knows the answer.  

How is it that little clinics in Tiajoewanna knows how much to charge you for a medical procedure, and is happy to advertise it, but your local community hospital does not? That, my friends, is a system in need of change. Rapid change!

4.  Permit the Sale of Health Insurance Across State Lines:  You can buy car insurance across state lines.  And home insurance.  And theft insurance. And dental insurance. So why not health insurance?  Right now there are states with only one single health insurance provider.  And because of O-Care, even NO insuror!  In Nevada 14 of its 17 counties will have NO health insurance provider starting in 2018. 

No sales across state lines = no competition.  No competition = artificial - and HIGH - prices.  Permit the sale of health insurance across state lines and watch the cost of coverage go WAY DOWN!  That's called "market forces."  It worked for car insurance, and it worked for life insurance.  It'll work for health insurance.

5.  Do Away With Unlimited Jury Awards:

It's absurd that "slip and fall" attorneys can swoop in and collect enormous fees for suing everybody who moves after an accident or injury.  These ambulance chasers usually charge 40% of any award they achieve.  And if the award is in the $Millions, their fees can be yuuuuuge!  And carefully selected juries that believe it's somebody else's money anyway are complicit in these awards becoming absolutely ridiculous.  That's why judge shopping, and jury shopping, and even venue shopping is so popular.  

My solution?  Establish a schedule of permissible dollar awards for various degrees of injury, or death, and require the jury to abide by that requirement.  Say, up to $250,000 for serious injury not leading to death. And say up to $500k or even $1MM for a death, depending upon the education, training, abilities and income of the deceased.  That would bring down prospective awards dramatically, and also bring down insurance premiums. There is NO free lunch, regardless of how many underemployed lawyers there are, or how sorry the jury feels for the aggrieved.  And finally...

6.  Turn Matters Back Over to the States, Where They Belong:

The 10th Amendment to the Constitution specifies that authority over all matters not specifically granted by the States to the Federal Government remain the province of the various States.  And nowhere is it written in our Founding Documents that the Feds were ever given authority over our citizens' health care.  Nowhere.  

Thus, my final suggestion is that the Feds determine how much it would cost to provide Medicaid/Cal to every uninsured American, and then send that money to the States according to their various populations. My own calculation places the number at somewhere between $7 Billion and $10 Billion a year to cover all the uninsured.  Compared with the $One Trillion Dollars over ten years that Obamacare costs us, that's a real bargain!  

The States would then determine how best to make sure their citizens are insured.  Whether they simply expand their Medicaid/Cal roles, like Ohio under Governor Kasich and a handful of other Republican Guvs did with the advent of Obamacare, or come up with some other delivery scenario their citizens choose.  HMO's?  PPO's?  Concierge physicians' organizations?  It would be their determination!   

Then, the voters could hold their local politicians' feet to the fire concerning the health care programs they develop and administer.  With the decisions being made much closer to the customer (the taxpayer!), the decisions are likely to be better and more responsive.  What a concept!

So, my friends, that's the Chuckmeister's Rx for what ails us. And since I spent more than 40 years in the health care industry, I'm pretty sure my plan would not only work, but would cost less also.  What do you think? If you like it, pass it along to your friends.  And ask them to do the same. Who knows?  We might actually change some minds along the way...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Update (BofA Still Sucks!).

I have had more response to the previous posting than any other I have written since starting this blog nine years ago.

Apparently there are a whole bunch of you out there in Digital Land who hate their bank and would do damn near anything to avoid dealing with it.

Well, my friends, I'm glad to say that for my entire life I didn't have to do that.  My dear departed Elaine handled that important task while I went out and made it rain.  Equal division of duties, I thought. So did she.


Now, she's gone and I'm smacked in the face with the reality that banks are inflexible, unfeeling, greedy behemoths, and that they really suck! Especially Bank of America!

So, if you haven't read the previous posting, take a moment and do so now.  It will prepare you for this update.  And if you have, good sir/madam, read on...

