Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Abolish Lifetime Supreme Court Appointments

USA Today has an article in today’s paper about the Supreme Court, and the fact that there are currently no vacancies. It also speaks to how there have been some cases where appointees to the Supreme Court have won their seats by seemingly just being in the right place at the right time.

But as I read the article, I find myself more concerned that the high position of Supreme Court Justice is an appointment for life – or, until the person retires/resigns, which usually doesn’t happen until they are very old and have been on the court for a long time.

We need to change this. There shouldn’t be any lifetime appointments in the United States. There should be no position that the people can’t somehow have a choice in making a change. I’m not saying that the court should change with every presidential election; I am suggesting that there should be term limits imposed on these positions to allow for new appointments, and with it, new energy and maybe a new outlook on matters. I would think that 10 years would be long enough to serve.

How can the American people change this? Does it take and act of Congress or something else to do it? I don’t know. But I wish someone higher up in our government would tackle the issue. With the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, it seems the people of the United States spoke strongly that they want change. Maybe this is one more place where we can try to change things? No one in this country should be given a lifetime appointment for anything, and the highest court in the land should be no exception.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Madoff Ponzi Scheme – How Can This Happen?

At one time, I thought nothing could be worse for the state of our financial markets than the recent dive in the stock market, the problems with our financial institutions, and the greed of people who invested in real estate that they couldn’t afford.

But, I was wrong. Now we have the shame of a swindler by the name of Bernard Madoff, who masterminded probably the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, putting even Mr. Ponzi himself to shame.

If you don’t know what a Ponzi scheme is, it is a pyramid scheme where people who get in on the deal early on reap the benefits of the system, which are usually funded by the hapless fools who enter the program farther down in the process, instead of an investment which is paid as a result of true profit from a business venture or investment. The scheme was named after the man who took this type scheme to new heights in the early 1900s. And 100 years later, we have another man, Bernard Madoff, who found a way to make the fraud even more spectacular, hoodwinking tons of smart and not so smart people in order to bilk $50+ BILLION (yes, billion) from them. Sadly, many charitable organizations have been hurt in the process. Keep in mind that Madoff had also recently served as the chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, so I suppose some thought that this meant he actually had scruples, morals, and was honest.

What I don’t get is how, in this day in age with all kinds of supposed financial controls, that no one caught this sooner. Publicly head companies have to be audited regularly to make sure that everything is kept on the up and up, and that there is no fraud. I am not sure if Madoff’s company was considered public or private, but regardless, isn’t anyone watching these kinds of businesses or investments? Is our financial world so filled with MBAs that are so out of touch with the real world that they can’t spot fraud and deception? I just don’t get how Madoff “made off” with so much money with no one even blinking and eye. Had the stock market not taken a massive nosedive, precipitating some of those investors asking for their money, the scheme may have gone on a lot longer.

I can understand why some people think it’s safer right now to just keep their saved money in their mattress. Is there no one in control of making sure that our money is safe? Also, while I feel very sorry for the charitable organizations that will lose out because of this deception, I feel no sympathy for those people who in some cases invested all they had with Madoff, and now are whining they are left with nothing. That’s what greed can do. I can’t recall what specific news broadcast where I saw this particular story – it may have been NBC Nightly News – where an older couple was sitting in the beautiful home with nice furniture and with their manicured landscaping, whining that they now have nothing. Sorry, but to me they look like they were able to afford living a nice life without that money, so maybe they will just have to change their lifestyle, like the rest of the people who have lost their jobs, or their investments, because of the recent downturn in the economy. If a person makes an investment hoping to get a big return, there is usually a big risk that comes along with it. That’s the price one has to pay.

Still, Madoff should be forced to pay restitution – with whatever they can liquidate out of him – and pay the charities first. Then, they should lock him in jail and throw away the key, and maybe force him to watch CSI Miami reruns for the rest of his life. Yeah, I know it’s harsh, but he deserves it.

We do need better financial oversight in this country, though. Is there no one out there with the integrity and the brains that we can trust to take on this task? I can only hope that there is, because we could sure use him or her right now.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Migraines and Wonder Drugs

When I woke up this morning at 3:00 AM, I had a migraine. Not just any migraine, but one that was fully in progress. For those of you who get migraines, there is nothing worse than waking up with that feeling that someone just slammed you in the head with a baseball bat and then turned your stomach upside down.

I’ve gotten to the point that I usually get some sort of signal in my dreams that a migraine is coming so I know that I have to wake up and take something immediately. Sometimes it’s a dream where the colors suddenly get very bright and lights flash on and off, or a dream where I am trapped somewhere and can’t get out, or that I start feeling strong emotions in my dream such as anger, fear, etc. I have very vivid dreams as a rule, so I tend to see anything extreme in my dream as a warning that a migraine is coming.

But last night, there was no such signal, so by the time I did wake up – probably from the sheer pain – it was already so bad that I couldn’t stand it. I get up and take an Imitrex immediately, and lay back down in the dark, hoping that it would work very quickly. While waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I found myself reflecting on those days when there wasn’t such thing as Imitrex, or at least nothing like it in pill form. I had heard of people getting injections of Imitrex from their doctors but there was no way I could run to a doctor every time I got a bad migraine. I recall getting blinding headaches that would knock me off my feet for sometimes days on end. And when they hit on a day that I had to work – which is when they usually hit – it was sheer torture having to work while office noise, phones, fluorescent lights, and someone’s awful perfume made me feel worse.

But sometime in the early 1990s, when I went to the doctor because I was desperate for relief, she ordered a CT scan, but also prescribed me some Imitrex. I was fearful about taking it at first because the side effects sounded awful (the info sheet at the time listed “death” as a possible side effect). But, the pain in my head had to go, and I figured if the drug killed me maybe it was all for the best!

Now, many years later, I realized last night that I have taken the drug for granted. It works so well that it made me forget all those days of misery. When I was watching The Today Show this morning, that annoying Dr. Nancy Snyderman was going on about how many drugs that people take, and was strongly suggesting that people look to drugs as the easy way to solve their pain problems. She even commented something about people years ago just toughing out those bad headaches. Sure, I toughed out many of my own, thank you. But I wanted to talk back to Dr. Snyderman to tell her that just because humans CAN experience pain doesn’t mean we HAVE to. I have to say that Imitrex helped me to function as a normal human being and allowed me to live life the best I could. Along with a daily dose of a beta-blocker, I get far fewer migraines and they are far less severe. I make no apologies for avoiding all the pain and suffering that a bad migraine can bring.

There are people out there that do look to drugs to solve all their problems. But there are millions and millions of people who need them to help them live normally, or help them to simply survive. While Nancy bemoans people taking too many drugs, I can only bemoan all the years that went by when doctors offered no solid help in order to alleviate my pain just because they thought as Nancy does – that people could just work through the pain.

So, the next thing I am hoping for is for something like pain transference, where you can just pass your pain along to someone else. I would just “transfer” my next bad migraine to Nancy Snyderman and tell her to handle it without the drugs.

Whew. Now I feel better!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Selling a Senate Seat

It’s bad enough that some New Yorkers are unhappy at the prospect of Caroline Kennedy taking over Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat when Hillary takes the position of Secretary of State. I think Carolyn is an intelligent person and could probably do very well, but I can see where people don’t think that her last name should mean she inherited good political sense or experience. Some see the possible appointment as a payback for Kennedy throwing the weight of her name to the Obama campaign. I will admit that I wondered when she endorsed Obama for the office of the president if there would be something in it for her later on down the road. But her career and personal life have always been so low-key and on the up-and-up that I still can’t imagine that she expected something in return for her endorsement.

