Category Archives: Uncategorized

Update: To protect and to lurk .. and to read

Screen shot 2014-09-18 at 3.03.08 PMUPDATE (10/1/14): Today, I drove by the Troy PD patrol car spot I mentioned in the following post written last month. There’s a cruiser there again, in the same low (if any) crime area. This time, the officer inhabiting the vehicle isn’t just idly watching traffic go by while nefarious activities go on in some of the surrounding blocks. He wasn’t watching the street at all. I circled around the block and checked to be sure what I saw the first time was accurate. Yep. He was busy reading. Oh, and protecting and defending, too, I’m sure.

TROY — I had to pay a visit to an Adirondack Tire Center in Troy’s Lansingburgh section today. Not much of a way to begin a commentary, but it’s the reason I noticed what I noticed. A Troy Police Department cruiser sitting in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station across the street.

I had seen the same thing while driving down that same street a day earlier. Under many circumstances it would be an unremarkable sight either time. This time it caught my eye, however, because I remembered Chief John Tedesco several weeks ago announcing an expanded police presence in the wake of numerous outbreaks of arson, shootings and stabbings in that city neighborhood.

If so, this particular deployment was a waste of the cop’s time and my tax money.

That stretch of 2nd Street is anything but a hotbed of illicit activity. It’s a commercial strip, just south of Powers Park. A smarter place to be would be about four blocks north and one block east. That’s where you’re getting into the sections of open-air drug markets and plywood-studded deteriorating buildings that seem to attract arsonists and other assholes.

Unless the intent of stationing a patrol car on that quiet section of 2nd Street was to catch the occasional speeder or scare off any out-of-towners headed deeper into the ‘Burgh for a drug buy, it doesn’t make much sense. We already have too many spots in the City of Troy where patrol cars are stationed to catch errant motorists while ignoring obvious drug activity in areas the police have, in effect, surrendered to crooks.


For a variety of blogs, guides and websites for readers of all interests, go to Bill Dowd.com.


CDPHP reaching down deeeep .. into our pockets

Proposed new logo.

Proposed new logo.

A bulky envelope, bearing the green logo of the Capital District Physicians Health Plan, arrived in my mailbox today. It contained the dreaded “Annual Notice of Changes and Evidence of Coverage” for those of us enrolled in the insurance company’s Medicare program — formally known as “CDPHP Choice Rx (HMO).”

That’s a lot of letters that could more simply be put this way: You’re Screwed. Again.

In terms I’ve stripped of all the CDPHP verbiage meant to soften the blow, here’s what CDPHP tells us is going to happen to the fees we pay, as of the beginning of 2015:

• Medicare Part B chemotherapy drugs: from zero to $35.
• Medicare Part B other drugs: from zero to $35.
• Monthly premium: up 18%.
• Maximum out-of-pocket amount: up 60%.
• Ambulance services: up 250%.
• Emergency services: up 30%.
• Inpatient hospital care: up 82%.
• Inpatient mental health care: up 82%.
• Mental health services: up 20%.
• Occupational therapy services: up 67%.
• Other health care professional services: up 25%.
• Outpatient ambulatory surgery: up 100%.
• Outpatient laboratory tests: up 25%.
• Outpatient diagnostic radiology (X-rays, CT, MRI, radiation therapy): up 67%.
• Outpatient hospital services: up 300%.
• Outpatient susbstance abuse services: up 20%.
• Physical therapy and speech-language pathology services: up 67%.
• Podiatry-Medicare covered: up 20%.
• Primary care physician services: up 33%.
• Psychiatric services: up 20%.
• Renal dialysis: up 20%.
• Routine eye exams: up 20%.
• Routine hearing exams: up 20%.
• Skilled nursing facility: up 29%.
• Doctor office visits (primary care): up 33%.
• Doctor office visits (specialists): up 20%.
• Specialists services: up 20%.
• Worldwide emergency coverage: up 30%.

In addition, the co-pays for a one-month supply of prescription drugs is going up this way:

• Tier 2 (non-preferred generic drugs): up 37.5%.
• Tier 3 (preferred brand drugs): up 12.5%.
• Tier 4 (non-preferred brand drugs): 5.6%.
• Tier 5 (specialty drugs): up 10%.