I left you hanging before, not knowing if BofA would actually decide to turn loose of my money.  I'm pleased to report that I finally got all the various bits and pieces of paper they demanded, jumped through all the hoops they placed in my way, maneuvered over all the speed bumps they hampered me with, got them all (expensively) notarized nice and neat, and delivered them to a flunky at the local branch.  He was kind enough to fax them away to some nameless faceless other dumbulb somewhere, and then comforted me by letting me know that everything would now be okay.  

That was fourteen days ago.

Since then I've tried to reach this same flunky to find out when - or even if - I'll get my money back.  Call backs? Ummm, no. Five voicemail messages left, zero returned calls, no money in the hand.

But hey, maybe he's been busy!

Finally I grew so impatient I went to the branch, for the sixth time in six weeks, and plopped myself in a chair in front of this bozo's desk.  I told him I did not intend to leave until I got an answer to my question:  When would BofA turn loose of my cash?  

After an hour and forty-five minutes of me waiting and him nervously making phone calls to somebody, somewhere, he had an answer. Ready?  

They were happy to report they finally had all the stuff they needed and I could look for a check in my mailbox!  That's great, I said.  But then he finished with, "Ummm, in three or four weeks."

Whaaaaaaat?

If you're one microcenton late with a payment to BofA, and probably any other bank for that matter, they will nick you with a hefty charge.  No float for you, Grasshopper!  But if they owe you money?  It takes time for processing and handling and adjusting and moving paper around on their desks and shipping and talking with each other on the phone and in person and processing and handling, doncha know. And processing. And handling.  Three of four weeks!  

Soooooo, I told Mr. Branch Manager Flunky to simply have them wire transfer the money into my account!  Simple, right? They could do that, right?  

Noooooooo!

It seems they can't do that if you're closing an account.  They have to mail you a check.  After they're done playing with your money for awhile. So, I said, don't close the account, just wire me my money.  They said they couldn't do that, because the account had to be closed since the only signatory on it has departed for the Great Beyond.

So, my friends, deep in the midst of this Catch 22, my problem is almost over.  They have everything they'll need to cough up my cash, they said, and permit me to close this sorry chapter in my life.  And never darken the Bank of America again.  Almost.  Not quite. Just a few more weeks. I'll keep you briefed...

Epilogue:

Thanks to all who provided a suggestion as to where I should take my banking business.  I promise I will consider each of them, and most likely select one.  Actually, I'm considering turning all my meager money into cash and burying it a Mason jar in my back yard.  If the way the BofA handles its banking business is indicative of the state of the banking art these days, then I'd be better off not dealing with any of them...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Can anyone recommend a good bank?

So your wife, business partner, best friend and co-parent of four lovely daughters, up and dies.

That in itself is not good.  No, my friends, not good at all. However, during your period of grief and, after more than 39 years of living with and for a partner and now having to learn to live by and for yourself once again, you will have some nagging little problems that must be dealt with as a consequence of this unfortunate circumstance.  

But you would never assume that one of these nagging little problems would be having to fight your bank of more than 41 years, which just decided to give you the brown shampoo. 

But the Bank of America just did that to me.  In spades (can I still say that?).

It seems that our BofA business checking and savings account, opened back in 1979, had only my wife as the signatory.  For some reason, perhaps because she was the one responsible for paying the bills and handling the checkbook for our family and bizz, she neglected to add me as one of those authorized to sign on the account. So, shortly after her passing, BofA contacted me with some startling, and quite unwelcome, news.  They'd placed a "hold" on the business account,  and automatic payments we'd arranged started bouncing around like BB's in a boxcar. The BofA had glommed onto the money therein and informed me in no uncertain terms that I had many, many hoops to jump through if I wanted to get my money back.  