But news that the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested by the Feds for corruption - one of the things being that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s open Senate seat - is the real cause for concern. According to CNN:

“In a 76-page affidavit, federal authorities say wiretaps caught Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat in exchange for financial benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

The governor also often weighed the option of appointing himself to the Senate seat, saying he was "stuck" at governor and might have access to more resources as a senator than as a governor, the affidavit says. A Senate seat could also help him remake his image ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016. "If ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it," he said in one conversation….Federal authorities also allege the governor and Harris schemed with others -- including convicted real estate developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko -- to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and others, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich.”


This seems to be a pattern with Illinois governors, seeing that the state’s previous Governor, George Ryan, was convicted in 2006 on racketeering and fraud charges.

If anything, maybe this matter means that we need to find a better way to appoint replacements for open Senate seats. Rather than have them be appointed by one person – the governor – maybe there should be a vote with all remaining members of the senate and congress for the state, plus all the state senators. The party who held the seat being vacated can nominate their candidate, and the others can either ratify or vote down. How hard could this be? It certainly would be a lot harder for someone to sell – or buy – the open position.

I hate to add more bureaucracy to a process, but is seems that in light of the concern over the Kennedy appointment, and the allegations that the Illinois governor tried to sell an open seat, it’s clear that the current method of appointment doesn’t quite match what the people want. It’s a shame that they can’t have a general election and let the constituents themselves vote. Now that’s a radical idea – actually letting the people chose!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Be Wary of Stealth Price Increases

Prices have been going up everywhere on just about everything. It’s easy to notice when something that you buy frequently raises in price. But there is one kind of price increase that creeps up on you in a stealth mode: packaging and quantity changes.

I did my usual twice-monthly stocking up of household items today at Wal-Mart and my local supermarket. Not only were the price increases very noticeable, but the packaging changes were so dramatic that they were obvious not only to my eyes but to my HANDS. There were several times that I picked up that I could tell that the size of the package had changed. In one case, my shampoo, the bottle size had grown, but so did the price – per ounce. It seems like you're getting more for the overall price, but you're getting more at a higher ounce price. One item – my dishwasher rinse aid – was clearly in a smaller bottle, and the size changed enough that my hand could tell immediately as I picked it up off the shelf. And the price went up, too. The other area is with cereals, where boxes have become thinner in depth, or in breads, where you may get the same amount of slices, but the slices are smaller (the bread delivery man tipped me off to the latter).

I understand that price increases are necessary these days because the cost of making the product and simply moving it to the stores and getting it on the shelves has risen. But I cry foul when a company changes their packaging without making note of it to the consumer, and then selling that lower quantity for either the same price or higher. It seems like cheating or stealing to me.

Now that I have noticed the change, it’s time for me to start re-evaluating some of the products I use often, and I may decide to make some changes in what I buy. The companies that I have been loyal to in the past that changed the package size AND raised the price already have a big strike against them. So instead of getting more money from me by delivering less of their product, they may find that they get no money from me at all.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Hate Macy’s, Period.

Last December, I wrote a blog about some problems that I had shopping at the local Macy’s. Part of it was about the horrible product offerings at the store. Part of it was about their color-coded credit card system, which tried to identify big spending credit card users, probably so they can treat those people better, completely ignoring the frequent cash spender like me. I also talked about the fact that the sales clerks sign their names on the receipt to remind you to fill out their customer survey on line.

Well, it’s just about one year later and I think I dislike Macy’s even more. In fact, I am not sure when – or if - I will be shopping there again.

I was a frequent shopper at the store when it was a May Company store, and then a Kauffman’s store. Once Macy’s took over, the selection of products and the inventory levels were so bad that it made no sense to even go in to the store for a long time. But, I went in there a few weeks ago and felt that there was an improvement, so I decided to clip out my Macy’s 20% off coupon and do some early Christmas shopping. I was very careful to make sure that what I was buying was not listed as something that didn’t qualify under the rules of the coupon. But, sad to say, even though it wasn’t written on the coupon, what I picked did not qualify for the discount. Annoyed, I asked the sales clerk to show me where it said I couldn’t use it. She took the coupon and also couldn’t find it on there, but said that I couldn’t use it because the computer had it blocked. Since I wanted the item for a gift, I bought it anyway, but was unhappy about it. The sales signed her name to the receipt and told me not to forget to fill out the survey on line and list her name, and tell them about their great service. I chuckled as I had no plans to do so, seeing that I’d filled out Macy’s surveys before and it seemed nothing had changed.

Today, I thought I’d try one more time to go into Macy’s and use a new coupon they had in the weekend flyer. Guess what? Same problem. The item I had selected (men’s socks) or their brand name was not listed on the exceptions to the discount list, but the computer wouldn’t allow it - I was told it was because of the brand name. Annoyed, I asked the clerk to point out where it says they were exempted on the coupon, and again she could not find it. She thinks the computer may think it is a “superbuy” which ARE exempted, but the price card by the product didn’t list it as such; it appeared to be a regular sale item that wasn’t exempted.

I bought the socks anyway – the price wasn’t too bad but the discount would have been better. But what frosts me is that after getting stiffed on the discount, the clerk had the nerve to sign her name to the receipt and remind me about the survey, and to tell them out their “exceptional service.” Exceptional? I think not. Confusing discount practices – albeit not the clerks’ fault – is hardly exceptional service. And I am tired of what I see as Macy’s “baiting” tactics where it looks like coupons can be used towards their purchase, when in fact, they cannot.

I have to tell you I never had these problems with May’s or Kauffman’s – ever. Their discount coupons were clear and their shelves were clearly marked as to which items didn’t qualify if a specific brand name wasn’t already listed on the coupon. For some reason, Macy’s wants to make it hard to use the coupon on purpose. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they want you to only find that out when the item is rung up at the register, and then you may still decide, as I did two times, that I still wanted it anyway. Well, I’m not playing that game anymore with Macy’s

As far as I am concerned, it will be a long long time before I buy anything from Macy’s again. There are plenty other department stores out there who don’t need to play these kind of games, and I will be more than happy to spend my money there.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pirates? In This Day and Age?

Arrgggg, no, this isn’t about the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m talking real pirates. It appears that Somalian pirates are out there, snagging up cargo ships, including oil tankers. In the past few weeks, Somalia's pirates have grabbed eight ships, including that oil supertanker which was carrying $100 million worth of crude oil. Crew members are held hostage and ransom demands have been made.

Now there is word that Islamic fighters are threatening to attack in order to get the Sirius Star back, which is — a 1,080-foot tanker owned by Saudi Aramco.

According to a September article in the New York Times:

“ The Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview on Tuesday that they had no idea the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas. “We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, said in a telephone interview. “So we stopped it.” In a 45-minute interview, Mr. Sugule spoke on everything from what the pirates wanted (“just money”) to why they were doing this (“to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters”) to what they had to eat on board (rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human-being food”)…. The piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago, Somali officials said, as a response to illegal fishing. Somalia’s central government imploded in 1991, casting the country into chaos. With no patrols along the shoreline, Somalia’s tuna-rich waters were soon plundered by commercial fishing fleets from around the world. Somali fishermen armed themselves and turned into vigilantes by confronting illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay a tax.

“From there, they got greedy,” said Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya. “They starting attacking everyone.”

By the early 2000s, many of the fishermen had traded in their nets for machine guns and were hijacking any vessel they could catch: sailboat, oil tanker, United Nations-chartered food ship.
What amazes me is that every picture I’ve seen of these pirates, there are in tiny boats that are dwarfed by these huge ships. Maybe I don’t understand how these boats get taken over, but it would seem to me that it wouldn’t be too easy just to climb aboard these large cargo ships. Part of the problem is that many ships are reluctant to carry weapons – and to me, that’s almost asking for trouble. PBS published an interview with Peter Pham and Andre Le Sage, as they discuss the problem, and it may answer some of these questions:

Somalia has not had a fully functioning government since 1991 and is currently dealing with an Islamist insurgency.

