Thursday, November 8, 2012

Voting Rites

On election day 1952, before I left home to cast my very first vote for President, I hung out a load of wash to dry, finished writing a letter on my manual Royal typewriter, used my rotary phone to call a friend in Cincinnati, and wrote a note to myself to remind me to clean my oven with “Easy Off”, a time-consuming job I dreaded. With my bare hands, I lifted the heavy garage door and pulled out my stick shift black Pontiac sedan to drive to my local polling place. .

There, I stepped inside a private curtained booth with one side open for entry. The voting machine inside was automatically activated when I closed the curtain using the big black handle. Alone, inside, I pulled down the levers underneath the names of the candidate I wished to support, and when I opened the curtain by pulling the handle back, my vote was automatically registered.

On Election Day, 2012, before I left home to perform my civic duty, I spent an hour on my computer skyping my granddaughter in Italy, im-ing a friend in San Francisco, and responding to an e-mail message from a company in Seattle. On the way out I tossed a load of wash in my energy-saving washing machine, set the timer on my self-cleaning oven to go on in two hours, then opened my garage door with the  electronic opener and drove my hybrid car to the polling place.

In the school auditorium/voting place, I cast my vote on a paper ballot by filling in a little oval (pen supplied by the state) to the left of the candidate’s name. I stood at a quasi lectern with sides barely preventing me from seeing my neighbor’s ovals and him from seeing mine. When I finished I took the unfolded sheet of paper, fed it into a box marked “Ballots”, and accepted my “I voted today” sticker.

What’s wrong with this picture? A society dedicated to saving the trees has no qualms about cutting down a forest when it comes to electing a President? The reason given for returning to the process so favored by our ancestors is:  paper ballots are more reliable; automatic machines have too many glitches—too many problems. If this is true, why is it we can trust electronic devices to transfer funds in and out of bank accounts around the world, but we can’t find one smart enough to accurately record our  biennial votes?  Apple where are you when we need you?

Isn’t it time every town in this country with a population of more than a thousand people be required to install electronic/mechanical  voting machines that meet the same high standards of performance as required in all other aspects of contemporary life--and enough of them, so that four, six or eight hour lines are a thing of the past?  Paper ballots have had a good run; let’s put them to rest and make sure that from now on, the only place they will be seen is at that venerable institution, The Smithsonian—where we store all our other American relics.






Monday, August 20, 2012

Fire and Brimstone

Fire and Brimstone

         Isn’t it time we stopped pussyfooting around the subject of gun control? Hiding behind the    2nd amendment ratified in 1791—a time when there were no assault weapons or 100 round magazines, but you could tie your horse up anywhere?

When are our lawmakers going to do the math? Yes, the NRA has 4 million members who want to keep their assault weapons for hunting, but take away 4 million from 313 million and that leaves 309 million people whose health and safety are being sacrificed so that 1.3 percent of the population can have the freedom to shoot the other 98.7 percent of their fellow citizens, with the weapon of their choice. .

Even reducing the argument to political terms if approximately 125 million people vote in a presidential election, and every NRA member voted, they would represent only 1% of the ballots cast. Yet enough members of Congress are so intimidated by this group they continue to ignore the disturbing statistics:

29,000 men, women and children a year-- 80 each and every day--die of gunshot wounds ( How many have we lost in Iraq and Afghanstan?) The United States has more deaths as a result of gunshot wounds than Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland or the UK combined; and has hosted more shooting massacres than any other developed country.  We also have the weakest laws among all these nations. The NRA would have us believe there is no correlation between the two. This is an insult to our collective intelligence.

We’re all proud to have the United States first in the world for any area of endeavor, but first in the Western World for the possession of guns? For the possession of assault weapons? For the number of mass murders?  These are distinctions we can live without.

 The time has come for a serious National Debate, town hall discussions throughout the country and a committee empowered to study, collate and report, in clear, understandable form, all the data and statistics available from government agencies and private institutes relating to death by gunfire: how many weapons are produced and sold to individuals; what kind of weapons; where are guns sold; what state laws exist; how many incidents are there, state by state; what kind of gun is involved in each case. Most of this information exists today—it only needs to be pulled together and published in one credible document, but a national debate has been thwarted over and over again: neither President Obama or Mitt Romney are willing to talk about what is, arguably, the most deadly problem facing the United States of America.

