Friday, November 22, 2013

The JFK Assassination: Memories 50 Years Later

It doesn’t seem like it’s been 50 years; my memories are still as clear as the day it happened. I was 8 years old and in the third grade at a Catholic school in a suburb of Cleveland. An announcement came over the public address system that President Kennedy had been shot, and quickly thereafter, that he was dead. The school closed and all students were sent home.

Despite being only 8 years old, I knew who President Kennedy was. I didn’t have a full understanding of all the political things going on at the time, but I knew he was president of the entire country and a very important man. I also thought he was as a very handsome man with a beautiful wife and lovely kids, and even at that age, I felt like the life of a Kennedy was out of reach for someone like me.

When I got home from school that day with my older sisters, I recall my mother crying. It was upsetting and it made me cry too as I knew she felt sad, and maybe even a little scared. I know I was crying too, partly because I could not believe someone would want to kill a man like him, and partly from fear.. If someone could kill a man like him, could they hurt my own father and mother?

The television set stayed on for 4 days straight.. Over those four days, we and we all watched as the news anchors continued to tell report on the shooting, and later, the swearing in of a new president and his speech. As the days progressed, we watched as Kennedy lay in state, and then saw the cortege as it marched down the streets of Washington D.C. with the constant beating of drums in the background, all the way to Arlington Cemetery. It was hard not to cry, seeing Jackie Kennedy and her two children, who were just a little younger than me.

In the middle of all this, Lee Harvey Oswald, while being held for the assassination at the Dallas police headquarters,  was shot by Jack Ruby. It all happened on live television. It was surreal, even for an 8 year old.

Fifty years later, conspiracy theories abound about Kennedy’s assassination. In this current day and age where every little move someone like the President makes is photographed or is on video,  it’s hard for people to imagine how little footage there is of the Kennedy assassination. And what there is available from that day, people still debate what happened. There’s the lone gunman vs. multiple gunmen (another at the grassy knoll) issues, Oswald being part of a larger conspiracy by organized crime or other governments, and even our own government cover-ups. Even the motive of Oswald’s shooting is still a matter of debate. The Warren Report did not inspire much confidence. I suspect that we may never know the real answer.

I still have the newspapers from those days, and I pulled them out to read the press coverage from that day. It still seems very surreal. All I can hope is that we have learned enough from this tragedy to never let it happen again.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Plight of Traveling Tea Drinkers: The Tea Tastes Like Coffee

It’s been a few months since I’ve had anything to write about. There’s been nothing of consequence that has bothered me – at least nothing that hasn’t already been overexposed in the media. Something did come up while my husband and I took a short vacation a few weeks ago – it’s the plight of the traveling tea drinker who wants to get a good cup of tea that doesn’t taste like coffee.

For those who take driving trips, while on the road we are often at the mercy of the eateries that are either located within the toll ways or near a freeway exit. Almost all of them have no idea how to deliver a good cup of tea.

Try going into any fast food restaurant and ask for a cup of hot tea. Most times they will serve you a cup full of hot water with a tea bag, the hot water being poured from one of the same pitchers that at one time likely held coffee. The same goes for coffee makers in hotel rooms; even though the hotel sometimes offers tea bags along with coffee, the coffee maker itself and the pot have been permeated with the taste of coffee from repeated coffee uses. Nothing is worse than tasting a cup of tea where the taste is overwhelmed by the taste and smell of coffee. We always bring our own tea bags – we’re partial to Twinings – but even that doesn’t help.

We were very disappointed after a recent stop at a Panera Bread location on the Ohio Turnpike. They seemed to have a very nice coffee and tea station where the tap for hot water appeared separate from the coffee. We were so wrong. The tea tasted more like coffee than it did tea. Worse yet, we were charged $1.99 for one cup of tea which we spilled out after the first taste.

If you’re willing to spend more time to eat at a restaurant like Cracker Barrel, you have a good chance you’ll get a cup of tea that actually tastes like tea. But those types of eateries are not very fast, which is not much help if one wants to get back on the road quick.