And one further development today: The Guardian newspaper reported that the British will lead a fleet of European Union warships to Gulf of Aden next month to combat piracy.

For more on all of this, we turn to Andre Le Sage, assistant professor and chief of counterterrorism at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.
And Peter Pham, associate professor and director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University.

Well, Peter Pham, who are these pirates? And why has there been a rise in piracy?

PETER PHAM, James Madison University: Well, the pirates are armed criminal gangs, more or less operating on a clan basis, led by essentially warlords who have taken to the waters.

The crimes are occurring because it's a crime of opportunity. There's no government to speak of in Somalia to stop them. The area is very wide and poorly patrolled, so the opportunity is there. And, unfortunately, the shippers are willing to pay the ransom, so there's an economic motive, as well.

JEFFREY BROWN: Andre Le Sage, what would you add to that, in terms of why there's been this uptick?

ANDRE LE SAGE, National Defense University: Well, I think that the uncontrolled situation in Somalia is really at the heart of the problem. And also, a small number of pirate interests that started off in 2003 became more sophisticated over the years, have generated a substantial amount of ransom money that they can then reinvest in new piracy operations.

Other copycat outfits have also started to get into the game, and it's multiplied the number of pirates that are out there.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the capture of the supertanker this weekend really grabbed the world's attention. What did it tell us -- stay with you, Andre -- about the range, the boldness of these pirates?

ANDRE LE SAGE: Well, these are obviously very brazen attacks, to be able to get out to 450 nautical miles off of the east African coast is just something that people didn't think was possible in the past.

Originally, the International Maritime Bureau was advocating that ships stay maybe 50 nautical miles up to 200 nautical miles outside of Somali waters so they could avoid problems. But now we're seeing much more sophisticated attacks.

We're also witnessing the fact that the international maritime presence, the naval presence that has been sent to the area, is just not sufficient to deter the pirates from continuing.

Support network on land
JEFFREY BROWN: Peter Pham, how sophisticated? Do they know, for example, what their targets are, what the cargoes are in particular targets?

PETER PHAM: I think we've seen a progression. Originally, it was whatever came by and could be seized.

Now we're seeing these criminal networks of pirates engaging in intelligence-gathering, rationally choosing their targets, and also reacting to where the increased patrols have come.

So as patrols have moved into the Gulf of Aden, we've seen, like the attack on the Saudi tanker, in waters where the patrols aren't operating.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Andre Le Sage, how sophisticated in terms of how it's actually done? They have a mother ship, I hear, in many cases, a number of speedboats, but what actually happens when they take over a ship?

ANDRE LE SAGE: Although these ships are being attacked hundreds of nautical miles off-shore, these are relatively low-tech operations that the pirates are running.

They bring a small number of speedboats -- maybe three or five -- off the Somali coast. Maybe they capture a slightly larger fishing trawler that they can use as a base of operations for days or weeks. They can lay in wait for ships to come by. They might maneuver themselves into high-density shipping areas.

Once they see a boat that might be a little bit slow, a little bit low in the water, with sides that aren't too high off the seas, they then use grappling hooks and ladders to board the ship.

JEFFREY BROWN: Just like pirates of old, huh?

ANDRE LE SAGE: Exactly. And some people report that attack from beginning to end, it might take only 15 minutes until a crew is actually seized and put under pirate guard, and then the vessel steams back to the Somali coast for the ransoming process to begin.

JEFFREY BROWN: And the cargo ship being attacked, these are generally unarmed? Are they always unarmed? Are they unarmed sometimes?

ANDRE LE SAGE: They're not always unarmed, but there is some debate about whether weapons should be brought on board ships.

In 2005, the Seabourn Spirit, a Western cruise ship that was rounding the Horn of Africa, was attacked. They were able to deter the pirates by using an LRAD, a long-range acoustic device, sort of a sonic weapon that directed high-intensity sounds at the pirates and scared them away.

Others have encouraged using water cannons or some form of non-lethal weapons that could be used against pirates.

There is a reluctance by the private shipping industry to have actual guns on board ships.

I’m not one to advocate violence and I don’t particularly care for guns. But I also live in the real world, and I know that sometimes guns may be the only thing that helps keep the peace or protect one’s life or property. I hope that anyone shipping in this area arms themselves, or as suggested above, obtain something non-lethal like water cannons. If they don’t want to handle the guns themselves, have them hire a private security company that will do it for them. And where exactly is the U.N. while all this is going on? Doing nothing, I am sure, which is what they seem to do best. It seems that this problem would all be solved with a little show of weaponry. I would think that those shipping in that area should pony up and start protecting their own ships.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Did Cuyahoga County Jailers Kill Sean Levert?

It almost sounds like it could be something from an episode of Law & Order. A member of an R&B group is taken to jail, and dies because his jailers withheld his prescribed medication. And then, the heroic Jack McCoy would go after the jailers for something like negligent homicide, and Jack would win.

Sadly, the only part about that story that is fiction is the Jack McCoy thing. The truth is that the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) jail withheld prescribed anti-anxiety medication from R&B singer Sean Levert, and he died because of it. (Sean also happened to be the son of the Eddie Levert ,who was a member of the group The O’Jays. ) In addition, his jailers seemed indifferent to his pleas for his medication, medical attention, or help, even after they put him in a restraining chair because he could not be controlled. When they finally went to administer some medication to calm him, it was too late – he wasn’t breathing.

Prosecutors cleared the jailers of criminal wrongdoing and the coroner says he died of natural causes, specifically, “from complications of sarcoidosis.” It was also noted, though, that withdrawal from Xanax contributed to his death.

I see it very differently. What I see is a jail that tortured and then killed Sean Levert. In fact, this whole story is so horrific that it makes me ill. I don’t know of anyone in the Cleveland area familiar with the story who isn’t sickened by it and appalled that Cuyahoga County and jail officials seem to think that they did nothing wrong.

The truth of the matter is that they withheld prescribed medication – Xanax - from Levert. What makes matters worse, they didn’t appear to consult with any medical experts before they took this action. It seems that in their “rules,” anxiety isn’t considered a critical condition, and even though Levert had other known medical conditions such as high blood pressure and sarcoidosis they still didn’t see it as critical. Since Levert had been taking Xanax three times a day since November of 2007, his body went through withdrawal when the medication was discontinued cold turkey. This excerpt from a Cleveland Plain Dealer article,
explains what happened:

Levert was sentenced March 24 to 22 months in prison for owing $90,988.96 to three children he fathered before marrying 13 years ago. Deputies brought him from a Cuyahoga County courtroom to the jail in the same building. During the booking process, Levert surrendered a bottle of Xanax that contained 37 pills. He began taking the 2-milligram pills three times a day in November 2007. The prescription for 90 pills was refilled on March 12.

The first few days, Levert and another inmate shared a cell built for one person. Levert was supposed to sleep on a mattress on the floor. He couldn't sleep that way, he said, so for three nights he tried to sleep sitting with his back against a wall, according to the reports.

Levert told his cellmate that he was supposed be taking medication, but it had been taken away from him. At 8:30 a.m. March 27, Levert told a corrections officer that he needed his medication. The officer contacted a nurse who said Levert would have to "wait like everyone else" to see a doctor. He was scheduled to be seen on April 8. (Ohio law gives jails up to two weeks to have new inmates medically evaluated.)

The jail's manager of health care services, Christine Dubber, told investigators after the death that Levert's Xanax was taken because anxiety was not considered an urgent problem, like psychosis, schizophrenia and suicidal thoughts.