I can imagine that something along the same lines is going on with all other CDPHP insurance plans as well. And, perhaps with all sorts of other plans across the country. Sadly, I thought our government entities that insist on weaseling their way into every facet of our lives would have noticed this as quickly as they notice our private e-mails and images and moved to protect us from such usury. Silly me.


Grandpa William keeps on making news

Sir William Gardiner

Sir William Gardiner

King Richard III

King Richard III

The old saying “Get off your high horse” would have been bad advice for Richard III, King of England.

Since the skeleton of the fallen monarch was found buried under a parking lot in the city of Leicester, England, in 2012, scientists and others have been trying to figure out everything they can about him.

Among early conclusions they reached is that, while through history — prompted by Shakespeare’s unflattering depictions of him — Richard was believed to be a hunchback, he actually only had scoliosis. That meant that while his back was slightly curved, it would not have hindered his movement, even in battle.

The latest reported conclusion is that — surprise, surprise! — Richard probably suffered a very painful death at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485.

That, for the historically challenged, was a bloody affair between the forces of the Plantagenets of York — Richard’s side — and the Tudors of Lancaster. It effectively ended the Plantagenet dynasty and allowed Henry Tudor to assume rule of England under the title Henry VII.

The battle was the last time a reigning English monarch was killed in battle. Later historians dubbed the lengthy series of Plantagenet-Tudor battles as “The War of the Roses” because York’s symbol was the white rose, Lancaster’s the red rose.

I know a bit about the events of that day because I’m working, ever so slowly, on a book about it. More specifically, I’m concentrating on a history of the man who dealt the death blow to Richard, one William Gardiner, who was knighted after the battle for his services and later married one of the offspring of the Tudors.

He happens to be my 17th great grandfather.

The latest research, published in the British medical journal Lancet, says detailed examination of Richard’s bones shows  evidence of of 11 injuries from weapons including daggers, swords and a long metal pole with an axe and hook that was used to pull knights off their horses.

A halberdier.

A halberdier.

The latter weapon, known as a halberd, was Grandpa William’s specialty. He was a broad-shouldered, powerfully-built man who in much of his life was a successful merchant, but also hired out as a mercenary halberdier and was renowned in his time for his skill with the weapon.

All historical research I’ve done supports the idea that William Gardiner was indeed the man who pulled Richard from his horse and ended his life with a stroke of the axe portion of the halberd that caved in the king’s skull, battle crown and all.

The Lancet report says scientists used computer scans, among other methods, to analyze the wounds.

“Richard was probably in quite a lot of pain at the end,” according to Sarah Hainsworth, a professor of materials engineering at the University of Leicester and one of the study authors. “Medieval battle was bloody and brutal,” she said, noting one of the skull injuries showed a blade had pierced Richard’s head.

Although Richard suffered numerous wounds, it was significant that no one has found any evidence that there were any attempts to disfigure him.

“Having evidence that the real Richard III is dead is very useful,” said Steven Gunn, an associate professor of history at Oxford University, who was not part of the research. “You don’t want somebody popping up somewhere later claiming to be the real king.”

For those who like additional details, here is an excerpt from the book “The Making of the Tudor Dynasty,” based on the writings of Jean Molinet, a chronicler from Burgundy who was at the Battle of Bosworth Field:

“Richard, so confident of victory that he was wearing his crown, could observe from a higher level along the hillside that his own personal vanguard was superior to Henry’s and decided to end the battle quickly by slaying Henry Tudor. Sir William Stanley was standing by with an uncommitted force of 3,000 men, ready to rout the losing side. Richard III spurred his horse and in quick time, with his vanguard, engaged Henry in combat.

“As Richard went for Henry to deliver his mortal blow [enter Grandpa William] one of Henry’s men, a … halberdier, intervened, knocking off Richard’s crown, then giving one mighty swing smashed Richard’s helmet into his skull.

“Seeing that their leader was slain, his vanguard began to withdraw and, immediately, Sir William Stanley ordered his men after Richard’s fleeing troops, thus ending the battle in Henry’s favor.”


