Friday, December 30, 2011

A video you cannot forget - especially on November 6, 2012

Few messages I’ve seen and heard have been as compelling as this one is to me:


Please remember on November 6, 2012. Do not forget!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Casa Grande, AZ, and surrounding area:

Friday, December 30, 2011
4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
N. Pinal Ave. & W. Florence Blvd.

Tony Fasline (520-426-0070) will hold his weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, December 30, from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., at the corner of N. Pinal Ave. & W. Florence Blvd. in Casa Grande, AZ. Tony invites anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join him. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Video editing update: We finally think (hope!) we’ve got the right cable we think we need to load--up or down? I don’t have a clue!--videos from camcorder to computer. We’ll try it out this evening and see if we’re in the ballpark. Hold onto great thoughts for this to work. If it does, then we’re going to start doing videos in which I discuss many of the topics I also write about. Great hopes for future progress, everyone!

Meanwhile, send out your positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers for all the suffering souls all around the world!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Casa Grande, AZ, and surrounding area:

Friday, December 23, 2011
4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
N. Pinal Ave. and W. McMurray Blvd.

Tony Fasline (520-426-0070) will hold his weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, December 23, from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., at the corner of N. Pinal Ave. and W. McMurray Blvd. in Casa Grande, AZ. Tony invites anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join him. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

I can hardly believe how many things keep popping up on our agenda to keep us busy now that Jim’s based at home every day. One thing is certain: Neither of us is bored. Ot our age, we can only do so much before we need to take it easy for a while. Still, it’s nice to be able to rest whenever we need to. It’s a much different lifestyle than the way things were when we were younger. Still, we both hope to have a more time after the first of the year to enjoy our favorite activities: Jim’s painting and my writing. Hold out great hopes for that eventuality!

Meanwhile, send out your positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers for all the suffering souls all around the world!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Update on my Open Letter to Romney and Gay Marriage Opponents

I just emailed a copy of my recent “Open Letter to Mitt Romney and other Gay Marriage Opponents” to campaign websites of the following Republican presidential candidates:

Michele Bachmann
Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman Jr.
Ron Paul
Buddy Roemer
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum

I also wanted to email the Open Letter to Rick Perry’s campaign website, but there is no email address listed where someone can send a statement that he and his staff haven’t pre-approved. Obviously, he doesn’t want to be told anything that contradicts his almighty positions.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Casa Grande, AZ, and surrounding area:

Friday, December 16, 2011
4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
N. Pinal Ave. & W. Cottonwood Ln.

Tony Fasline (520-426-0070) will hold his weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, December 16, from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., at the corner of N. Pinal Ave. & W. Cottonwood Ln. in Casa Grande, AZ. Tony invites anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join him. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Now that Jim’s retired, we’re making progress in several areas, mostly setting things up so we can enjoy the time ahead and use our talents and skills to make a difference in this world. Besides everything else, we’re both concentrating a bit more on our passions, my writing and Jim’s painting. That’ll get better as we move more things off our preliminary agenda. So stay tuned for more exciting things to come. Who knows? I could actually finish the book I’ve been working at off and on for the past couple of years. Maybe even more than that. Hold out great hopes for real progress in 2012!

Meanwhile, send out your positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers for all the suffering souls all around the world!

Open Letter to Mitt Romney and other gay-marriage opponents

To give credit where it’s due, I’ll admit you’ve got nerve telling a gay Vietnam veteran that you don’t believe his spouse deserves the same rights that people like me, as the wife of a straight Nam vet, enjoy. Not for a minute do I believe you didn’t suspect that man’s sexual orientation. In fact, you admitted you knew where he stood when you said, “So we apparently disagree on that.”

The real problem is the reason you gave for being on that side of the issue. You said, “At the time the Constitution was written, it was pretty clear that marriage was between a man and a woman, and I don’t believe the Supreme Court has changed that.”