The evening of March 29, Levert told his cellmate he heard a woman screaming outside of the jail. He said she was threatening to kill a corrections officer. The cellmate told Levert he couldn't hear a woman screaming.

About 3:30 a.m. March 30, Levert told the cellmate he could hear his wife. She was telling him that their son just fell into the pool. Levert became fearful and pushed a call button to summon a corrections officer. He told the officer that his wife said his son fell into the pool. He wanted to know if his son was OK. A short time later, a corrections officer and a nurse came to Levert's cell. He was crying. They took him to a pod of cells reserved for inmates with mental health problems. He was not given his medication.

At 7:45 p.m. March 30, Levert told a sergeant that he had just seen a bad car crash. The sergeant reported the "hallucinative and delusional behavior" to a nurse who took no action. Levert was pacing in his cell, "acting bizarre" and yelling that his mother and his son were being killed. Jail supervisor Michael McClelland was called to the cell. He allowed Levert to call his mother, but she didn't answer the phone. McClelland wrote in a report that a doctor would see Levert the next day.

At 10:46 p.m., Levert began shouting and pounding on the cell floor "for no reason." McClelland was summoned again. He said Levert sounded like "there were three pitbulls in the room and he was fighting them off." McClelland opened the cell door. Levert "shot into my arms. He didn't put up a fight," McClelland said. They both slid to the floor, where Levert was handcuffed. At 10:52 p.m., McClelland and other officers begin strapping Levert into a restraint chair "to prevent him from injuring himself."

In a videotape of Levert being placed in the chair, he repeatedly shouts, "No, no, no" and strains against the straps, but he doesn't fight the jailers. His breathing is labored. With his eyes squeezed shut, he wails, "No, no, no" for four minutes. At 10:56 p.m., he shouts, "She did it. She did it. She killed my mother. Andy, your mother killed her. She did it. She did it. She's gonna pay. You did it." He stops shouting at 10:57 p.m., seemingly out of breath. The video camera is turned off.

Nurse Jane Lawrence checked to make sure the restraint straps around Levert's wrists, ankles and shoulders weren't too tight. The nurse called the jail's psychiatrist, described Levert's condition and told the doctor that Levert had been taking Xanax. She was told to give Levert an injection that contained three drugs, Benadryl, Ativan and Haldol, to calm him. The nurse told McClelland she wanted to know more about Levert's medical history before she gave him the shot. She called Levert's mother.

The reports show she and McClelland spoke to Levert's mother for five to seven minutes. McClelland assured Martha, "Your son is fine. He's not in any danger of hurting himself or anybody else. Yes, we have him restrained right now because he lost his cool in that cell quite a bit. He just went a little wild. We can't allow him to hurt himself, but he's safe right now and we'll be watching him very closely tonight."

McClelland hung up the phone and went to check on Levert, who he could hear was no longer shouting. It was 11:17 p.m. when he found Levert in a "distressed state," not breathing. He called to the nurse and they put Levert on the floor to begin CPR. Paramedics already entering the jail to treat a woman having difficulty breathing were instead sent to Levert. His heart was beating erratically and stopped beating on the way to St. Vincent Charity Hospital. He arrived at 11:42 p.m. Doctors tried for fifteen minutes to restart his heart. They pronounced him dead at 11:57 p.m. March 30.

I don’t take anti-anxiety medication, but even though I’m no expert I do know that stopping them suddenly can cause major problems for a person. And despite that the Cuyahoga County Jail seems to think anxiety is not critical, I would think that any prescribed medication should ever be withheld from anyone. If they have concerns of the validity of the prescription, then they should check with the prescribing physician. But when someone comes in with a prescription, no jailer has a right to think that they know better when it comes to medicine than a doctor. And despite Levert’s pleas for his medication, his screaming, his hallucination, that they still didn’t see this as a reason to get immediate medical attention, well that’s just plain immoral. If withholding medication, allowing Levert to descend into some sort of inner hell, physically restraining him isn’t torture, then I don’t know what is. The bottom line is that they created a perfect environment for Levert, who already had other medical problems, to die. And that sounds like homicide to me.

You may think something like this can never happen to you or someone close to you, but after you read the account of this crime – and yes, I think it’s a crime – you may think twice about that. Think about it - what happens if you're jailed and someone else decides a medical condition you have isn't deemed critical and you get ill , and they withhold your meds? Be prepared to die if you're in a Cuyahoga County jail.

Levert's widow, Angela Lowe, has a civil lawsuit against Cuyahoga County officials and corrections officers for wrongful death. I hope she wins. And I also hope that the County changes their rules – NOW – before someone else is killed. I also hope a lot of people get fired over this inhumane behavior, because we don’t need people like this in our criminal justice system. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll end up in jail themselves and get a dose of their own "medicine."

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Should the Auto Companies Be Saved?

I have been turning over in my head this whole issue about the auto manufacturers needing a financial bail out for days now. The fact that I’ve had a migraine that has been hanging on for days now too doesn’t seem to have helped me to think this matter through.

My first reaction is to bail them out. After all, there are millions of jobs directly on the line if Ford, GM, and/or Chrysler folded. That doesn’t even count the millions of jobs for people employed at companies that supply the auto manufacturers in order for them to build the cars, or the jobs affected by companies that rely on selling related products for those cars once they are in the hands of the consumer. The fact is that people still need to buy cars, and if there aren’t American made cars to be bought, it will drive the consumers to foreign made cars. And their dollars will go with them.

The flip side is that car manufacturers have been slow to innovate. They continued to spit out gas-guzzling behemoths because people want them. Or, it was just good marketing on the part of the car companies that made people think they wanted them. The other problem is that the auto manufacturers are up to their necks in unions, which may be choking them with expenses. Granted, the need for unions years and years ago helped to protect the employees from poor working conditions and helped people get a fair wage for the work for what they do, but now they seem to be too confining. Companies can’t control the massive costs that these unions carry when it comes to pensions, health care, and hourly wages. While I don’t want companies to have no checks and balances when it comes to compensation for its employees, I also think the unions are at fault for their sometimes exorbitant demands.

Something has to give.

Right now, I am leaning toward letting one of these car companies go bankrupt. It will force the company to reorganize and maybe even weaken its union, if not dismantle it all together. Sure, it will be painful and a lot of people will be affected by it. But something needs to happen to scare the living daylights out of the big car companies and the big unions. They need to change how they operate, and they need to provide higher quality products that last longer and don’t require financing over 5-6 years. They also need to start building more fuel efficient vehicles like those that we were promised in the 1970s with the last oil/gas crisis. So, let’s say that GM goes belly up. Maybe that would force Ford and Chrysler and their unions to make change quick so they aren’t next. The loss of money in one’s own pocket can sometimes be a great motivator.

The Fed could bail them out. But, let’s be honest here. The Fed is waffling now about how it will use the bail out money for the financial institutions. I think that the whole economic problems we are facing right now are so huge that the Fed honestly don’t know what to do. I can’t say that I blame them. But their indecisiveness isn’t helping matters. So, if they bail out the car companies, they better do it with some hard and fast rules about how the money is used and there better be some clear expectations for specific results. There should be controls in place to make sure the money doesn’t just fall into a black hole. There should be no bonuses for any executives - or anybody - until the money is repaid. In fact, there should be no RAISES for anybody until the money is repaid, and every employee should take a pay cut. Within 2 years I’d want a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon, or one that runs on renewable energy, or both. I would want something for my money. Is that too much to ask?

It’s no wonder I still have a migraine.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Who’s to Blame for the Palin Debacle?