First, they said, I'd have to call a certain number to get the ball rolling.  I did.  The guy on the other in of the phone was some French dude officed in Albuquerque.  Not only was he rude and unfeeling and insensitive about my situation, he told me I'd be lucky to get my money back before summer's end. Really.  When I blanched at the information he offered, he asked, all French-like, "Well what do you want from me?" When my response to that question was admittedly high in decibels, he hung up on me. I guess he's not aware we saved his miserable country's bacon back in WW Part Deux.

They sent me a whole bunch of forms.  Forms that had to be filled out and signed in front of a notary.  I had to wait more than a month for the death certificate, a necessary item, they said, while they counted my money.  And then I went to local branch to get them to notarize the forms.  Uhhh, no.  The local branch didn't have a notary, they told me. So, off to the UPS Store.  They were eager to assist me, for the grand sum of $15.00 for each signature.  That's fifteen bucks I'd never see again.  Then, I had to call their Estate Division to get the file opened and the process started. 

After more than 2 hours on hold, a guy came on to let me know I had a lot to do before I'd be able to close the account and get my money back. I had to have a special "signature card," which only they could provide. The guy said they'd mail it to me, which should only take a week or two, or maybe more, (or maybe never!) to arrive. Then, he told me I had to fill it out and mail it back.  Along with another special form, called the "California Small Business Affidavit."  When I asked if they could provide one, he said, "No."  Just go on Google, he said, and find it on the Internet. Nice.  They need a form that they don't provide. That's customer service for you.

So after quite a search I found such a form.  It cost "only" $5.00 to download.  I filled it out, and then noticed that it required TWO witnesses, which had to sign it in front of a notary.  A notary, again.  Oh, and my signature had to be notarized as well.  So I ran down a couple of relatives, and made arrangements for them to meet me at that same UPS Store.  That guy got another $45.00 from me just for being in my neighborhood.  So, if you're counting, that's a total of $60.00 so far that I'm out just preparing to prove to BofA that I am the lawful heir to my wife, a fine woman who I joyfully permitted to use my last name for more than 40 years.  But BofA couldn't quite get their arms around that fact. They couldn't seem to draw a connection between "Cassity & Associates," the name on the account, and Cassity, the Chuckmeister's last name.  Even though the spelling of my last name is quite rare, they just couldn't bring themselves to draw a connection, I guess.  They wanted some forms, don't you know.  They really, really need them, they said. They LIKE forms!

So once I'd filled out and signed all the necessary forms, except for that elusive "blank signature card," which STILL hasn't arrived, I called that same 800 number again.  Another 1.5 hours on hold.  A woman named "Diamond," from Atlanta, came on the line. She told me that all I had to do was go to the nearest branch and they'd download and print the form for me, and then notarize it.  I explained, somewhat loudly, I admit, that the branch manager said they couldn't do that, and didn't have a notary. She got mad and hung up on me.  I was at this exact point that I decided in no uncertain terms that whatever is left of my future did not include the Bank of America.

So, once the form arrives, maybe next week, I'll fill it out, and fax it back, along with the death certificate, and the "Letter of Instruction and Account Closure Request," and a couple of other forms that they provided me.  And then, they said, they'd get in touch with me to advise the other stuff they'd need in order to proceed.  And all this time they've got, and are using, my money.

Oh, and I might mention that I've been signing checks on this account for more than 35 years.  And they've been cashing them! Without fail. And for all those years, they just told me, I was not permitted to sign checks on this account.  You'd think a more than 100 year old bank, one that is among the largest in our great country, could figure out how to actually serve its clients.  But you'd be wrong.  

So, you'll understand that I'm more than a little miffed at BofA.  Miffed enough to look for an alternate bank to hold my less-than-vast fortune. A fortune which has been seriously depleted due to my poor departed wife's nasty disease and its treatment.  So any suggestions you might have about another bank I'd really appreciate.  If you've got a recommendation please get back to me.  And be sure to let your friends and neighbors know that, if they intend to die some day, and care about their prospective heirs, be sure to tell them to think carefully about the bank they choose to do business with today...

