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Tough Sledding

Caring about pinheads, the young, and the restless. Plus much more.

2.10.05

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TOUGH SLEDDING
Re: Christopher Orlet's Return of the Safety Nazis:

I enjoyed Mr. Orlet's article, but would disagree with him on a fundamental point. While it is true that there are "safety Nazis" out there sucking the fun out of life, most of the safety regulations he points out (smoking bans, seat belts, air bags, etc...) are driven by a combination of simple economic logic and the fact that we are an exceptionally charitable nation. And, in economic terms, there is a price for everything, including charity.

As Mr. Orlet points out, people who engage in reckless activities are pinheads. But that does not stop us from indulging in our generous nature and offering these pinheads care and aid after they have damaged themselves and the people around them.

When some pinhead inflicts terrible damage on himself, we do not allow "the herd to thin," to use Mr. Orlet's phrase. If some middle-aged guy going through a badly planned second childhood spins his overpowered motorcycle out on the shoulder of the highway, splitting his unprotected head open and ripping away his face, we rush him to the hospital and our medical system goes into overdrive to save him. Questions about insurance and cost are kept at bay while paramedics and then emergency room personnel do their best to save the pinhead. Maybe the victim has insurance, maybe not. Maybe, if he lives, some arrangement can be made for him to pay for the care. Given the disabilities that flow from a catastrophic accident, probably not. We, the taxpayers, pick up that tab. Given the state of modern medical economics, the public care that is extended to victims of catastrophic injuries is outrageously high.

The same story is played out for the teenage kid who is thrown from a car wreck because he didn't buckle up. Or for the smaller child who ignores the well know local hillside used by all the other sledders and decides to show off by going down the steeper hill that has obstructions or traffic running nearby. Pinheads all, but they are our pinheads. Our sons and daughters, our friends and neighbors. Flawed and imperfect, but still people.

Even if we had the ability to step into a trauma room and make snap decisions on which accident is truly unavoidable and which is caused by a pinhead, should we just let those pinheads die? That would seem to be the logical response that Mr. Orlet is hinting at. The thing is, Americans are a compassionate people, its part of the religious values that readers of The American Spectator should understand. We do not turn our backs on people who are suffering.

But the cost of caring for those pinheads is excruciatingly high. Not just the paramedic response and the emergency room care, but also the long term, sometimes life long, medical expenses that come after an accident. And in a pure economic analysis, you have to add in the additional cost to society at large since a severely injured person may no longer be able to work to his full ability.

And let's consider the legal costs. Everyone gripes about the high amounts awarded in personal injury suits, but where do that awards come from? A lawyer may ask for a certain amount, but what is finally given is decided by a jury. Once again, you see the basically generous nature of Americans. Juries are made up of ordinary people, and most people are able to recognize pinheads when they see them. But the battered, pathetic pinhead who sits in the courtroom, surrounded by grieving family and looking forward to a life of pain and misery, draws on the sympathy of the jury. In most personal injury cases, I believe that juries are less interested in blaming someone and more interested in being charitable to the injured party. Is that wrong? Yes, in a purely legal sense, it is. But since huge personal injury awards are common, I think that we are seeing a very stubborn American trait (charity) in action there. A trait which will not be changed by tort reform.

Safety regulations are a logical attempt to control both the legal and medical expenses. The regulations are essentially the cost we pay for being generous to pinheads. Do some of the regulations go too far? Sure. No question. But regulations are not perfect. They can't be, since regulations are created by people and we are intrinsically imperfect beings.

I do think that Mr. Orlet goes too far in the article when repeating the claim that air bags kill. Have there been deaths from air bags? Yes, including the tragic deaths of small children. But the question should be: Do air bags save more lives than they kill? By simply repeating that air bags kill, without examining the whole question, Mr. Orlet is engaging in the same kind of hysteria that he accuses the safety Nazis of propagating.