Does that mean you’d consider slavery to be just fine until Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation? Or would you have waited for the Supreme Court to declare its support of that courageous presidential action before you freed any of the slaves you’d insist upon keeping hostage?

Would you have campaigned against suffragists like my grandmother until the highest court in the land finally did the right thing and acknowledged the right to vote for my grandmother and her sisters, daughter, and granddaughters--and I must add, your wife?

Doing the right thing shouldn’t depend upon immoral and unfair laws. Granted, the First Amendment of that Constitution you mentioned states: “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] . . . ” That means you have the right to belong to a religion that bans same-sex marriage, and even relationships, within its membership.

On the other hand, the first provision of the religious freedom clause bans you and your religious organization from imposing those rules on others: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, . . . “

A little historical perspective is needed here: For years before the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the Church of England was not only ascendant but the law of the land, including all the British colonies. At times, all tax-paying British citizens and colonists were forced to pay tax monies that went directly into Church coffers, whether or not they were members of that religion.

Most of the Founding Fathers were active members of some Christian religion, but not all of them belonged to the Church of England. Many of the early opponents of Anglicanism had emigrated from Europe to the American colonies seeking freedom to worship as they chose.

Unfortunately, too many of those same freedom-seeking pilgrims eventually imposed their own beliefs on everyone who lived in or near the communities they established. The wise men who wrote and signed the Constitution that defined their new country acknowledged those early colonial mistakes by forbidding any religious institution from forcing rules on people who chose not be members of their organization.

Sadly, it’s taken over 200 years for most people to understand these simple principles. Too many people, like you, still don’t get that. Imposing rules allows powerful people to control others. If we truly love freedom, then religious freedom must include respecting the basic human rights of members of the LGBT community, as well as those of members of every other minority.

Acknowledging the rights of every human being means giving up a little bit of power, but it would offer more freedom to everyone. Being a bully wastes a lot of energy. I urge you to stop bullying people by using bad laws to impose your rules on other people and you will see this nation thrive in ways you never imagined.

I realize you’re campaigning to become the candidate of a political party that’s taken a clear stand against acknowledging the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Therefore, I have no doubt who I’ll be voting for in November 2012.

On the other hand, it would be a welcome miracle if, should you win the keys to the White House next year, you followed the example of the first Republican president and declared your support for an issue that is even more popular today than ending slavery was in 1862.

Presidents don’t have to wait for the Supreme Court. They can use the power of their office by supporting the legal right of same-sex couples to marry and receive full federal spousal benefits. That is the right thing to do.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part IV)

Now that I’ve detailed our experiences arranging the various pieces of our retirement insurance coverage, it’s time for me to wrap up this series with a few comments about the situation.


On the positive side is the fact that Medicare exists at all. Too many conservative politicians want to abolish it completely so they can toss senior citizens and people with disabilities back into that shark tank infested with insurance companies that care more about amassing profits than providing access to affordable medical care. Details in this article apply to the current situation, not the right-wing “wet dream” that, should it ever come true, would be a hideous nightmare for the neediest people in the country.

Currently, Medicare Part A, which covers a large percentage of the cost of hospital care, is available at no charge to qualified U.S. residents when they turn 65 and younger people who’ve received Social Security Disability insurance for two years. The program is supported by payroll taxes from people who are currently employed. A qualified person just has to notify Social Security within two months of the date eligibility begins. Part B covers a percentage of doctors’ visits and outpatient tests and treatments, but the insured person must pay a premium for this part of the coverage.

Many people purchase a Supplemental policy to cover medical costs not paid by Parts A and B, or an Advantage plan, or Part C, which is a comprehensive package that covers Parts A and B as well as co-pays. Most Advantage plans also include drug coverage, which is called Part D when purchased separately with Parts A and B.