At the beginning of this posting I asked if anyone could recommend a good bank.  Do you think that might actually be an oxymoron?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Living...and Dying...With Cancer...


As many of you know, my wife of 38 years, Elaine, passed away recently from the ravages of cancer.

She contracted "aplastic anemia" from an unknown source almost two years ago.  We were told there was no cure, however there were available treatments to be had at the foremost treatment center for that disease on the West Coast, Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, California.  After much begging, pleading, haranguing, threatening and harassing, our HMO agreed to cough up the huge funds necessary to pay for such treatment (more than $1.5 Million for drugs and medications alone at last count).  And since then we've been making the journey back and forth to La Jolla on more than two hundred occasions to obtain a hoped-for cure. 

But no luck.

Aplastic anemia, also known as "bone marrow cancer," is a virulent, voracious, mean, nasty, horrendous and cold-blooded infection, that attacks all ages and races and religions and genders.  It tends to afflict those under the age of 25 primarily, but, as with Elaine, can burden those of any age.  It is also among the rarest of terminal illnesses, affecting less than 600 people annually in the United States.  

She was fond of saying, "I can get a disease that only affects 600 a year in the U.S., but can't win the (expletive omitted) lottery!"

It is among that class of ailments known as "autoimmune" diseases. That class would include multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, retinitis pigmentosa, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, and Lou Gehrig's Disease.  There are more than 100 such major ailments, which manifest themselves by one or more elements of the body turning in upon itself.  In Elaine's case, one of her bone marrow "T-cells" decided to turn rogue, and could not be corrected by any means her physicians attempted.

During this 22 months we were forced to make the 60-plus mile-each-way journey to La Jolla, often arriving before 8:00 a.m. and returning home after midnight, every other day! Exhausting.  But necessary.  

As I so often opined to close friends, one had to look at our situation in the "micro," head down, singularly focused, one foot in front of the other. If one looked at it in the "macro," the "big picture," so to speak, one would surely have to put a gun to one's head.  

She received more than 400 blood transfusions.  She needed more than 80 separate doctors' appointments and home nursing visits.  She was forced to undergo more than 20 surgeries, both major and minor, brought on by this dread disease.  Thousands of needle sticks.  Hundreds of infusions of noxious, toxic medicines that her doctors deemed necessary to fight this disease.  Medications that now must be disposed of by county officials so as not to foul the water table.

Aplastic anemia robbed her of her taste, her smell and her appetite, and, toward the end, negatively impacted her eyesight, her memory and her cognitive abilities.  In short, it was an all-consuming, life-changing, crippling disease, displacing nearly everything else in our lives.

And yet, she...we...fought it valiantly.  And unsuccessfully. During this year and a half-plus, she lost more than 100 pounds.  She grew frail. She was fatigued always.  Yet, she never lost her sense of humor, nor her desire and zest for life. Yes, she was truly "one-of-a-kind."

We met at a convention in Seattle waaaay back in the late 1970's. She was an R.N., and I was a marketing manager for a medical equipment manufacturer.  Yep, one of those "sleepless in Seattle" stories you so often hear about.  If there ever was a "love at first sight" situation, this was it.  

Thereafter we were almost never separated.  We started a business together, ran it together, hired and fired together, worried about finances together, traveled together, had three daughters together, oversaw their education together, and their weddings, and then the birth of their children, and our grandchildren, together. We laughed together and loved together.  Ours was truly a match made in Heaven.

And now she is in Heaven.

Cancer is a scourge. Her's was made much, much more tolerable due to the unyielding support and assistance of her daughters, her family and her friends.  And friends!  Did she ever have friends! Elaine would give you the shirt off my back!  She was famous for trying to give folks our stuff if she thought they needed it more than we did.  She "collected" people, as did I.  We did it together.  If you were friendly, you became part of our ever-growing circle of our friends. For years, as an example, we hosted annual Superbowl parties, often attended by 300 people or more.  And she loved being that sort of "Earth mother" that gathers friends like a flame gathers moths. The outpouring of grief among those friends, and family, of course, has been unprecedented. It is occurring still.  And may not ever subside.  I hope it doesn't.