In my mind the bottom line is really one of life and death. Does Mr. Orlet want to be the one to decide that medical care should be withheld from the child who used poor judgement and ran headfirst into a pole? Does it matter if it is an adult and not a child who is dying? Who among us has the wisdom to make that kind of decision?

For my part, I'd rather try use regulations to force pinheads to exercise common sense (and thereby save my tax money) rather than simply letting them suffer or die.
-- Robert F. Casselberry

I would suggest that the public insist that on sledding days, the city plow and salt the sidewalk between the sled hill and the street. If the pile of snow is downhill from the sidewalk, the sledders will first slow down on the bare concrete, then smack into a pile of plowed snow. That should stop them safely!
-- Bruce Thompson

I think you miss the point of the city's actions entirely. They ban what use to be considered fun because they are sure to lose the inevitable lawsuit when some tyke gets hurt. They can't force kids to be safe so they ban the activity to protect themselves from the kid's parents (represented by a predatory lawyer). This is a commonplace phenomenon by decision-makers everywhere, in all sorts of organizations. We no longer have a diving board in our community pool; a victim of the increased insurance rates due to out-of-control tort claims.

Are these decision-makers cowards? Sure, but who wouldn't be in today's civil courts. The answer is tort reform not taking cheap shots at bureaucrats trying to avoid a court case.
-- Edward Callahan
La Habra, California

The real problem is not the safety Nazis, but out-of-control litigation. Cities that ban sledding, like manufacturers who put warning labels on knives and restaurants that put warning labels on coffee cups, are responding rationally to out-of-control litigation. In a rational world, lawsuits by people who run into poles and benches when they are sledding would be thrown out of court. Instead, the lawsuits are admitted and juries of peers award $6 million to pinheads. Individual cities and corporations can't bring rationality to the courts, so they each make rational, loss-minimizing decisions. Mr. Orlet is right that those decisions collectively make life less free and less fun. The cure is to bring the courts under control, not to ridicule the cities and corporations trying to cope with insane forces outside their control.
-- Ben Neuhausen
Highland Park, Illinois

THE GOOD BOOK
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Wolfe Man:

Read your article on President Bush's habit of reading books without flaunting it in our face reminded me of President Clinton.

Can you tell me when Clinton had the operation to remove the Bible from his left hand after 8 years? I heard it had permanently bonded to his left hand since he read it daily. Since he left office I have never seen the Bible again.
-- Kenneth Parady
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Just finished reading "Wolfe Man." While you issued a disclaimer about letting the cat out of the bag, I am sure PETA is still going to come down on you with both paws. Matter of fact, I feel quite certain they are running a background check on you at this moment. Better hope you didn't grab a bull by the horns, let a sleeping dog lie (unless to neuter him), or most importantly, looked a gift horse in the mouth. Please, for your own sake, tell me your answer is neigh.
-- Keith Strickland
Montgomery, Alabama

COMPLICIT CHINA
Re: Marina Malenic's Follow the Uranium Trail:

By professing helplessness while shielding North Korea, China has been complicit in the birth of the bomb in a particularly unstable and bellicose corner of East Asia. China pulled the strings attached to it puppet, Kim Jung-Il, but it might not like the audience reaction. Aside from the possibility of an American reaction, both South Korea and Japan are likely to go nuclear soon, and in a big way. Japan in particular has a special place in collective consciousness of China, which will bluster and howl at the prospect of Japanese missiles pointing west. China should have anticipated that. Evidently they didn’t.
-- Dave Govett

SUNNI RULE
Re: John Tabin's Faith Based Iraq:

John Tabin's anecdotal article on Iraq is quaint, but hardly fits in with reality. The idea that these recent "elections" erased a fiction is a false analogy. No commentator has ever stated that the insurgents or "terrorists" or whatever you want to call them represent the majority of the Iraqi people. The majority of the Iraqi people are Shia and the insurgents are Sunni. They have always represented a minority and, yes, the insurgents were very successful in their election strategy. Fully 80-90 percent of Iraqis wanted to participate in the elections and it now looks like less than 50 percent actually did. So I am sure any intrepid reporter can find some Iraqis who love America and love the elections, and yeah sure the Shia will give lip service to "incorporating the Sunnis," but until the insurgency ends Iraq will not become a democracy, and that will take a very long time indeed.
-- unsigned