Fast food places clearly have a clientele that favors coffee, but it is no excuse for offering an alternate product that is undrinkable. Imagine ordering a Coke or Pepsi and having it taste like coffee? Or ordering coffee that tastes like tea? Why should restaurants have lower standards for tea drinkers? If you run a fast food eatery and you serve tea, try drinking your own product. If you won’t drink what you serve yourself, why should anyone else?

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Analyzing The Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman Incident

According to a Florida jury, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in self defense. Needless to say, this verdict has caused an uproar, with the emotional responses running the gamut from calm protest to violence.

I’ve waited a few days before outlining my own opinions, only to bring some calm and reason to my own mind. Something very wrong has happened here, and the wrong started before the actual killing.

Very simply put, this whole matter would have been avoided if George Zimmerman took his role in his neighborhood watch as just that – to WATCH. Instead, he was armed, he took action after being told not to, and in doing so, Trayvon Martin was the one who was dead for doing nothing except walking wearing a hoodie.

Zimmerman was also not arrested quickly for the shooting until several weeks after it happened. The police investigation into the shooting took far too long before Zimmerman was arrested.

The prosecution had to prove that Zimmerman did not kill Trayvon in self defense, which the jury felt it did not do. The prosecution also allowed for a lesser charge of manslaughter to be considered after the case was already in progress, a sign that they didn’t think they could win their own case of murder. Had they gone forward first with a manslaughter charge, they may have a had a better chance in getting their desired verdict. There is also talk that the Feds will research pressing charges against Zimmerman for a hate crime, but the general consensus of the media pundits is there is simply not enough evidence for the Feds to sustain those charges. It’s possible that a civil suit against Zimmerman would be the best recourse to get justice for Trayvon.

Compounding the emotional response, the media has did a good job in fanning the flames. NBC News faces a lawsuit from Zimmerman for editing Zimmerman’s 911 call where they made it sound as if  Zimmerman was commenting on Trayvon's race, when in reality he was simply answering the dispatcher's question.  In delivering the details about this case over the last several months even before the trial, it’s as if the media is trying the case themselves and polarizing viewers before the trial even started. While I know that cases like this could mean bigger ratings for the news media, it seems like the media has forgotten that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Needless to say, things need to change to avoid situations like this in the future.

First and foremost, those working neighborhood watch programs should do only that – WATCH, and then report to law enforcement. Law enforcement should decide which situations should require their involvement. Neighborhood watch people should not be armed with guns. If they are going to protect their neighborhood, they need to watch everyone and not judge people on their color or their clothing. Neighborhood watch programs across the country need to take a very hard look at how they operate and what kinds of people they use as watchers. These programs should be as simple as watch, observe patterns, and report to the authorities.

All laws that allow killing in self defense such as “Stand Your Ground” need further scrutiny to tighten those situations where it is justifiable. If you are in your own home and an intruder enters and you feel your life is in danger, that seems to be a clear situation where self defense would be in order. But, things get murky when a person uses self defense in a situation in which they put themselves. 

The only thing neighborhood watch people should be armed with is a good set of eyes, a good camera, and good sense. In fact, maybe we need to take the people out of that equation – just install video cameras in the neighborhoods to record activity. Video cameras can’t have their lives put in danger and they can’t be armed with a gun.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

“Do Not Call” Registry: A Wasted Effort

The National “Do No Call” registry is a good idea, but it’s being ignored by telemarketers and it’s hard to enforce. The “Do Not Call” registry is like a mouth with no teeth. It can’t really put a bite into anything.

Based on my own personal experience, since the registry began in 2004, telemarketing calls to my home dropped off for a short while, but now seem worse than ever. I’m getting tired of the daily calls from various companies wanting to talk about changing my natural gas supplier, or to buy magazines, or from police departments across the state of Ohio asking for money for one of their causes. The latter really gets to me, as I know these aren’t really police officers calling me (as they pretend to be) and the caller always speaks with a slight southern drawl, even when they pretend to be calling from my home area. (Southern drawls are not the norm here in northeast Ohio.) A few weeks ago, I had one alleged officer call me and ask for a donation, and right after I began saying the words, “I’m sorry, but” he hung up on me.