Elaine is gone.  This fight was a time given to successive highs and lows. She would at one moment appear quite normal, and in the next tired, short of breath and faint. Toward the end the highs grew less high, the lows more pronounced.  Even though I had a year and one-half to try and get used to the idea of her impending demise, learning to live without her will be tough. But I have to try.  And if you knew her, so will you.

You've likely heard of the "Five Stages of Grief."  I'm past denial, and anger, and bargaining, and even depression to the maximum extent possible, and I'll soon be into acceptance.  Writing and pushing "publish" on this blog posting is one of the ways I intend to help begin to achieve that last lofty goal. And I will.  And so must you...

Goodbye, Elaine.  We will love you, and miss you, always...

Monday, May 1, 2017

Left? Or Right?

Have you ever wondered where the political term "Left," or "Right" came from?  Or, maybe even what it means?  

Well, Grasshopper, I, The Chuckmeister, have the answer for you.  I mean, after all, where else would you turn for the answer to this, or any other question?

After all, providing the answer to existential questions such as this one is why God put me here.

The political term "Left" and "Right" is age-old.  No one can remember exactly when it first began to be used as the go-to definition for the Democrats and Republicans amongst us. But it first began to be used by my reckoning early in the 20th Century, perhaps during the Wilson administration.  And it refers, quite simply, to the fact that the Democrats in the United States House of Representatives Chamber sit to the left of the Speaker of the House, from his perspective, up there in that pulpit-looking thingie. And the Republicans sit to his viewing right.  

So, as he sees that august body, the Liberals are to his left, as he looks out over the body, and the Conservatives are to his right.  Thus, those of a liberal persuasion are termed "the Left," and conservatives are termed "the Right."  

Or, as the Chuckmeister terms them, those to the "Left" are big government-embracing, high-tax desiring, gun-hating, free speech-limiting, open borders-demanding, redistributionist weenies, who believe the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are "living and breathing" documents that need to be rewritten and reinterpreted every now and then, by THEM; and those to the "Right" are God-fearing, gun-toting, 'Murica-loving, free speech-demanding, flag-waving, military-embracing, tax-hating, strict Constitution interpretationalist small government Patriots, who believe wholeheartedly in self-determination and personal responsibility.  

Now, you might choose to take issue with my definitions.  But you'd be hard-pressed to come up with more gloriously expressive ways of defining them.  

Right?

Right?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Things Were Actually Pretty Quiet Back in the Old West...

According to most reliable data, there were...wait for it...

...only 12, "High Noon-style" gunfights back in the Old West.

That's right.  Between 1850 and 1890, the period most agree was the apex of the "Old West" period, there were only 12 classic, "High Noon-Style," meet me on Main Street, be sure to bring your six gun, gunfights.  

Those of us conditioned to lots and lots of black and white TV westerns back then, where there was at least one gunfight per episode, and tens of thousands of episodes we watched over our frozen TV dinners, would be surprised to learn that it was all bunk. It was made-up nonsense.  

Remember when Matt Dillon would meet the guy on Main Street at the beginning of each "Gunsmoke" episode, hand perched just above his six-gun, fingers twitching, music increasing in volume to a crescendo, waiting for the other guy to draw first? And when that guy went for his gun, Marshal Dillon would draw and fire and leave the other guy face down in the dirt?

And with literally dozens of such shows, running from the late 40's to the early 70's, there were tens of thousands of bad guys that pushed up daisies as a result.  But were those shows representative of what actually occurred back then? Noooooooooo, Grasshopper!  They were anything but!