John Tabin replies:
This unsigned letter, to borrow a phrase, hardly fits in with reality. The contemptible scare quotes around "elections" speak for themselves. A Google search for "Iraqi resistance" puts paid to the notion that no commentator has ever conflated the hopes of the Iraqi people at large with those of the terrorists (they kidnapped a kid with Down's syndrome, strapped a bomb to him, pointed him at a poll line on election day and blew him up -- what would you call them?). I don't know where the letter writer is getting his (her?) numbers, but every report I've seen has shown turnout closer to 70% than 50%. And it's hard to believe that the New York Times is now seeking out pro-American Iraqis to interview -- more likely, they're seeking out anti-American Iraqis and having trouble finding them. The insurgents are not succeeding in thwarting the process of democratization, but their best hope remains the prospect that too many people start to think like this emailer.

WHY McNABB WAS RUSHED
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Philly Fails and "Mighty McNabb" letter in Reader Mail's Cyber-Decorum:

To Donovan McNabb acolyte Todd Cox, and his summary of summaries "Rush was not right...," Rush did not pontificate on McNabb the hero, or McNabb the goat. Rush observed, correctly, that some sportswriters appeared more concerned about McNabb-the-black-quarterback and his successes or failures as the-black-quarterback than any color-blind merits. Seems like Mr. Cox is getting his "facts" from Air America.
-- Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

Just read your sneering comments about the Eagles and Philadelphia. Can you name a single instance in the last thirty years when a member of a Philadelphia sports team tried to intentionally injure an opponent? Didn't think so.

Let's leave the ignorant condescending attacks on Eagles fans to the NY/New England liberals. After all, who do you think was more supportive of George W. Bush in the last election -- the cops and firemen and tradesmen who make up the Eagles fan base, or the brie-eating natives of Taxachusetts?
-- Jim Peyton
Plymouth, Michigan

GRANDS IN AID
Re: James Bowman's Your Right to Say What?:

Politics notwithstanding (and, no, I'm not diminishing Ward Churchill's culpability in the least), isn't it ironic that he's pulling in $90+ grand annually (plus bennies?) supposedly teaching (indoctrinating?) students a nebulous (at best) topic of Ethnic Studies (?)... with only a Master's.

While my wife, in a community college system makes about half that (around $45,000) teaching something just a tad more productive, while heading up an expanded (to four year) new business department.

Further, she's not a "watermelon" professor either, green on the outside, red inside. And she earned a Ph.D. too!

Sure, she made an excellent salary while working quite successfully in the "real world" before being asked to teach. Then, it was in education where she found her real love/calling in counseling, teaching and assisting others. Obviously, she didn't get into it for the money.

And no regrets either; I strongly doubt if she'd ever consider switching places -- the University of Colorado at Boulder is simply a Rocky Mountain version of Cal-Berkeley. In the meantime, we live a block away from the beach.

But, for a moment, back to the subject of the contemptible Mr. Churchill. He reminds me of that old saying: "The cream rises to the top -- scum floats." Pathetic, isn't he.
-- G.B.

MARSHALS ON STAND-BY
Re: Philip Klein's Domestic Security Democrats:

One way to increase domestic security cheaply, rapidly, and effectively is to take advantage of the retired military. Commission each military retiree as a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Issue a pistol, ammunition, and a concealed carry permit to each retiree and require it to be carried at all times, along with monthly marksmanship practice and annual qualification. We trusted these people to carry a weapon for the nation for 20 years or more; we should be able to trust them now. Under this program, every domestic flight would have two or three Marshals aboard. Every emergency would have a Marshal nearby.