But, back to the Do Not Call registry. I don’t have the time to report every single person that makes a telemarketing call to me. It’s hard to even know sometimes who is calling when you get one of those automated phone calls that hangs up the minute it gets an answering machine. Likewise with those where I want to hang up because I don’t want to waste my time listening variations on the same pointless spiel every day. 

I've also heard from many people who get regular phone calls where they answer the phone and no one is there. I’ve been told these are automated dialers that are simply checking to see when someone is regularly there to answer the phone; they get your patterns down pat and then schedule their real telemarketing call during the time you've been shown to most likely answer. 

Here’s my idea. Why can’t we have a number code that we can dial while listening to a telemarketing call that automatically reports the number to the government? I’m thinking along the lines of the *69 feature that some telephone carriers use for callbacks. A simple * and a number code is all I would need to put their phone number on the list of possible law breakers. It’s a simple way of reporting the offender without me having to write down all the information myself and go to a web site and file the same information.

Better yet, how about if we just make a rule that says unless the company calling has your approval, no one can call you and sell you anything over the phone. I have no objection to companies with whom I already have a relationship calling me in the course of normal business, but I would still draw the line if they want to call me to sell me something.

It goes without saying that automated dialers and recorded messages should just be illegal – regardless of who is calling. (For example, politicians and charities shouldn’t use automated dialers and recorded messages).

With all the technology available these days, there has to be a quick and easy way to report these annoying telemarketers.   And, I still wish that "Do Not Call" would mean "Do Not Call - AT ALL."

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

NSA Surveillance – Should You be Afraid, Very Afraid?

A big news story broke this week by The Guardian (a U.K. news source) about the U.S. NSA surveillance program called “PRISM.” (Don’t ask me if PRISM is an acronym for anything because if it is, I surely can’t find it. ) Apparently, the NSA has been collection phone records of Verizon customers. Later, there were more reports that the NSA also has access to everyone’s emails and Internet activity such as a person’s search history, videos, photos, etc.  As my mind races to think of all the web sites I’ve accessed just in the last week – even accidentally – my initial response to this news is alarm.

What’s happened to privacy, or, as some say, our right to privacy? Technically. The US Constitution’s Bill of Rights does not specifically grant a right to privacy. While the 4th Amendment provides for protection from unreasonable search and seizure, it never mentions privacy. The Bill of Rights does mention “liberty,” which many believe implies a right to privacy. The privacy issue has always been a gray area but some laws are written in keeping with the spirit of a personal privacy.

Should you be worried that the government may be looking over your shoulder? Yes – and no. The argument that if you’re not doing anything wrong you should not be worried is nonsensical; one may not be doing anything wrong but someone who doesn’t know you may think you are, and you may find yourself in trouble over nothing. I’m reminded of a review of a TV show I posted a few years ago (the show was “24”) and afterwards, my site traffic was filled with hits coming from government web sites located in Washington D.C. I suspect that some of the words I used to describe the activity on the show may have set off alarm bells. (As I don’t want the government looking at my blogs, I’ll refrain from repeating those words here. ) Bottom line is that, in my opinion, the government has been looking at Internet activity for a long time. And for good reason. There are people out there who are using the Internet, phones, computers, tablets, and any technology available, to do bad things. While I don’t like the government scanning my every word, I also want them to catch people who DO mean harm BEFORE they actually can do harm. Most people should have nothing to fear by this government surveillance, so stop worrying about what we sites you visited, or about who you called, or what photos you took.

All that said, there should be a right to privacy – with limits. I believe that if the government wants to actually listen to my phone calls or read my emails, they need to get the proper warrants. I can be more flexible on the issue of them seeing what phone numbers I am calling, or what web sites I visit, or even what books I read, in order to thwart terrorism. This is a tough world we live in, and we need to allow the government the ability to do high-level research in order to help zero in on those who do mean harm. We cannot expect the government to protect us when we tie their hands. Search engines like Google and Yahoo, cell phone companies, and web sites like Twitter and Facebook where many post the most boring minutia of their lives are already collecting data on their users, and some people post way too much information to the public on the Internet. The government would be remiss if they didn’t find a way to tap into that hoard of information. The only way to stop the flow of data to the government and to businesses is to stop using all the technology and stop sharing too much information on the Internet – and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Unsocial Side of Social Media and The Downfall of Civility

Social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, to name a few – are increasingly becoming a part of everyone’s lives. Having to maintain various social media sites for my web sites, I’ve experienced both the good and the bad sides of social media. The good side: it’s great way to share information to a wide range of people, keep up to date on news and politics, or follow a favorite TV show or celebrity. The bad side: people behaving badly.