Newsweek, the magazine that gave you a cover with a close up of Sarah Palin’s moustache, now has revealed allegations of many behind the scenes problems with Sarah Palin as she campaigned for John McCain. These problems included uncontrolled spending for clothes for herself and her family, having staffers put clothing purchases for her on the staffers credit cards, tantrums and infighting, diva behavior, refusing to take coaching before TV appearances, and greeting male staffers in her hotel room wrapped in a towel. (SHE was wrapped in the towel, not the hotel room.) There were also many concerns about her overall intelligence, saying she didn’t know Africa was a continent, and not knowing the three big countries involved in NAFTA.

This doesn’t come as much surprise to me and I find these allegations completely believable. I found myself wondering why these allegations didn’t come out sooner. In the video below (oddly, from Fox (Faux) News - who never utters a bad word about a republican, ever!) the reporter seems to indicate that they DID know about it, but since it was information given off the record at the time, it couldn’t be used.

Of course, Sarah Palin defends herself. She makes it sound like it’s just negativity from negative people. And frankly, if staffers felt this way about her, then they shouldn’t have continued working for the campaign. The fact that they kept this under wraps during the campaign may be considered commendable as far as their ability to keep a secret, but their true colors are showing now that the campaign is over and the blame game is beginning. It seems they are very quick - maybe too quick - to throw Palin under the bus.

I think the person on the top of the blame list should be John McCain. He selected Sarah as his running mate. His campaign clearly didn’t vet her thoroughly or they didn’t care to. Many voters saw his selection of a woman for his running mate as his last ditch attempt to get ahead of the game with women voters that had been in the Hilary Clinton camp. When Sarah opened her mouth for the first time for an interview, it was clear that his choice was flawed, and people began to really wonder about McCain's judgement.

It seems they couldn’t control her, either. Palin may have figured that this may be her one and only chance to play in the big leagues, so she probably tried to use the exposure for all she could. As a result, she has to accept some of the blame for her failures in being able to present herself in the best light, especially after she reportedly went “rogue” and strayed from the campaign message, or if she really did refuse attempts to be coached before TV appearances.

The news of all the troubles with Palin may have another purpose than just disgruntled staffers finally getting the last word. With some news sources reporting that maybe Sarah will make her own bid for the presidency in 2012, I wouldn’t be surprised if even those in her own republican party want to quash those chances by releasing her “behind the scenes” antics.

Let’s hope that her two months of fame are up.

Fox (Faux) News on Palin Allegations

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day Wrap Up

Needless to say, I am thrilled that Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. He’ll have a lot on his plate, and he will have to also manage expectations as the bar has been set high. But I feel confident that the American people will support his efforts to pull this country out of the hole of the last 4 years of the Bush administration.

I’m happy that my home county – Lake County, Ohio – went blue, with the majority selecting Barack Obama. But, to prove that every vote really does count, the vote count was very close between Obama and McCain: (the numbers are from the Lake County Board of Elections)

Barack Obama/Joe Biden (DEM) 52,556 49.11%
John McCain/Sarah Palin (REP) 52,431 49.00%

Also a plus is that the state of Ohio has now also turned blue, with 51% of the vote going to Obama. There were also no major problems (only tiny ones) in the voting process in Ohio, and many polling places finished their counts very quickly. A welcome change from 2004.

The balance of power in the House and the Senate has also shifted to the Democrats. I’d say that the American people spoke loudly with their votes and wanted change all throughout the government.

Now, on to the TV coverage. I was a little crazed last night when, sometime after at about 6:15 PM, our NBC affiliate in Cleveland, WKYC, developed some audio problems on the HD channel. And when I switched to the regular, non-HD channel, the picture was horrible. I suspect it was a problem with the Time Warner cable, not with WKYC. After a while, I couldn’t watch the regular channel because the picture was so bad, and switched over to watch ABC. I have to admit that I actually liked ABC’s coverage. Sometime after 9:00 PM (I think) we got audio back on NBC/WKYC and I switched to their coverage. They had their “green screen” set in full force and even though I knew the images were all graphics and computer based, it looked slick. Sadly to say, though, my brain hit overload at about 9:30 and I developed a horrible migraine from trying to watch all the images, results, crawl lines, etc. all over the screen. Shortly after they called Ohio for Obama, and shortly after I took an Imitrex, I went to bed, knowing that if Ohio went blue that I would be waking up to a President Obama.

During a local election update, my husband switched on Fox (Faux) News just for a minute to see how they were calling things. The electoral maps looked close, if not identical, to what we saw on NBC and ABC, but the commentators were clearly trying to pump up McCain’s chances. After watching two minutes of it we laughed at their coverage, came to our senses, and changed the channel back to NBC. I wonder how Fox News will be able to handle 4 years of criticizing our new president? I am sure that even when things go right, they will find something negative to say. They always do. Maybe they will get lucky and Elizabeth Hasselbeck will leave The View and go work for them, so all the negativity can be in one place and we can all vote with our remotes and turn them all off.

I wish Senator McCain well. I wish Sarah Palin would just go back to Alaska, and stay there.

So that’s it for now. Interesting times are ahead, that’s for sure. And I’m looking forward to getting our country out of the quicksand and back onto solid ground.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day: Long Lines With Patient People

I’ve been voting in the same precinct for 33 years. I always arrive a little before the polls open at 6:30. I got into that habit so my husband and I could vote before work. Usually there are only one or two people in line for my precinct and I am in an out in probably less than 5 minutes after the polls open.

Not this year.

When I arrived at the polling location at 6:15 AM, there was already a long line forming, part of it out the door. I was standing about three people away from the entrance. By the time the polls opened at 6:30, the line had reached quite a ways away from me, winding down the sidewalk. It was something I’d never seen before – a crowd when the polls opened!

The other thing that I’d never seen before was so many people waiting in line, patiently. And they were happy, too. No one seemed to mind.

I was also grateful that, after knowing that Ohio had supposedly mandated paper ballots, that in areas where other voting methods had been previously approved, paper ballots only had to be made available for use if someone so requested them. This meant that we still could use our touch screen voting machines. As the doors to the actual voting area were opened and we saw the touch screens, many around me in the line breathed a sigh of relief. One only person – who seemed to be about 25 years old and didn’t want to wait for a voting machine, used the paper ballot. What I found amusing is that the paper ballots, after completion, were to be placed in one of those big plastic covered storage bins, at the foot of one man who remained seated next to it the whole time. That seemed less secure than an electronic ballot. And, every voter had to take a printed slip of paper which indicated they were voting either by paper or electronic. This piece of paper was given to the polling worker as you were assigned either your electronic voting machine or a paper ballot. We’ve never had to do that before, but I guess because they gave the option of paper ballots to voters, it meant more paper for everyone.

Still, it was amazing how everyone seemed patient as they waited. In fact, people seemed to be chatting happily with others around them, maybe discovering a new neighbor.

It took me one hour, from the open of the polls to me completing my vote. Not as quick as I’m used to, but not a bad wait. One polling worker, who has worked there for years, commented that he felt we were seeing history. I just hope the outcome is the history that I am hoping for. It’s great to see so many people engaged in this election, for whatever their reasons. Hopefully, it will signal an interest in voting in other elections, even the smaller ones, for years to come.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Be Sure to Vote – Just Not Like Homer Simpson

I only have a few topics for today.

The first is to tell all my readers to be sure to vote on November 4th if you haven’t already done so.