Played for a sucker, one last time

This is me with Danny Sarmiento, our Honduran youngster brought to Albany for lifesaving cardiac surgery, He's clutching  a personalized Vermont Terry Bear we presented to him.

This is me with Danny Sarmiento, our Honduran youngster brought to Albany for lifesaving cardiac surgery, He’s clutching a personalized Vermont Terry Bear we presented to him.

The latest charity to which I contributed was the new National WWII Museum. A rather hefty contribution, in fact, in honor of my dad who was killed in action in France in WWII.

Since sending the organization a check, it has inundated me with endless requests for more money and pushing me to buy all sorts of useless tchotchkes. It is safe to say the organization has spent more in mailings and brochures sent to me than I contributed.

This, regretably, is not unusual. Numerous other organizations that have been recipients over the years of my contributions meant as supportive of their programs and goals have done the same mindless thing. I can site such groups as the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Capital City Rescue Mission, the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, the American Red Cross and on and on.

By contrast, I also contribute significant sums through Rotary International, the 1.2 million-member global public service organization of which I long have been a member. In all the years I have done so, I have never been targeted for continual arm-twisting for more money.

It has been said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, I am proclaiming my mental health to be strong and my charitable contributions from, now on to be limited to Rotary projects, be they local or international.

Locally, our Rotary club — Southern Rensselaer County, in my case, of which I am the current president — supports family service organizations, Boy Scouts, college scholarships, food pantries, literacy, the Gift of Life organization that brings children here for lifesaving cardiac surgery, and other undertakings. Globally, we support the ongoing battle to eradicate polio, provide ShelterBoxes which bring temporary shelters, tools, water purifying equipment, first-aid supplies and similar materials to areas ravaged by the forces of nature.

When I see the direct result of the hard personal work and generosity of my fellow Rotarians that does only good rather than becoming a catalyst for incessant fundraising, I know that decision is a proper one.

The most recent example is the $11,000 by club of fewer than 30 members raised to bring a Honduran youngster to Albany for lifesaving cardiac surgery under the auspices of the Gift of Life program. Little Danny Sarmiento is an example of what can be accomplished without wasting money on browbeating and annoying people who want only to help.


For a variety of blogs, guides and websites for readers of all interests, go to Bill Dowd.com.


Joe Bruno’s rear view

It is with great sadness that I read and listen to comments from New Yorkers who continue lobbying for leniency for the convicted felon Joseph L. Bruno, the former New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno now awaiting sentencing on corruption counts.

In essence, they contend that because Bruno used his political clout to funnel millions of dollars into local hands for projects from playgrounds to firehouses to business facilities to anything that could bear his name (*), it was OK for him to line his pockets in exchange for being such a benefactor with taxpayer dollars.

That is known as situational ethics. Lawbreaking is OK if everyone else gets theirs. Bruno’s attitude and daily play-by-play commentary on his own trial, along with such reprehensible forgiveness of his transgressions by people who like what he did for them, are a major factor in nourishing New York’s dysfunctional, pathetic political climate.

Bruno says he’s disappointed at the jury’s decision, even though he was found not guilty of several other counts. He should be disappointed in how his own greed and misfeasance led to him becoming a convicted felony.

Bruno, who among many pursuits is a lover of race horses and has been involved in that field, once was asked what he thought about criminal charges against two organizations he had long supported with my tax dollars — the Institute for Entrepreneurship and the New York Racing Association. He gave this thoughtful, statesmanlike reply:

“It doesn’t make sense to look up a dead horse’s rectum. You want to look up a dead horse’s rectum, go ahead; it’s not something I’m going to do.”

In light of the court results, he now might prefer that view than having to look us in the eye.

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(*) Joseph L. Bruno Town Park in Hoosick Falls, Joseph L. Bruno Family Resource Center of the Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region Inc., the Joseph L. Bruno Scholarship from the New York State Summer School of Orchestral Studies, the Joseph L. Bruno Theater in the Arts Center of the Capital Region, the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium at Hudson Valley Community College, the Joseph L. Bruno Pavilion at Saratoga Spa State Park, the Joseph L. Bruno Biotechnology Development Center at Albany Molecular Research, the Joseph L. Bruno Lobby in the Greenbush Area YMCA … . I can’t go on.