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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