The second is to show you this short clip from “The Simpsons” showing Homer Simpson’s own 2008 voting experience (below). Homer speaks to some concerns of some Ohioans in this election of fears of voter irregularities, which were stoked a bit by allegations of registration problems with Acorn and with a new balloting system in place. I purposely wanted to wait until November 4 to vote because I am curious as to how the new process works. Earlier this year, the Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner mandated a switch to paper ballots for everyone. My county had been using touch screen voting, or some sort of electronic voting, for years now with no problems. I want to vote on Election Day to see how well the transition to the paper ballot system takes place. With all that is at stake, I want to be sure that what I see gives me confidence that my vote will still count as I intended. Homer speaks to many Ohioans' fears when he tries to vote for Obama, and it records his vote for McCain. In fact, he votes many times and they all count for McCain. He yells, as the computerized voting machine takes him away, “This doesn’t happen in America! Maybe Ohio, but not in America!” Hopefully the same “magic” won’t happen when they use computers to scan and tabulate those paper ballots.

The last topic: Barack Obama – along with Bruce Springsteen - came to Cleveland last night and drew an impressive crowd. As the Cleveland Browns played in the nearby stadium right beforehand, downtown parking was going to be virtually nonexistent. As people were encouraged to use public transportation and those options are limited here in Lake County, I opted to watch it live on the Internet and I was impressed with what I heard. I feel very excited about this election and I found myself even more encouraged about what the people of this country will be able to accomplish if/when Obama is elected. For those of you who agree with me, be sure to vote and make it count. And for those who don’t agree, be sure you do the same.

Home Simpson Votes for Obama - Or Does He?

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Palin’s Twisted View of the First Amendment

John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin seems to have a skewed view of what the First Amendment means. In fact, she seems to want to squelch what is really the core of the First Amendment, which is a free press. You see, it seems she thinks that her being questioned by the media about her negative campaigning that her First Amendment rights could be threatened.

In an interview with WMAL Radio, Palin told interviewer Chris Plante,

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations…then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

I think Sarah must have fallen asleep during her social studies or history classes when they explained the First Amendment. She seems to have completely missed the whole concept behind free speech – it’s for everybody, maybe even more so for the press, who often serve as the watchdog for the people. Sure, sometimes the press can get annoying. But that’s their job – to flush out the story and the truth of the matter.

So here’s my own message for Sarah, don’t worry, you’re First Amendment rights are not being violated. You still have a right to make a fool out of yourself when you speak if you so desire.

The complete radio interview is here if you want to listen (2 parts)

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Barack Obama Show – A Winner

As you all know, I have already endorsed Barack Obama for President. Even though I’ve decided how to cast my vote, I still wanted to watch the half hour “show” that the Obama campaign aired on Wednesday, October 29th. (If you didn’t see it, I have it below.)

I think it did an excellent job in conveying what Barack Obama plans to do if elected. It also seemed to convey some of the issues facing many Americans right now. We face tough issues, but watching the show, I felt nothing but hope and anticipation for great things for the country in the years to come. The message was powerful.

I am curious, though, as to what fault will any McCain supporter find in what Obama had to say? In my opinion, for them to cast any stones on anything presented in that half hour would be a horrific mistake. To do so would mean that they find fault with hope. It seems that the McCain campaign will have to settle for whining about the fact that they accepted public funding for their campaign, and that Obama changed his mind and did not, allowing Obama to raise enough money to cover the prime time advertisement. McCain could have changed his mind too. My guess is that even had he done so, he would not have been able to raise the record-shattering amount that Barack Obama had amassed.

But, back to the half hour show. While watching it, I was struck by the fact that not only was I watching an interesting presentation, but also I think I was watching the entire face of presidential campaigning be changed forever. Sure, Ross Perot bought prime time airtime during his presidential campaign in 1992, but it was low tech, simple, and not as well produced. The Obama advertisement was clearly done by talented professionals, and it put him in the best light possible. It sold the product, which in this case, was a person. The McCain campaign ads have been so overwhelmingly negative, and focused so much on Obama and not on McCain himself, that they were off-putting and really didn’t give viewers a good impression of McCain or help to advance his ideologies. I think it will be a long, long time before any presidential candidate uses such negative campaign ads.

Was that Obama “infomercial” worth it? I think so. It solidified the confidence that many have in Obama, and it may have won over some undecided voters. It may have even moved some McCain supporters. It had a bonus to me, as I felt I was watching history being made, not just in advertising, but in presidential politics. If, by any chance you watched it and weren’t moved by it in some way, please comment below, as I would sure like to hear those opinions.

But for me - I feel good about my choice, and feel like we may be on the cusp of something very good. I hope my hopes are fulfilled on November 4.

A reminder: please be sure to vote. Don’t let the stories of long lines keep you away. Every vote is important, and your time will be well spent.

Obama Half Hour Ad (It does not include the live footage)

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McCain, Palin Visiting My Home Town October 30 – I Think I’ll Pass

My hometown of Mentor, Ohio and Lake County are no strangers to Presidents, or presidential politics. It is the home (now a National Historic site) of the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield. His home was named “Lawnfield” by reporters who used to wait outside Garfield’s front porch for him to deliver campaign speeches.

George H.W. Bush flew right over my house in a helicopter (accompanied by a group of huge military helicopters) on September 5, 1992 when he spoke at the County Fairgrounds a few miles away on US Route 20. I heard the helicopters coming and ran out to my front yard to wave, like if anyone could really see me. (Well, maybe they could, they were flying pretty low.) I stood in line for a few hours at Rep. Steven LaTourette’s office in Mentor to get a ticket to President George W. Bush’s September 2004 campaign appearance in neighboring Kirtland. (Sadly, when the big day arrived I was sick and couldn’t attend.) I got much closer to seeing President George W. Bush when he visited Mentor on April 15, 2005, and he stopped at a restaurant only a little over a mile from my home. I was standing at the curb on the corner of Mentor Avenue (US Route 20) and Center Street as his motorcade zipped by, going so fast that most of my pictures were worthless except for maybe one where the presidential limo was in part of the shot (below). It was the closest I’d even been to a sitting president.

G.W. Bush's limo. Not a great pic, I know.
It was the best I could get
The Republicans know that to win Ohio, they must win Lake County. According to a 2007 article by Associated Press. the voting record of Lake County, “mirrors Ohio's more accurately than any other county in the state, according to an analysis by The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer of voting in Ohio's 88 counties since 1960.” While it’s the smallest county in the state by area, the same report ranked it 11th with a population of 227,511. So it comes as no surprise that over the last few elections where Republicans felt they had to win Ohio that they made sure to visit the area.

But, with today’s news that John McCain and Sarah Palin are coming to town for a rally at Mentor High School, my first thought was indifference. My second thought was they won’t have Lake County. Not this time. At least, that is what I hope. So, despite that I’ve always been interested in politics and it would be interesting to go to the rally just to see the event, and document it, I just can’t do it. Why? Because I can’t bring myself to sit idly by in a crowd of McCain supporters. It would be hypocritical. And I hope that anyone else who wants to go out of curiosity would also just stay away. I don’t want anyone, even if it is one person like me, contributing to the impression that there is big support for McCain in Mentor, Ohio or Lake County.

So despite the fact that I’m curious as to how the event will go, my curiosity ends when I realize that by attending it makes it appear that I am supporting the ticket, which I am not. This time, I won’t be standing in line for a ticket, or waiting on the street corner for hours on a cold day to see someone drive by. Nope. Not this time.

But, if anyone else is interested , here is a link to information on Road to Victory Rally in Mentor, OH. I sure hope that road leads them to nowhere this time.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Hypocrisy of Hasselbeck at Palin Rally

I cringed when I first heard a few days ago that Elizabeth Hasselbeck of The View would be speaking at a Palin rally this week. While Elizabeth was fighting for her own opinions when Rosie O’Donnell was moderator of The View, I defended Elizabeth’s right to have her own opinions many times. I still agree she is entitled to her own opinions.