Back in the “old days” - before the Internet, email, and social media sites - people communicated mostly face to face or over the phone. People knew the real names of those to whom they were speaking, so it was important to be civil. It was easy to gauge emotions and to determine if a person was happy, sad, joking, or serious. One never used “fighting words” unless they were prepared for a fight, either physically or verbally. Before opening one’s mouth, it was smart to engage the brain. If a person communicated in writing – such as in a letter or greeting card – it was important to think out the message before writing/typing as changes were time consuming.

As email became available, it promoted communicating with speed, and was quickly embraced by businesses. Those that wrote angry emails and pressed “send” before thinking about the repercussions learned that their anger often diminished their message, alienated people, and sometimes ended careers.

With the Internet also came Internet forums and discussion groups, where members could dialog anonymously. It was fun to share information with others but it didn't take long before civility flew out the window. Now a person could say what they wanted to anyone and not worry about anyone knowing who they really were. (This was when Internet trolls were born.)

As social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter took hold, people began to connect and communicate in new ways. It was easy to communicate with family, friends, acquaintances, and those outside the normal person’s circle – politicians, businesses, celebrities – you name it. A person could connect to just about anybody else in the world through social media outlets. Information now travels around the world with the speed of light. That’s a good thing. The bad thing: civility took another hit. Now a person can verbally attack anybody as easily and as quickly as I could type this sentence, and reach a wide audience with speed. The effect is somewhat less on Facebook, where - technically - people are supposed to sign up using their real name, and where they should only “friend” those they actually know. But this doesn’t exempt members of Facebook from being attacked with words by someone they call a “friend.” On Twitter, however, one can set up any name they want (as long as it doesn’t exceed a certain number of characters) so people can be whomever they want. The good side is that people aren’t afraid to say what they really think, a plus for freedom of speech. The downside is that people aren’t afraid to say what they really think, and some cross the line with their words. I’m amazed at how shocked people can be when they send an angry tweet, or post an inappropriate photo, or say something incredibly stupid or insensitive, and they find it coming back to bite them. This has been evident more with high profile “tweeters” such as celebrities and politicians who likely have large followings and whose slip-ups on Twitter can spread exponentially.

Trouble on social media can be avoided by following some very simple guidelines:

1. What you write is likely out there forever and likely accessible to the public. Sure, some sites have privacy controls,  and updates, tweets, photos and videos can be deleted, but that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t copied it or forwarded it someone else before you deleted it. THINK before you post your message. Your words, photos, and videos can follow you for life.

2. Never post photos on the Internet that you wouldn’t want your parents, grandparents, children, spouse, significant other, constituents, boss, co-workers, potential employers, etc. to see. Because if you do, they will.

3. Write your message as if the person reading it is standing right in front of you. Most people aren’t likely to insult someone right to their face, at least not without thinking about it first.

4. There is such a thing as too much information. You don’t have to tell everyone every little single thing you do or think, and no one likes a braggart. Keep your messages brief and your posts to a minimum.

5. If you post something on social media, expect feedback. If what you posted is controversial, you’ll REALLY get feedback, and, in the case of Twitter, likely from people who may not follow you. Remember, by sharing on public social media, you asked for it. You reap what you sow.

6. Don’t call people names or swear at them, period. It’s childish and serves no purpose.

7. Never post in anger. Think about the damage your words can cause…to yourself, your image, your reputation, and even family and friends.

Social media is an excellent way to stay connected to both your inner circle and the rest of the world. When used correctly, social media can inform, unite, and inspire others. When used incorrectly, it can ruin friendships, destroy a person’s image, create hard feelings, and alienate people. It’s not hard to use social media in a manner that brings out the best in people. By starting with thinking before you post, and by being civil, we can encourage the best in others!