It would be hard to find anyone living in this world of war and terror, na├»ve enough to believe that any laws can be strict enough to totally prevent the kind of violence we have seen in this country. Vaccines don’t prevent 100% of the recipients from getting the disease, but we protect as many people as we can. If, by enforcing our existing laws and enacting new laws governing the sale and purchase of assault weapons we could save one person a day that would be 365  fewer families mourning a lost child or mother or father caught in the riptide of a random shooting. 

We can either go on, year after year, watching friends and neighbors weep as they build homemade memorials to victims of gunfire, or we can face up to the fact we have a national emergency. Whether it’s 3 months before an election or 3 months after—we cannot wait any longer. Now is the only time we have.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Insecurity Code

While the medical community..scientists, doctors, nurses have worked tirelessly to help us live longer, fuller lives, the internet community, technicians, innovators are working just as hard, nonstop, to find new ways of doing us in. Why else would they have developed the security code--a demonic means of keeping seniors from seeking help on the web under the pretense of preventing internet “abusers” from signing on to certain sites .

When I couldn’t access my e-mail today, an error message appeared recommending I take certain actions--press “Refresh”; if that didn’t work, press “Security”, and if those two failed, press “Yahoo.”

Once on Yahoo, I filled in my e-mail address--the ID was already filled in—and then came to the Security code. In front of me were eight or nine drunken letters I was supposed to identify and write in the box below. Unlike other codes I’ve encountered these letters didn’t seem to have had as much to drink, so I was confident and wrote them as I saw them..a small m, 2 capital AA’s, a 6, small p, small f, a zero,o and a capitol F. Sorry, the letters you have entered are incorrect—Please try again.

A new group of letters were already waiting for me in the box. This time I made them all lower case even though the capital H didn’t look the same as the sample. Qt5khcvrz. Sorry, the letters you have entered are incorrect—Please try again.

My third try failed as dismally as the other two, so not finding any number to call or e-mail to write, I turned to the audio, and heard what sounded like a faint shuffling of something against a backdrop of static. Not only couldn’t I identify anything, a letter or a word or whatever they thought they were saying, but now I had wasted forty five minutes trying to get help from an entity equally determined not to give it to me.

Feeling old and defeated—a complete internet failure, I gave up and tried my e-mail again. It worked.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poll Cats

Poll Cats
by Lyla Blake Ward
Each morning when the results of ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬the Pew, New York Times/CBS, Zogby, Reuters, ABC News/Washington Post. Bloomberg polls come out, I thank my lucky stars I’m living in a country where my pulse and that of other Americans can be taken with such unremitting regularity. Where else in the world can you find out how many people approve of what a candidate had for breakfast that morning, almost before it’s left his spoon? (According to the latest polls, 35% of the people would not vote for a man who ate a Muslim cereal such as Kashi ; 25% said they would and 40% were undecided).
Assuming the fervor for Rick Santorum will fade just outside the borders of Pennsylvania, it will be Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in serious contest for the Republican nomination. What they wear, what they eat, whom they touch warmly on the shoulder will be determined on the basis of the latest poll results, which, incidentally have just come out. No doubt their PC’s (Poll Consultants) are busy deciphering these eagerly awaited numbers that form the basis of every candidate’s campaign. So without further ado, here is the new Pew.
Among Republican women, only 34% will vote for Gingrich, whereas 46% will vote for Romney. And of those 46%, 89% of African-American women favor Romney, while only 32% of the 34% will vote for Newt Gingrich. But of the 89% of the 46%, those who are single mothers account for 43% as opposed to 15% of the 32% of the 34% who favor Gingrich.
Figures about abortion and contraception are equally enlightening. 95% of women 75 and older who are prolife, favor Newt Gingrich, 3% Mitt Romney.And of the 95%, 30% had more than 2 ½ children, and 95% of the 3% had six ½ or more. But 85% of women 25-35 would vote for Romney as opposed to 5% for Gingrich. And 43% of the 85% were stay-at-home Moms, against 3% of the 5% who would vote for Gingrich.
Men polled on the major issues gave Newt Gingrich 65% and Mitt Romney 30%, and 85% of the 65% didn’t think marital fidelity was a qualification, whereas 20% of the 30% thought it was. 32% of the 85% of the 65% had been divorced from sick wives, as opposed to 3% of the 20% of the 30% who would vote for Mitt Romney.
Clearly, the value of polls is indisputable. It allows a candidate to find out what the thinking of the public is so he can adjust his own. Although the findings may be a little difficult to read, the results of these probing questionnaires are the best political tool we have until maybe at some future date, someone will come up with a cure for the common poll.