Those retirees that are physically, mentally, or morally unfit would not be enrolled in the program, or if the defect surfaced after enrollment, would be disenrolled.
-- Hugh Dempsey
Hampton, Virginia

DEMS LOSING VOTERS
Re: George Neumayr's Dean Aborts Roemer:

I have family who want to know why I would not ever consider voting Democrat. It is their knee-jerk reaction to anything that is even remotely pro-life. They could be right on every other issue (which they are not but for the sake of the discussion) but get abortion wrong and I could not in good conscience vote for them. This is also a warning to Republicans who are "moderate" on abortion. If you are a candidate who does not fully support then right-to-life of the pre-born you will never get my vote.
-- Jim Bednarek

RADICAL WHEELS
Re: Eric Peters's Unsafe at Any High Speed:

Does Mr. Peters realize how radical his proposal is? Imagine, asking the consumer to take responsibility! Seriously, there are a few proposals I would like to put forth that might help:

1. As a motorcyclist, I have to pass a special exam before I can legally ride on the streets, and nobody is allowed to drive a semi-trailer rig without special training. Why on earth is it reasonable for someone to pass a driving test in a Ford Focus and then be given carte blanche to drive anything he can buy from a dealer, including massive trailers and motorhomes, as well as SUV's?

2. I drive a pickup truck most of the time. I try to be aware of its limitations, but realistically, if you can't travel at 75-80 mph these days, you should not be on the freeway. Still, its top speed is "limited" to 119 mph. Why? SUV's, and perhaps all vehicles should come equipped with dealer-adjustable governors that limit top speed to what is safe with the equipment package. If you want to travel at freeway speeds, get the proper tires and the governor will be adjusted accordingly (this will require some loss of autonomy, but it's preferable to the present situation). Insurers would be spared from paying for accidents in which the governor setting and tires don't match. The governor could easily be more sophisticated then simply a speed limiter, allowing the driver passing speed and/or short trips at freeway speed when needed.

3. A good portion of the high center of gravity problem is due to 4-wheel drive. I drive my 2-wheel drive truck (with limited slip differential) in Michigan and have never gotten stuck in the 6 years I have been driving it. Common sense and a little experience are worth far more than 4-wheel drive to the average motorist. Anyone who insists on having it should definitely be required to learn its costs and limitations, as well as its benefits (nil, 95% of the time).

4. Eliminate the legal discrimination against large, powerful cars. Many people who currently drive SUV's would be better served by a sedan or station wagon of similar size, if it were available.

5. Morons who follow too closely are common in all classes of vehicle. It's one reason I prefer a heavy vehicle myself. Anyone who has an unsafe driving record should be required to purchase a sonar linked governor that won't allow him to follow at an unsafe distance, just as DWI's are required to install interlocks for their ignition.
-- Rick Skeean

FLUENT IN ALBANIAN
Re: Julia Gorin's Found in Translation:

After reading Julia Gorin's outrageous piece "Found in Translation," I'm still trying to figure out if that is just one of her comic ones or actually she is really concerned about the outcome of Kosova. If the second part is right, then I suggest she visits Kosova for herself and get her facts first hand. My impression is that Ms. Gorin is not fluent in Serbian since even Milosevic's communist propaganda machine is not capable of such deformations. The fact that she is allowed to publish such work in a conservative paper such as Spectator troubles me even more.

Kosovars in their corner of the world, which after centuries of occupation by Ottomans, Serbs, Bulgars, and Serbs again, seek to be masters of their own homes. I don't understand why it is so hard for Ms. Gorin to understand this basic principle, after all we are all inspired by Jefferson's and Wilson's principles of self-determination.

Ms. Gorin's attempt to include religion in the discussion clearly shows her lack of arguments. Serb churches were attacked (by high school children) because they are a symbol of Serbia's grip on the country. Their clerics disguise and offer safe haven to war criminals. In such cases, whether it is a mosque in Fallujah or a church in Kosova, sanctity is lost.

We won't let our dream deferred dry out in the sun; our tax to the colonial masters is too high to bear out.
-- Arianit Dobroshi

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