Part D is the newest piece of the puzzle and it has numerous flaws, especially the cost to people who need the more expensive drugs. Many of these costs will go down as the government plan, commonly called “Obamacare” by critics, comes into effect in stages over the next few years. That fact should be viewed as an argument to support the new health care law. But to conservatives, whose empty claims to compassion disappeared as soon as they took power in 2001, it’s a reason to attack the program.

One way to lower drug costs even more is to use mail order to purchase drugs taken regularly over an extended period of time. In spite of the fact that many drug providers have featured this service for many years, some people are still reluctant to depend on mail for their medications.

Having used mail order through several different insurers over the last couple of decades, I can say that overall, the service is no better or worse than using a local pharmacy. It’s up to the consumer--that’s you and me--to keep good records and alert the provider when there is a problem. Some companies are harder to deal with than others, but that can also be true with many local stores.

One last positive thing I can say about dealing with Medicare is the fact that the website is extremely helpful and the customer service staff are both friendly and supportive. There are some excellent online charts to help users choose Supplemental and Part D plans, but it did take me several tries over a few days to figure everything out. I finally called and a really nice lady patiently talked me through the necessary steps. Besides that, I signed up for regular email updates from Medicare.


As useful as Medicare, with all its parts, is proving to us, especially with our complicated medical issues, we still don’t like the way it’s designed. First, it took a lot of work, especially on my part since I’m the family “office manager,” to research and set up all the pieces of the puzzle. That’s a lot of time and energy that I could have focused toward other pursuits. In addition, this task is generally being performed by people in physically and/or mentally weakened conditions, so it takes more energy from us than it would from young healthy people who are generally more tech savvy.

In addition, there is the fact that plans differ according to services offered by different providers. We had to choose from a range of Supplemental plans and drug providers based on our current medical needs. Since Jim and I both have complicated medical conditions, albeit somewhat different from each other, we ended up with the same Supplemental plan through the same insurance company. But because we each take a completely different number and range of medications, we each had to sign with a different Part D provider.

The problem with this is we’re stuck with these plans for a full year, until the end of 2012. If either of our medical situations changes and our current plans don’t fit our needs, that’s just tough cookies. We can’t make changes until the next annual enrollment period, which begins on October 15 and ends on December 7, and those changes won’t go into effect until January 1, 2013.

There is a provision for people with certain qualifications to switch to certain Advantage plans, and another situation in which a person must be disenrolled from their previous plan. But this is all just a testament to the fact that when government services are controlled by politicians and for-profit companies, the rules are even more complicated than when the government is the only service provider.


As I explained in the first article in this series, as much as Advantage providers tempt people with low overall prices, the hidden costs are a time bomb just waiting to explode in the faces of clients who live far away from in-network providers. And drug co-pays which are low for insured working people skyrocket for retired people who live on a fixed income. All in all, these are just more ways that the for-profit medical industry squeezes every last penny they can out of the most vulnerable people in the country.

Then there’s the insidious “credible coverage” requirement for previous insurance. This one makes perfect sense to the profiteers, but it amounts to financial punishment imposed on sick and disabled people. Here’s how the plan works:

Many younger people with medical problems are being denied coverage by insurance companies because of their conditions. Then when they finally qualify for Medicare, they’re charged a penalty on top of premiums specifically because of the fact that they weren’t able to obtain insurance before that. These extra costs are just one more way that the for-profit medical system in this country torments people who commit the “mortal sin” of being imperfect.


Lest anyone think any of these issues are an argument against government managed health care, I vehemently disagree. The complications arise from the involvement of for-profit companies and the meddling of lobby-supported politicians.

If health care were supplied to everyone in a straightforward manner according to each person’s need, with no costs added to boost corporate profits and executive compensation, the service would be much cheaper and far more successful than it is now. And I’m not opposed to charging penalties to people who want coverage or care when they’ve previously refused to participate in a universal system.

We just need to actually have such a system that doesn’t discriminate against sick and disabled people, as the current for-profit system does. The only way to care for everyone who needs it in an efficient manner would be establish a truly universal health care system which requires everyone to pay what they can afford for coverage.