I am a recognized expert in all things "Old West."  Well, at least, recognized by me.  I've studied the era 1850 - 1890 for much of my life. I've been fascinated by the 19th Century Move West, and how it unfolded in the making of America. Coming from Kansas City, the "jumping off place" from whence the wagon trains pushed west, at Westport Landing, in West K.C., by the way, I'm fascinated by how that came to be and how this "Manifest Destiny" drama unfolded (Google it; it's worth your time).

And as a gunsmith and firearms expert, I'm also fascinated at how guns made this mass migration more achievable, practical and successful.

As has been often said, "God made men and women.  Sam Colt made them equal."  Think about that for a moment.

Remember the "Long Branch Saloon" in Dodge City, Kansas?  That's where Dillon and Ms. Kitty and Doc and Chester and the gang hung out? Every episode featured a gunfight at this iconic watering hole.  Did it happen in real life?  No.  In fact, there is NO RECORD of a single gunfight ever occurring at this (in)famous bar!  

Perhaps the most famous of these "High Noon" gunfights was the one on July 21st, 1865 in Springfield, MO, between Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt, a fellow gambler who had relieved him of his pocket watch during a poker game the night before.  Hickok wanted to buy his watch back the next morning.  The gambler wouldn't sell it to him, preferring rather to brag to all who would listen about how he had bested Wild Bill in that game of chance.  Bill was pissed, and called him out.  

They met at ten o'clock the next morning, on Main Street, of course. They squared off 75 yards apart.  A duel "second" dropped a playing card to signal "go," and they went for their guns.  The gambler shot first, and missed.  Bill took aim and put a bullet from his 1851 Colt Navy, .36 caliber, black powder, cap and ball revolver right through the guy's heart. 75 yards, heart shot!  Think Wild Bill didn't deserve his reputation as a dead shot? This little escapade proved he did.  Even with modern firearms, that feat would frankly be difficult to duplicate today.

So why, one might ask, were their only 12 actual gunfights in the entire history of the Old West?  Well, I have my theory on the subject.  Imagine you're a trail-weary, dusty cowpoke, just coming off the cattle drive, and you decide to visit the local saloon to wet your whistle.  You sidle up to the bar, place your foot up on the brass bar rail, and accidentally bump into the guy standing next to you.  You're armed.  He's armed. What do you do?  What do you say?  

You say, "I'm sorry sir, please excuse me!" That's what you say. Why? Because he's armed, and if you don't, he just might drill you right between the running lights, letting both the air and your soul out through the hole thus created. Desirous of continuing to stay on this side of the dirt, you decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and so you excuse yourself.  He's says, "No problem, mister!" and you got back to your drinking.  No harm, no foul.  And I say, unless you're really drunk, or really stupid, or really crazy, or maybe all three, you'd do the same.

So what does this have to do with anything, Mr. Chuckmeister?  What it has to do with is that an armed society is a polite society.  Or, put slightly differently, more guns equals less crime.  We prove that everyday by noticing how many gun deaths there are in "gun-free" Chicago, and how few in gun-rich Texas, or Florida or Oklahoma or Kansas or Tennessee.    

Signs stating "Gun Free Zone" are nothing but an invitation to those with guns to take advantage of those who don't have them.  That's why every single mass shooting over the past 20 years, save one, occurred in a "Gun Free Zone."  Did you know that?

Remember John Holmes, the Aurora, CO theater murderer? Colorado being an "opt out" state, meaning individual businesses have the right to refuse access to those carrying concealed weapons, he drove past two other theaters that fateful night before finding one that advertised "Gun Free Zone."  He therefore knew that he would not face any resistance from an armed citizen.  And he didn't.  He was able to shoot, and reload, and shoot, and reload, and shoot, and murder dozens of innocents, without anyone trying to stop him.  It was a mass slaughter.  And it was made so because some liberal, gun-hating do-gooder believed that simply placing a sign on the door stating "Gun Free Zone" would make that establishment gun-free. What a dumbass! What a fool! What an enabler!

