Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Governor Sanford Goes MIA, Abandons South Carolina

This past week when it became known that no one – including his wife and his security people – seemed to know where South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has been for the last several days, his staff released a story that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s bad enough when an elected official drops off the grid without telling anyone, but the story gets worse. Now, Governor Sanford has returned, and is saying that he really was in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Yes, Buenos Aires, as in out of the country. He told South Carolina newspaper "The State" that he had considered hiking the Appalachian Trail after his state's busy legislative season ended but instead decided differently, the newspaper quoting him as saying, "I wanted to do something exotic. It's a great city."

I don’t begrudge anyone a much-needed vacation, but there is a huge glaring issue here – who was running the state when Governor Sanford was missing in action? And does anyone else but me think it’s odd that he wouldn’t tell anyone – especially his own wife – where he was going?

Something sure smells fishy here. When someone just drops out of their job and leaves the country without telling anyone, I can only think that the person is either mentally unbalanced, or he was having one heck of a “party” and maybe doing things that aren't legal or would be frowned upon by his constituents.

Put it simply, Governor Sanford abandoned his job. Anyone who has ever worked a real job knows that if you don’t show up for work for 2-3 days and don't explain your absence, this usually means that you will get fired. In the case of Governor Sanford, my opinion is the State of South Carolina should move to have him removed from office as quickly as they can by whatever legal means that they can.

Update 6/24/09 – Now the Governor admits he went to Argentina as he was having an affair. Don’t worry Governor, we won’t cry for you.

Here is a link to the full story on South Carolina’s (probably soon to be ex) Governor Sanford from CNN.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Analog to Digital TV Transition: One Step Forward, One Step Back

I’ve got cable TV, so I wasn’t worried about the recent conversion from analog to digital television signals. But to experience the transition for myself, I picked up a new antenna – for UHF, VHF, HD, and digital signals. I also wanted the antenna as a backup in case the cable went out. And it does go out, usually at the times when you want it the most.

Imagine my dismay, however, when I hooked up the antenna over a month ago and got only a few channels, some with signals that seemed to break up a lot, or disappear altogether. Don’t worry I was told - the Cleveland stations weren’t all broadcasting at the time, and some who were broadcasting before the switch may not have been at full power. So, I waited for the day of the transition and rescanned my TV for digital channels several times, getting FEWER over the air channels than I got before the changeover, some local channels never appearing at all.

Our local Fox channel, WJW, was running a spot yesterday on the 5:00 PM newscast where they went to a viewer’s house who wasn’t able to get the Fox station at all, and the reporter showed the man that if he stood up and held his rabbit ears high, the signal came in much better. Of course, he said, a person should not have to do that. He got the man another set of rabbit ear antennas and seemed to be able to pull in Fox 8 a little better.

I also have read that outdoor antennas can get much better reception. Well, pardon me, but we got rid of our massive outdoor antenna years ago, when the ice age ended – I mean - when we got cable and there were newfangled things called satellite dishes out there. Another pat answer that people are handing out is just to re-scan your TV. Well, I’ve done that sometimes more than once a day just to see what I get, and the number of stations change every time. These digital signals should not be that inconsistent.

Imagine my surprise that in 2009, people have gone back to having to put “rabbit ears” on their TVs and put huge antennas on their roofs. I have a nice flat antenna that is supposed to work indoors and pull signals from every direction, yet now I find out that some stations are broadcasting in a weaker VHF signal that doesn’t transmit as well, regardless of how good my antenna is. What is even worse is that with old analog signals, at least you could get part of a signal – it may have looked snowy - but with digital, if there is too much signal loss, you get nothing at all. We can put a man on the moon, we can send phone calls via cell towers and we have wireless Internet, why is a television signal such a problem? Did I mention that this is 2009?

I can’t imagine how crazy I would be right now if I didn’t have cable. I feel sorry for the people – and there are many in this area – which still can’t get the same channels they used to be able to get over the air from the analog signals. Right now, Cleveland’s Fox affiliate, WJW, and the CBS affiliate, WOIO, have almost completely dropped off from many viewers’ television sets. (In the case of WOIO and their local newscasts, some see this as a benefit.) These two stations are broadcasting in the lower power VHF signal, by the way.

My gripe is really with the fact that in trying to deliver something better, it seems that we have now gone back to the old days where you had to have your antenna “just right” in order to see television. The FCC should have done a better job with the stations to make sure that their signals really did reach the intended viewing area. The government delayed the transition to make sure all the viewers had time to be ready, but possibly they should have used that time to make sure the stations were ready and that the signals actually could be received by people.

As this is hurricane season for the country’s east coast residents, I hope that signal problems can be resolved so those that don’t have cable, or must get their television via a portable, battery powered TV, can still get important weather and evacuation information.

So my experiment with the digital transition was that it happened, but it has some problems in some area that the local stations and the FCC must address quickly. There is no reason why, in this age of advanced technology, that there can’t be a better answer to this problem than bigger rabbit ears.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Tasers

The media and talk shows are all abuzz about the video of a 72-year-old woman being tasered at a traffic stop last month. The tease to the news story focuses on the woman’s age, and the fact that she’s somebody great-grandmother. Local officials recently ruled that the tasing of Kathryn Winkfein was appropriate.

When I first heard the story, I wondered why anyone would taser a 72-year-old man OR woman at a traffic stop. But, after watching the dash cam video of the incident (below), I have to admit that the woman was acting pretty mouthy and seems to be using her age as an excuse. She also appeared to walk closer to the traffic, despite the officer’s repeated instructions to move back.

Were there any other options besides tasing that the officer could have taken? Maybe. If he decided to place her under arrest for resisting, he could have cuffed her and moved her to his car. Still, if she had her mind made up that she wanted to get back into her car and physically fought him, if she made another move towards traffic, she could have gotten herself, and the officer, hit by a car. It was a tough call, and while one would think the police officer could have somehow physically restrained her, it is possible that tasing was the easiest way for him to render her unable to physically resist.

The pros to tasers is that they are sometime better than using physical force, and always better than using a gun, to restrain or disable someone who has become out of control. While I have no desire to have any family member of mile tased, I would rather the police take that option than using severe physical force that could cause harm. I would be very upset too if my 79 year old mother was treated that way, but I would also be upset and concerned if I saw my mother behave the same way this woman had behaved toward the officer. (Just for the record, if my mother behaved this way, it would not be normal for her, which is why I would be concerned.)

The cons to tasers is that they can be an easy out for the police. This office was clearly bigger and more powerful than this 72-year-old woman, and I don’t see why he couldn’t have just cuffed her and led her to his car. In addition, a 72-year-old person’s heart or nervous system may not react too well to the shock of a taser. In fact, unless a police officer knows the medical condition in advance of the person they are going to taser, they run the risk that their action could cause the person serious physical harm. And what if the woman’s unruly behavior was due to a medical condition? The officer can’t always know if the person is acting out because they have a medical problem, or if the person is just being a jerk. My thinking is the officer needs to engage their brains before they engage that taser – presuming they have time to think, that is.

In this case, the taser didn’t appear to cause her any major harm. His intent appeared to be to get her out of the line of traffic, and to keep her from possibly fleeing in her car. Her repeated invoking of her age was a clear attempt on her part to use her age as an excuse for her infraction. Sorry, but if you’re age is that much of a problem that it causes you to speed to the point you are stopped by the police, maybe you shouldn’t be on the road.

While tasers aren’t the answer in all cases, in this one, it was likely the best choice.

Video – 72 Year Old Woman Tased

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