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cleveland’s Bishop Lennon Excommunicates a Good Priest

First and foremost, let me state that I am a lapsed Catholic. But that’s never stopped me from commenting on The Church’s actions.

The latest idiocy: The head of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, Bishop Richard Lennon, just this week excommunicated Father Robert Marrone, a priest who has a long standing excellent reputation with many in the diocese.

What was Father Marrone’s infraction, you wonder? No, it wasn’t that he was some sort of sexual deviant – The Church usually lets those guys run amok for decades. No, Father Marrone did an unforgivable thing in the eyes of Bishop Lennon – he set up shop in a new building after Lennon closed Marrone’s church. And after the Vatican overturned Lennon’s many church closings in the Cleveland area – a rare action by the Vatican to say the least – Lennon and Marrone have yet to mend their fences.

It’s interesting to note that Bishop Lennon waited to make this announcement during the time when there is no Pope.

Let’s backtrack for some history on this matter. A few years ago, Bishop Lennon was hell bent on closing churches in the Cleveland diocese, citing financial issues and lack of priests. To help the process, Lennon created small “clusters” of parishes and asked them to decide which church in each cluster should close. After the church clusters decided and made their recommendations to Lennon, Lennon did what he wanted to do anyway, and in 2009 he began closing 50 churches, more than originally planned, and with a total disregard for the recommendations of the church clusters. This also included churches that were financially stable. 

At least 13 of the parishes targeted for closure appealed The Vatican, in a long, drawn out process. During this appeals process, Lennon continued to close the churches, including those that had appealed.

Meanwhile, Marrone - his parish closed - sets up shop a non-Catholic building, and continues to celebrate Mass. Lennon tried previously to convince Cleveland Catholics that the churches he closed were only buildings, yet Lennon publicly expressed his displeasure with Marrone setting up a church in a non-churchlike building. (I guess a church really IS about the building?)

The Vatican then makes a rare move and reverses Lennon’s decision on 12 of the 13 appeals, ruling that Lennon did not follow Church laws in the closings. (Details of specifically which rules were not followed were not made public, but I wonder if Lennon going against the decisions of the church clusters in rules that he himself established wasn’t a big part of the issue.) The 12 churches were ordered to re-open,  unless Lennon files an appeal of his own (he doesn’t).

Eventually, St. Peter’s Church is re-opened by the Cleveland diocese, but without rebel Father Marrone as he and Lennon fail to reconcile. Marrone now finds himself being excommunicated. 

To summarize:
Father Marrone was excommunicated over actions that began with Bishop Richard Lennon closing churches (along with Marrone’s parish St. Peter’s), an action that was later deemed illegal by The Vatican. Had Lennon not performed this illegal action, Marrone would likely have not rebelled, and subsequently there would be no grounds to excommunicate him. 

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese has been a holy mess since Bishop Richard Lennon arrived. His illegal closings of churches had already created irreparable damage with Catholics in the diocese. Now his need to show others that he wears the pants (well, it’s more like flowing robes) in the diocese by not being able to mend fences with Father Marrone makes Lennon look like he’s got an ego too big for his britches (or robes). Granted, Father Marrone may be just as stubborn and bullheaded as Lennon; it’s serious business to set up your own church even after your boss has told you that you can’t do it. But the fact remains – Lennon acted illegally in the eyes of the Vatican, which triggered Marrone’s actions. It’s pathetic that the Church has a history of burying the actions of sex offenders within its ranks, yet a priest defies an illegal order to close his parish and he’s the one to suffer quick and religiously fatal retribution? Something is not right here.