But now, not only do I not have the desire to defend her opinions any more; I actually become sickened every time she opens her mouth. Elizabeth now has the nerve to accuse Palin opponents of being "fixated on her wardrobe" and "deliberately sexist."

I do not agree with Elizabeth, in fact, I think her comments show the hypocrisy in the republican campaign. The true sexism here was when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate to begin with. My opinion is that the McCain campaign so wanted to capitalize on the fact there were eligible voters out there who may have been disappointed that Hillary didn’t win her party’s nomination, that they were willing to select ANY woman as a running mate. It seemed that McCain believed that disillusioned female voters would be dumb enough to vote for any woman at all, regardless of qualifications, just because she was a woman.

That is sexism. And the McCain campaign only has themselves to blame by selecting someone with such thin credentials as Palin, which only has invited scrutiny on every level possible. By the way, if I recall correctly, it was the republicans that released the information on the wardrobe to begin with.

According to CNN, Palin stated at that same rally:

"This whole thing with the wardrobe, you know I have tried to just ignore it because it is so ridiculous, but I am glad now that Elisabeth brought it up, cause it gives me an opportunity without the filter of the media to get to tell you the whole clothes thing," she said.

"Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I'm not taking them with me. I am back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska. You'd think — not that I would even have to address the issue because, as Elisabeth is suggesting, the double standard here it's — gosh, we don't even want to waste our time."

Personally I do not have a problem with the campaign footing the bill for some clothing for her. But, I do have issue with the overall price tag. She did not need designer clothes. I’ve bought dress suits off the rack for years that look great and don’t cost a lot. Same for my dress shoes – I have 5-6 pair of dress pumps that look stylish and were priced reasonably. I probably could have done very well with less than one tenth of that $150K for my wardrobe for a political campaign. But, then again, I’m not one of those “elite” people that have to wear something with a designer label. So here’s one woman who isn’t being sexist when I say that Palin would have scored more points with voters - and women - had she resisted the urge to buy the expensive stuff. And frankly, if this is Palin’s biggest worry that she has to make it part of her campaign speeches, she’s not ready for the office of Vice President.

And Elizabeth, it’s time to put a zipper on it.

Clip of Elizabeth at Tampa, Florida Palin Rally

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

McCain and Palin: Honeymoon Over?

Apparently, there is trouble in the McCain/Palin campaign. CNN is reporting that advisors and sources close to the campaign say that Palin seems to be “going rogue” and has been going off message. In all honesty, in the recent interview that McCain and Palin had with NBC’s Brian Williams, I swear that McCain seemed a little uncomfortable every time Palin opened her mouth and added something to comments he had made.

It seems that the trouble between the presidential candidate and his running mate are getting harder to hide. One aid reported to CNN:

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."

They also report that "A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign. "

While I am sure that all presidential campaigns have some friction between running mates, it seems clear that it this case, the nature of the problems seem to validate the fact that Palin isn’t ready for the big leagues, and McCain should have chosen someone else as his running mate.

You can read the entire article on the CNN web site, here. The interviews with Brian Williams are also below.

The NBC Nightly News Interviews with Brian Williams
Part 1

Part 2

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who Regulates the Regulators?

With hearings going on right now by the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee to review the recent financial crisis, something is becoming very clear to me.

The regulators haven’t been regulating. And it seems like none of them – Alan Greenspan and his successors, the banks and financial institutions, etc. – didn’t see the financial collapse coming. Some financial people and regulators made comments before the implosion that things were going to go bad, but they did nothing to alert the right people or to take corrective action. A perfect example of the attitude could be found at Standard & Poors, as evidenced by an email from 2006 (yes, 2006) that stated “Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.” So, even in 2006, some knew that the country’s financial framework was shaky at best.

It seems that the regulators have been derelict in their own duties. Was it their own greed? Was it that they were just terrified what would happen if they blew the whistle? Was it incompetence? Laziness? Indifference? Fear?

The more the hearings continue, the more I realize that there isn’t anyone minding the store. Sure, we have regulators, but it appears that their role was nothing more than to be window dressing.

The first thing that comes to mind is that we may need some “grand, all-knowing, all seeing overseer” who is in charge of all these financial processes and will take care to make sure they all are doing their jobs. But wait, what happens if the “grand, all-knowing, all seeing overseer” doesn’t do their job? And why must we add more government and more bureaucracy just because some people aren’t doing the jobs they are supposed to be doing?

We need to first look at those government agencies that are in charge right now and assess the level of competence of the people at the top, and clean house and bring in new blood, starting with the Fed and the Treasury. While the SEC is not the apparent cause of the stock market’s recent collapse – the collapse being an after-effect of the financial crisis – it does seem that some trading methods and practices need to be reviewed and possibly eliminated or re-tooled. Tight controls need to be put in place for hedge funds, which operate as if this is the Wild West. And companies like Standard & Poors or Moody’s that evaluate and rate stocks need to be audited themselves and if evidence that they ignored signs of trouble in the housing market and/or with financial companies and they did not reflect it in their ratings, they should be charged with fraud and face stiff fines. And, since it appears that these places profited from the housing market as long as they continued to rate companies favorably I think there was definitely too many conflicts of interest that go unchecked in the financial markets.

I admit, I don’t know the answer to the problem. I suppose that a “grand, all-knowing, all seeing overseer” would help, but I would prefer that these agencies just do the job they are paid to do. Is that too much to ask? But where does it end? The buck must stop someplace. Whatever the government decides to do, the American people should ask for complete transparency in everything these people are doing, and even the smallest tidbit of information on what these people do should be made public. I am sure there are millions and millions of Americans who would be more than happy to help keep an eye on the country’s financial health and would be quick to blow the whistle if anything improper is discovered. Count me in!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Frequent Critic Endorses Barack Obama for President

AP Photo Obama in St. Louis Oct 18
The big endorsements for the presidential elections are starting. We recently had the Washington Post , The LA Times, and the Chicago Tribune endorse Senator Barack Obama for President. My local metro area newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer also endorsed Obama, along with several other Ohio newspapers. And today, on NBC’s Meet The Press, Former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell gave Obama his seal of approval.

So, now is a good time as any to throw in my 2 cents. I know I am just a tiny speck compared to these large national newspapers, but I felt it important that I make it official that “The Frequent Critic” also endorses Barack Obama for President. This should be of no surprise to any regular readers of my blog.

I admit that I can’t add much to all the wonderful things that the other “endorsers” have had to say about Barack Obama. But I do feel the need to add something. He’s the first politician in a long time that I truly believe that I can trust to do the right thing for the country and for its people. He is intelligent and is able to convey his thoughts and ideas in a calm, rational, and respectful manner, and this talent can help him to restore world respectability to the United States of America. I actually donated money to his political campaign. Not very much, mind you, but it was more a symbolic gesture for me. I have never felt the need to add to a politician’s campaign fund until Obama became the Democratic nominee, and my desire to see him succeed made me actually open my wallet and put my money where my mouth is. To say it plainly – I like him, and that's something that I have been unable to say about any political candidate since I started voting in 1973.

If you haven’t had a chance to read all the other endorsements, which are much more thoughtful than mine, I have some of the excerpts below.

And most importantly, whomever you want to win on Election Day, just be sure to actually VOTE. That’s the only way to make sure that your candidate of choice is represented.

Excerpts from Endorsements:

Colin Powell: "I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama,"

Washington Post : Mr. Obama is a man of supple intelligence, with a nuanced grasp of complex issues and evident skill at conciliation and consensus-building. At home, we believe, he would respond to the economic crisis with a healthy respect for markets tempered by justified dismay over rising inequality and an understanding of the need for focused regulation. Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain U.S. leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of U.S. values and interests. Mr. Obama has the potential to become a great president. Given the enormous problems he would confront from his first day in office, and the damage wrought over the past eight years, we would settle for very good.