And now that I’ve come this far down that circuitous path to Medicare, I’d like to say I’ve earned a black belt. But since politicians are always tinkering with the system, I’ll just claim a brown belt now and steel myself for the battles that I know must surely be lurking farther down the road.

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part I)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part II)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part III)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part III)

In the first two parts of this series, I discussed the basics of Medicare plans and the one issue that arose within the Medicare system because of a communication snag. But these only involved the plans covering hospital and doctor services, not prescription drugs. That’s the Part D piece of the puzzle.


Now that we’re well into our senior years Jim and I are both dealing with complicated medical issues. Jim first began to face reality--or, to be more precise, his mortality--when he was diagnosed with diabetes in the early 1990s, but I’ve had to deal with various health problems my entire life.

Since I haven’t had a support system during most of that time, I’ve had to become the expert in my own medical case. That’s why I’m much better educated than most people about the pros and cons of treating every little thing with pills, as too many people are wont to do. And that’s why I’ve developed the philosophy that when it comes to medications, less really can be more. Over the years, that approach has saved me a lot of pain and tons of money that I could have wasted on useless, and often dangerous, drugs.

Another factor we have to deal with now is the way medical insurance is managed for retired people. While Jim was working, his employee insurance covered both of us under his identification data. Now we’re treated as individuals, so our policies and ID numbers are generally different. The only thing that’s the same is when we use our AARP (aka, Geezers United!) membership--which considers Jim the primary member and includes me as his spouse--for our Medicare supplemental insurance policies

On the other hand, our Part D choices are much more complicated than they are for supplemental insurance, especially because we each have different needs. Up to this point, we were well prepared for the steps we had to take:

  • First, we had to decide whether to get an Advantage plan or go with the multi-part package that includes Medicare Parts A and B and a supplemental policy.
  • Having decided against Advantage, for reasons I explained in Part I of this series, we chose an insurance company we’d had positive experiences with during the years we were covered by various employee policies.
  • When we called that company to set things up, they asked us for enough details about our medical conditions so they could help us choose which type of supplemental plan we each needed.

From this point, our choices became much more complicated, but I’ll get into more detail about the downside of that in the next, and last, part of this series when I wrap up my opinions on the overall situation. For now, I’ll just say that because of our different conditions and needs, we had to find separate providers for our Part D policies.

Though we aren’t thrilled with that fact, we have discovered some good things about choosing and setting up our Part D policies:

  • We each had a wide range of choices about what companies we could get the prescription drug service from.
  • The most positive aspect of this part of the experience is that Medicare’s website features a fantastic chart to help us compare all the choices available to each of us. It took me several turns at the pages in this section over a couple of weeks, as well as a desperate call to Medicare for help at one point, before I got everything straight for each of us. But without that chart, we’d still be fumbling around, trying to get all that information together in a coherent and understandable form.
  • If we waited too long after his old insurance was terminated, we’d have to pay a monthly penalty over our regular monthly premiums. Fortunately, the maximum waiting period is 62 days, and with the helpful tools available from Medicare, we were able to make our choices and get things all set up for both of us well within that period of time.

One more good thing was that, except for one of my prescriptions, we happened to have a good supply of all our medications on hand to carry us through that waiting period, so the delay didn’t do us any harm, medically speaking. Since my missing prescription is a generic drug, I was able to buy it at a local pharmacy for a reasonable price for a couple of months until my Part D service kicked in.

So, now that our Part D policies are in place, we have only another 24 hours to wait, as I finish writing this article, to begin taking advantage of the Part D prescription service. Of course, things could be better, but at least we do have this. Just a few years ago, Medicare patients had no help at all with their drug costs. Yes, things have moved forward, but certainly not far enough ahead. Come back here in a few more days and you’ll be able to read a lot more about that in the final article in this series!