I won’t bore you with my long standing opinion of the disregard the Catholic Church has for women, but I will say that this is one organization that needs an overhaul in more ways than one. While the Cardinals are off electing a new Pope, here’s hoping that sometime soon they will also make some changes in the hierarchy of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Too Pooped to Pope And Picking A New Pontiff

Here's another entry in my list of odd things that I’ve experienced in my lifetime – seeing a Pope resign. This hasn’t happened in about 600 years. Being raised in a strict Catholic family but having lapsed years ago, I still have respect for the role of The Pope. It must be a tough job being infallible. Pope Benedict XVI did make the right decision in this case, something that Pope John Paul II also should have done. Seeing John Paul II’s health deteriorate while The Church continued to cart him out was pathetic. (It made me wonder who was really running The Church during that time.)  Finally, we have a Pope who is smart enough and has enough respect for the office that he can say he is too pooped to pope.

And of all the burning, critical questions as to what will happen to him after he leaves the office, at least we have the answer that he will no longer wear his beloved red shoes, changing to a pair of simple brown loafers.

There are questions whether Pope Benedict’s inability to handle the rigors of the office is the only reason he is leaving. Talks of sex scandals in The Church have exploded. If Pope Benedict is unable to deal with the demands of addressing this issue, it is right for him to move aside in the hopes that someone will step up and handle the issue once and for all.

The conclave will soon begin to select a new Pope. Again, it’s a boys club that will make the choice. It is tragic that the Catholic Church continues to demean the role of women in The Church and in the world. Is it too much to ask to get a new Pope who will make some radical changes, like women for priests and allowing priests to marry? I am not holding my breath on this issue. The Church seems to think that God, Jesus, and likely the Holy Spirit is a male and that no female could ever be good enough to have a leadership tole in The Church. Maybe if The Church was more open minded about women, we wouldn’t have a clergy peppered with so many sexual deviants.

All that said, I do believe that the majority of The Church’s clergy are good people, as is many of The Church’s members. Sadly, though, The Church has been slow to throw the bad apples out. Whoever becomes the new Pontiff needs to bring The Church into the 21st century in more ways than one. The last Pope to attempt to re-energize the Church was Pope John XXXIII in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Sadly, The Church seems to have gone backwards at a rapid pace in the last decade, and The Church needs a Pope who is willing to stop that trend and make a more contemporary Church. The question now is, are there enough Cardinals willing to elect someone who is up to that task?

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Crazy Drivers: Close Encounters of The Vehicular Kind & Driving While Stupid

This past week, I’ve almost been hit many times by other drivers who made serious driving errors. Here’s a short recap of what’s happened just in the last 5 days:

1.A male driver – with what looked like his wife and kids in the car – nearly hit me head on as he tried to enter an “exit only” drive as I was exiting. The drive is clearly marked as an exit only and the roadway from where he turned is marked “no turn” to prevent drivers from even attempting to go in the exit. To avoid hitting me, he had to run his car up on a cement median.

2.While I was driving through a 4 lane intersection (on a green light), a man in the car in front of me slammed on his brakes in the middle of the intersection -  in  the lane heading straight -  so he could make a left turn. (The actual left turn lane was stopped by a red left turn light.)

3.A woman attempted to make a left turn in front of me thinking that she could make it, but rather than continue the turn, she stopped mid-turn and I was forced to slam on my brakes to avoid t-boning her car. Then she tried to reverse back into her lane, almost hitting the vehicle behind her.

4.A car made a right turn from the left turn lane, almost causing me, and another car, to hit them.

It’s bad enough having to worry about people driving drunk/under the influence or distracted from phones and/or texting, it seems there is a new thing to worry about: people driving while stupid (DWS). Who knows, driving while stupid could be part distracted driving and drunk driving and any combination thereof. I suspect that there are enough drivers out there who are sober and have both hands on the wheel who are just making stupid mistakes that they deserve their own special category of bad driver.

How can you avoid someone who is driving while stupid? You can’t. People will continue to make stupid driving mistakes. The best solution: drive defensively. Keep your own eyes on the road, keep your distance from other cars, and watch your speed limit. By all means, pay close attention when approaching intersections, even when you have a green light or the right of way. You know what YOU'RE going to do, but there’s always the chance that someone who is driving while stupid will make a move into your space. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have enough time to react and avoid an accident.

Don’t be the one to get caught drive while stupid. Mind the rules of the road, keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, and be mindful of other drivers around you or your space. If you’re not on your toes, it could cost you injury - or your life!

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