The LA Times.: Our nation has never before had a candidate like Obama, a man born in the 1960s, of black African and white heritage, raised and educated abroad as well as in the United States, and bringing with him a personal narrative that encompasses much of the American story but that, until now, has been reflected in little of its elected leadership. The excitement of Obama's early campaign was amplified by that newness. But as the presidential race draws to its conclusion, it is Obama's character and temperament that come to the fore. It is his steadiness. His maturity.

Chicago Tribune : We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready…This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

Cleveland Plain Dealer : He is young and obviously cannot match the government experience of his Republican opponent, John McCain. But from the moment he electrified the 2004 Democratic Convention by declaring that America's shared values must trump its racial, religious and ideological divisions, Obama has demonstrated uncommon grace, confidence and intelligence.

Obama has challenged Americans to dream and to hope, to be realistic in the face of great problems and to trust in one another. To minorities and other Americans on the margins, he offers living proof that this nation can fulfill its ideals. To the world, he offers quite literally a different face, one that embodies America's diversity and boundless opportunity.

That is a recipe for the fresh leadership this nation desperately needs. And it is why we urge his election as the 44th president of the United States.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Enough of “Joe The Plumber” Already!

First and foremost, last night’s debate was very good, and Bob Schieffer was an excellent moderator, probably the best of the bunch this election season. And I liked the format better than all the other debates because it actually made it seem like a debate.

The person who got the most media coverage from last night’s presidential debate wasn’t one of the candidates. No – it was Joe the Plumber.

The fact that McCain brought up Joe the Plumber – his real name is Joe Wurzelbacher – makes me think that Joe was a republican plant in the crowd when Barack made his appearance.

But, now there are allegations that Joe isn’t even a registered voter. Hopefully, there is someone out there in the national media that can verify this and determine if this allegation is true. If it is, this could make McCain look bad for not completely vetting Joe out before he used him as an example in the debate.

But registered voter or not, I think that for McCain to focus on one person’s plight so heavily in the debate tells me that he’s out of touch. Sure, the American Dream is to earn lots of money and have lots of nice things. But the problem is that most Americans can still only dream of buying a company as Joe the Plumber said he was going to be doing. There are many people out there who are having trouble just putting food on their tables, gas in their cars, and paying their utility bills. While I can understand Joe feeling squeezed because he may have to pay a little more in taxes, I think that there are many Americans who would be happy to pay a little more in takes if they made even half or less of what Joe dreams to make.

So Joe, don’t expect many Americans to have a pity party for you. There are many people out there who wish they had your problem of having too much money.

By the way, check out the pictures after the video.

Here’s the debate excerpt

Here’s the encounter in question:

PS: Here are two pictures of the same scene taken from last night’s debate. They look like they couldn’t possibly be real, but I assure you they are not doctored in any way. What kind of a face is that on McCain? One of the pictures, from Reuters, was captioned with this:

US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) reacts to almost heading the wrong way off the stage after shaking hands with Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) at the conclusion of the final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008)

(Reuters - above)

You can write your own captions too. It could be fun!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Voter Fraud, Voter Registration Fraud, or Red Herring?

There has been a lot of coverage in the news about the group ACORN and allegations of fraud. Many people are calling it voter fraud, but since there seems to be safeguards in place to make sure that voter registrations are validated, I don’t think any voter fraud has yet been committed .

Republicans are having a fit over ACORN and their registration practices. Let me go on record here that I think that ACORN’s methods in some cases are questionable and deserve scrutiny. It is possible that their method of compensating their workers is partly to blame for so many multiple registrations for one person. And ACORN says that they validate the registrations and flag any that are questionable. But, I put even more blame in the hands of people who are dumb enough to register more than once.

There is no reason to believe that various election boards don’t already have solid processes in place to catch multiple registrations. Since in many states some form of ID with the voter’s address must be presented at voting, it’s another way to prevent multiple votes for the same voter. I can’t se ACORN being a part of a larger operation to fake the registrations AND the identifications.

Here is an article from The Guardian, a UK publication. It has an interesting report on this situation, and since it’s a UK paper, many American may not have even see it. Here’s is an except, you can read the full story here.

…Despite the screaming wall-to-wall coverage of "Democratic voter fraud in 11 swing states" as seen on Fox News and even the once-respectable CNN, none of it's true. None of it.

In just the last week, we've had a phoney stunt raid in swing state Nevada (where Acorn had been cooperating with officials for months, concerning problem canvassers they'd long ago fired); a Republican election official in swing state Missouri tell Fox News that she's being beseiged with fraudulent registration forms from Acorn (in a county where they've not done any registration work since August); a Republican sheriff in swing state Ohio, who, the very next day, suddenly requested the names and addresses of hundreds of early voters (with evidence of exactly zero wrong doing, but lots of Democratic-leaning college student in the particular county, and John McCain's state campaign chair as a partner in the investigation); and a screaming front page headline in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post about a guy who claims he was somehow tricked by Acorn into registering 72 times (but read the article closely to note he says he registered at the same address each time, which, even if true, would allow him - you guessed it - precisely one legal vote.)

It's an old Republican scam, but it's never been carried out with more zeal than this year. The Republicans have been putting so much time, money and resources into the propaganda leading up to this over the last four years, we should have expected no less.

All this said, I think ACORN does deserve some scrutiny for their registration practices. In fact, I don’t know why it has to be so hard to register to vote that we even need an organization like ACORN. The whole process needs to be reviewed.

But voter fraud – not quite.

PS: Here's something that I just got in my email after I made this blog entry. It looks like the RNC is using this ACORN issue now as an excuse to ask for more money. The XXXs are where they inserted my name. (By the way, I get RNC & McCain emails just so I can see what they are saying.)

Dear XXX,

Every election, it's the same old song and dance from the Democrats and their liberal allies when it comes to donor and vote fraud.

This year, the Obama-Biden campaign broke their pledge to accept public financing during the general election. Now it turns out they padded their coffers with contributions from "mystery" donors that don't exist (as reported by Newsweek).

They will soon be trying to pad their totals at ballot boxes across the country with votes from voters that do not exist. From Ohio and Florida to Wisconsin and Nevada, there are reports of fraudulent voter registration forms being submitted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a liberal group that is dedicating its resources to electing the Obama-Biden Democrats.

What's worse is the Obama-Biden campaign has funneled more than $800,000 to ACORN for work on get-out-the-vote activities conducted by the left-leaning organization.

XXX, we must fight back against attempts by Democrats at vote fraud and ensure the integrity of our democracy. Please join our effort to keep our elections clean and fair by making a secure online contribution of $2,000, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50 or $35 to RNC Victory 2008 today.

The Democrats have proven they will do and say whatever it takes to win this election. This isn't the first time they've tried to inflate voter rolls with false names and take money from questionable sources -- and it won't be the last.

But this time we are ready for the liberals' deceitful tactics. We will not stand for the stealing of elections -- the tainting of our democracy -- by those who wish to subvert the rule of law.

Your secure online contribution of $2,000, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50 or $35 to RNC Victory 2008 will support Republicans committed to building a safer, more prosperous America and help hold the Democrats and their left-wing allies accountable for their actions.

XXX, voting is one of our nation's most sacred rights. Do your part to protect the integrity of our elections -- support RNC Victory 2008 today. Thank you.

Best Wishes,
Robert M. "Mike" Duncan
Chairman, Republican National Committee

P.S. XXX, the outcome of the 2008 election is too important to the future of our country to be conducted unfairly. Please help us fight back against vote fraud and elect Republicans committed to the rule of law by making a secure online contribution of $2,000, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50 or $35 to RNC Victory 2008 today. Thank you.


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