Yeah, I know, we've got lots of them right here in Taxifornia today.  Our President Pro-Tem of the Senate, Kevin de Leon, actually was quoted as saying that we might have to start printing those "gun free" signs in all capital letters if people don't start paying attention to them.  Jeeeeeesh!

And then there was Virginia Tech.  This past weekend marked the anniversary of the mass slaughter that occurred there ten years ago. The deranged killer who systematically murdered 32 innocents that day had to walk past a sign at the edge of the campus that proudly proclaimed, "Gun Free Zone" on the way to the scene of his impending crimes. Apparently he was not dissuaded by a mere sign. Nor is anyone who is bent upon committing murder and mayhem.

Remember the insane kid that murdered 9 parishioners at the AME Church in Charleston a few years back?  The pastor of that church was also a state senator.  In that capacity he voted against making South Carolina a "shall issue," concealed carry state.  But he was voted down and a new law was passed making lawful the concealed carry of firearms.  But, making it also possible for individual businesses to "opt out" of allowing patrons to enter their establishments carrying concealed.  And he chose to do so, for his own church.  He personally placed the sign on the front door marking his church a "Gun Free Zone." And it killed him, and 8 other innocent worshipers.  Imagine how differently it might have turned out if someone in that church had been carrying that night.  Or, perhaps the kid would not have chosen that church had it not have "opted out" of the new state law.  We'll never know.  

Consider this:  more than 5% of our entire population, or a number in excess of 15,000,000, have a concealed carry license.  Would anyone go duck hunting if even 5% of the ducks were armed?  

And then there's the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida. That's the gay party place that was the locus of such carnage a year or so back.  Even though Florida is a gun-friendly state, where more than 6.5% of its population of 22,000,000 have a concealed carry permit, they allow individual businesses to "opt out."  The Pulse chose to do so.  And thus, the Muslim Jihadist thug killer knew, going in, that he would likely encounter no resistance to his murderous intentions.  What a shame!  A state full of guns, and none were where they were needed.  Imagine what would have happened if there'd been someone there that night, just one, with a carry permit and the willingness to use it!  

Or, better yet, what makes you think anyone would actually have chosen to enter that establishment with nefarious intent knowing there might be someone there with a gun!

My point here, fellow citizens, is that YOU are responsible for your safety and your welfare.  YOU are responsible to prepare yourself to counter any potential harm, from any source, at any time.  YOU are responsible to have a disaster plan at the ready, and then plan to work it if and when a disaster strikes. And so YOU should legally arm yourself if you can. The police are there primarily to write up a report after the crime has occurred and they drag your lifeless body away.  Is that who you wish to rely upon for your self-defense? 

A special note to the citizens of California, Maryland, New York, Hawaii, Massassaccchusetttts, Conneccticuttt and a few other states who elect representatives who believe that you should be a sitting duck for miscreants who wish to do you harm. If you live in Utah, Nevada or Arizona, or 28 other states, you simply visit your local sheriff, plunk down $25, prove you are a citizen in good standing without a felony conviction by passing a Federal National Instant Criminal System background check, you, know, the one the liberals all want you to have that you already have, and walk out with a concealed carry permit.  And then go to your local gun store and buy whatever you can afford.  

California?  No such luck.  Getting a CCW permit is almost impossible if you live in San Diego, Lost Angeles, San Jose or San Francisco counties.  Most of the rest of the 78 counties?  No problem!  If you are hostage to political correctness and those who are stupid enough to enforce it, you are not being properly represented.  Do something, ANYTHING to change it.  Or, just move.  Otherwise, it might cost you your life. Remember the Developmental Center in San Bernardino? "Gun Free Zone."  23 dead, 35 wounded. Remember Fort Hood?  The Washington, D.C. Navy Yard? The community college in Oregon?  The armed forces recruiting center in Little Rock, AR?  And a few dozen others?  All "Gun Free Zones." 

Point made?  Point made...