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Thread: Tentionmaru vs Klimaru

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    Tentionmaru vs Klimaru

    One year from now, on September 10, 2013, will be the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, in which out-gunned 27-year-old Rhode Islander Oliver Hazard Perry--his flagship, Lawrence, shot out from under him--rowed over to the U.S. Niagara and completed the battle, defeating the British and sending his message to General William Henry Harrison at Fort Meigs, near what is now Toledo: "We have met the enemy, and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop." Perry's flag had on it the famous naval motto, "Don't give up the ship!" The monument to Perry's victory is one of the tallest in the U.S.--second only to the Washington Monument.


    Few readers in the 21st century will remember Pogo, the Walt Kelly newspaper cartoon about critters down in the old Okeefenokee Swamp, although there are still some books on the market featuring the critters. Publication of the daily cartoon apparently ceased in 1975. One was famous; it showed the critters prepared for battle, and the famous statement by Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" One of these Iconoclast columns back in September of 1985, a bit of a rant about lawyers, was titled, "We have met the enemy, and they wear wigs," a reference to the periwigs worn by attorneys and barristers in many nations' courts.

    The concept of being our own worst enemy, however, is certainly not unique. As a writer, I frequently think about "enemies." Frankly, other than myself, I can't think of any that I may have. I don't know whom to forgive, really. We learn to forgive our enemies, and I can't think of anyone who has hurt me other than myself. I certainly do myself more harm, at least health-wise and by what I say without thinking, than anyone else. Oh, sure, there are all those dishonest claimants and insureds committing insurance fraud, greedy bankers who ruined the economy, shoplifters who cause everything to cost more, crooked politicians and tyrant dictators--but these are generic enemies, not personal ones.

    The Competitor As Enemy

    I often hear others talk of their competition as if there was a war and a desire to beat each other to a pulp. Everybody was an enemy to my Type-A brother: his business competitors and partners, other drivers on the road, and when he was a teenager he even had fist fights with the other caddies at the country club where he worked. Years later when he was first hospitalized with a heart attack, he conducted business from the bed over a telephone. He was on the phone ranting and arguing with somebody when a consulting cardiologist entered the room. He looked up and said, "Well, what the hell do you want?" "Nothing," the physician replied. He'd seen what he needed to see in order to fully understand the patient.

    There is certainly enough political animosity between the parties in Washington that one wonders just why they see each other as enemies. Several years ago I gave up arguing politics with a neighbor because one of us (guess which one I thought it was) was a blockhead and a numbskull who couldn't see beyond black and white. When no "weapons of mass destruction" were found in Iraq and the Iraqis began killing each other, I was vindicated--but I never said to him, "I told you so." There was no sense rubbing salt in an old wound. Politics and religion seem to always breed enemies.

    No Enemies Among Fellow Claims Adjusters

    When I was out on the street adjusting claims, I wondered who my enemies might be. It wasn't other companies' adjusters, even when we were on the opposing sides of a claim, as we all got together once a month at the claims association and became buddies. I learned much of what I knew from competitors who shared ideas and showed me better ways to do things. It wasn't the plaintiff attorneys, even those who advertised that we adjusters were a bunch of crooks out to rob poor accident victims of their rights. I got along fine with all of them, simply by meeting them at their offices and seeing what they really had in their files. It was usually far less than what I had, so settlements were easy. I still think face-to-face negotiation is far better than negotiating by telephone or e-mail.

    My fellow insurance adjusters warned me about the boogeymen: public adjusters who would jack up any property claim and skin the insurer. But that, too, turned out to be baloney. All one had to do in those days was memorize the 165 lines of the New York Standard Fire Policy and quote the insured's "requirements." It left the PAs blubbering in tatters, begging for pennies above the legitimate amount of the claim. I guess nobody does that sort of thing anymore. A few years ago I was asked to address the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Many of the members were the sons of the guys I had dealt with in Miami thirty years earlier, always on a friendly basis. Enemies? Hardly.

    Public Enemy Number One

    It's a phrase we don't hear much anymore. Back in the days of radio when "Gangbusters" each week sounded like war with machine guns blazing away between the crooks and the G-men, we all thought of a Thompson sub-machine gun as a Tommy Gun. The F.B.I. was always chasing Communists, and the television drama, I Led Three Lives, was geared to making us hate "commies." It was the same sort of "kill your enemies" philosophy of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his infamous subcommittee on unAmerican activities. The U.S.S.R. was feared and hated. Even today "liberal" is a dirty word akin to "red." (I often wondered why the "blue states" are the Democrats and the "red states" the GOP on the political maps. Old Joe would have apoplexy over that!) McCarthy got his "comeuppance" in the late 1950s when Edward R. Murrow finally told America we'd had enough. It took a while longer to get rid of McCarthy's best crony, J. Edgar Hoover. If you want to read about people who made enemies, try reading Hoover's biography. I wonder where America would be today if it hadn't been for guys like McCarthy and Hoover. I seriously doubt they made our nation safer; rather, they made their era a historical embarrassment to the world.

    I was working the teletypes at the Cleveland branch of The Wall Street Journal during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Everyone stood around waiting for the latest bulletins from New York or the AP. But the crisis passed, and about six months later a WSJ article ran on the wire about a group of American businessmen who had gone on a picnic at the dacha of Nikita Khrushchev. The ice of the Cold War was thawing a bit. Later I read that American businessmen such as Armand Hammer had been running businesses with the Russians for years.

    Yes, there was a stand-off over Cuba and a threat of nuclear war, but how should one think of all that in terms of "enemies"? T he Russians may have been more terrified of us than we were of them. Many American radicals back then would have gladly pushed the nuclear button if given the chance. Two years later, when I was in the Army during Vietnam, I still wondered about enemies. What were we doing there? Was Washington telling us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Again, as with Murrow, it was CBS journalists who began to ask the right questions and dig for the right answers.

    Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall

    The year 1973 marked my first visit behind the "Iron Curtain," so named by Winston Churchill, who was also good at finding enemies although he was generally 100 percent on target with those he found. My wife and I took a European tour that included East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. It was a few weeks after Nasser had chased the Russians out of Egypt, and many of the Red Army guys were taking R&R in Prague and Budapest when we were there as tourists. We crossed into East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie, peeked over the Berlin Wall, and watched as border guards between East Germany and Czechoslovakia ran long spikes down through a load of grain on a truck to make sure nobody was hiding underneath the load. We were pretty sure we had a British spy on that trip with us. I recall a restaurant on the East German Autobahn on our way to Dresden--their version of Howard Johnson's--where the food looked about as appetizing as weeds. Meat consisted of little balls of something encrusted in white layers of congealed fat.

    Four years later, the year before President Carter cancelled U.S. participation in the Olympics, we visited Scandinavia and Russia with another tour group. When we saw the inefficiencies in Leningrad and Moscow, our group, which was a church group, realized Russia was on its last legs. Enemies? They could barely feed themselves, let alone American tourists. They may have beat the U.S. into space with Sputnik, but beyond sophisticated armaments they were a pathetic nation, able to hold onto what they had only by brute force and intimidation--the same tools Old Joe McCarthy used in the U.S. Senate.

    Going Down to Go Up

    For example, in our Leningrad hotel the restaurant was on the 17th floor, and there were two tiny elevators. Our room was on the fifth floor, so by the time an elevator might stop, it was already full. Generally it didn't stop at all. So I'd walk down to the first floor, ask to get off at the fifth, and when the door opened my wife got on and we'd get to the 17th floor. Why we even bothered going I'm not sure. Breakfast consisted of tiny, wormy apples and thick coffee with hard black bread.

    At GUM, the famous Moscow department store, it took five people to sell one pair of shoes (not that we were buying shoes, but it was fascinating to watch). One clerk took the order. A second hunted up the shoes. A third clerk wrapped them up, while a fourth made out the bill, and the customer handed the rubles to a fifth person while the third handed over the shoes. There were no supermarkets. There was one long line on a street for cabbages, another for beets, a third for potatoes, and so on. No lines for meat, of which there wasn't any. Shopping was an all-day event, standing in line The quality, even if there was availability, was awful. Russia had "full employment," but nobody really had a job to do. We came home wondering why Americans would be fearful of this poor, inefficient nation. Sure, they had a big army, but were they really an "enemy"?

    Today we have declared places like North Korea and Iran as enemies. It seems like we always have to have someone to hate and fear. I've not been to either nation, but I was in China before China discovered capitalism. Our CPCU International Seminar group, holding joint educational conferences with the People's Insurance Company of China, attended a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, across from the Emperor's Palace. We even traveled on Chinese Air Force transports. I didn't see an "enemy" on the whole trip. I recall a conversation with one of the vice-chairmen of the P.I.C.C. who told me (in perfect English) that for decades prior to America's recognition of China he had operated an office on Maiden Lane in New York City, near AIG, where the P.I.C.C. arranged their reinsurance. It was the Chinese who invented insurance!

    The Conch Republic

    When we lived in Miami, I supervised claims in the Florida Keys. We were only 90 miles from Cuba. Cuba was "our enemy," and Miami was full of Cuban exiles. In the 240-hour Florida Insurance License course I taught four nights a week at the Miami Adult Center I had many Cuban refugees who had been insurance executives or agents in Havana before coming to the U.S. Some spoke no English, but Florida allowed them to take the license exam in Spanish. They got higher scores than most of those in the insurance program at Florida State University. Politically, these folks made sure that the U.S. continued to see Cuba as an "enemy." It was communist. Shouldn't we all be shaking in our boots as we embargoed all trade and aid to the Cubans?

    A few months after we left Miami the U.S. Border Patrol set up an inspection station on U.S. 1, the Overseas Highway, somewhere between Marathon and Key West. U.S. citizens in Key West had to pass through Customs to get to Miami, so Key Westers figured that they must now be a foreign country and declared themselves "The Conch Republic." Our Key West adjuster-in-charge at the time, who later became an executive with the company, took a trip to Antarctica. He took a Conch Republic flag with him and was declared the Conch Ambassador to Antarctica. Well, at least the Conchs had a sense of humor and never declared war on us.

    To believe we have no enemies is probably pretty naive. When al Qaida can destroy our World Trade Center, damage the Pentagon, and put underwear or shoe bombs on airliners--or drug gangs can kill people in turf battles--real physical enemies are no joke. Like it or not, we must react to some degree, and agencies such as the Border Patrol and TSA become realities. We adjusters must be the foot soldiers in the war on insurance fraud, another very real enemy. But how should we react and respond to those who profess to despise us, whether they are religious fanatics or plaintiff lawyers with their accusatory ads? Frankly, I worry more about those who see enemies on every street corner than I worry about real threats that I can personally do nothing to prevent. When we make enemies of gays, immigrants, or women's physicians, we've gone too far. Those who are our political enemies today may be our allies tomorrow. It is perhaps only those who are afraid to look at reality who end up fearing what might not be fearful at all.

    Whenever I enjoy a great dinner--all that fat, red meat, carbohydrates, sugar, and salt--I'm a real enemy to myself. I've met that enemy, and it is me. Somehow, I sort of like the son-of-a-gun anyway, even if he does make me feel guilty.


    Ken Brownlee, CPCU, is a former adjuster and risk manager based in Atlanta, Ga. He now authors and edits claim-adjusting textbooks.
    Last edited by saraohyland; 04-03-2018 at 06:27 AM.

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