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part I)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part II)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part IV)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part II)

In Part I, I shared the basic details of Medicare, including the reason we chose to go with Parts A and B and a Supplemental Medicare policy instead of relying on one of those much-touted comprehensive Advantage plans. Now I’ll share some of the wrinkles we had to iron out as we tried to get things set up and began to use the insurance plans with our medical providers.


The first issues we faced were a result of Medicare red tape. Social Security couldn’t complete the paperwork until they received notice from Jim’s employer confirming his retirement date. Trouble was, the people at Human Resources didn’t finish their paperwork until the middle of his last month on the job, barely two weeks before D-Day--or to be more precise, R-Day. Once that was done, Jim had to take the Medicare form to HR and get it filled out and signed, then mail it back to Medicare.

Because of that delay, we didn’t get our Part B cards until well over a week after it was to go into effect, and we’d already scheduled an appointment with one of our doctors during that first week. Fortunately, the office manager, who happens to be the doctor’s wife, was completely understanding and took our information for an emergency form she uses in such cases. Then she sent it to their billing service, and we hoped everything would work out fine.

But within the next few weeks, we had a couple of other medical appointments, and soon we began to receive calls from them because Medicare was denying our coverage. I called Medicare and found out the problem was that they hadn’t registered the fact that his employee insurance had ended on the last day of his employment.

While he was still working, the employee insurance was his primary provider, while Medicare would be the secondary provider, to be billed only for deductibles and co-pays. Now, of course, Medicare is supposed to be our primary insurance provider and the Supplemental plan we’d purchased from a private company is our secondary provider. But that’s not what our records said at Medicare.

We were told that Jim would need a letter documenting the fact that he was no longer covered by employee insurance. It took almost a full day and involved people at his old employer’s HR Department and the old insurance company calling and faxing back and forth. Finally we had copies of those letters, one for Jim and one for me, in our hot little hands. Then we called Medicare again and learned that as long as we can produce the letter, they were satisfied and nothing else needed to be done. They didn’t even need us to fax the letters to them.

I then had to call people at all the medical service providers or their billing departments to advise them that we’d corrected the problem and things should go smoothly from then on. Ah, but not so fast. This is the one time when the government agency didn’t work as it was supposed to.

Turns out the main Medicare Department is not the agency that takes care of all that. It’s handled by a separate government agency called Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that handles all billing and payment matters. Only after the second denial of a particular payment a week after we obtained those letters did I learn that little tidbit. So, naturally I had to call CMS and get them to straighten out the problem.

When I explained the situation to the very nice young man at CMS, he made sure to keep me on the line while he went through all the steps necessary to update our accounts. Again, we didn’t need to show them the letters documenting the old insurance coverage and termination dates. We just have to make sure we have all that information and can prove it if we ever need to. That’s where good record-keeping comes in handy.

In fact, those good records proved to be a blessing with later issues that came up. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. In the next article in this series, I’ll explain how those records are helping us with our Part D coverage. Watch for it!

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part I)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part III)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part IV)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part I)

From the moment Jim knew the date of his retirement, we began planning every step we had to take to transition from middle-age employment to full senior status. We knew the most important part of that process would be setting up full Medicare coverage to replace his employee insurance, which would end on the day he retired.

Over the years, we’ve kept up on Medicare issues, so we knew the basic steps we had to take to set things up. We hoped things would go smoothly, but we aren’t naive. We knew dealing with any organization takes time, effort, patience, and persistence, yet even we were surprised at all the hoops we had to jump through in order to get the job done.

We learned a lot along the way, and I’m going to share those things here. But as I relate the story, I must emphasize two points:

  • While our experience is individual, I doubt it’s unique. Not everyone will face the same issues, but it’s possible that my sharing these points could help people who do.
  • Some people will point to our experience as evidence that government-controlled health care is broken. On the contrary, Medicare works very well. Most of these problems were with for-profit insurance companies and the requirements that lobbyists and their Congressional lackeys insist on perpetuating as part of the American health care system.


First, here are some basic facts for Medicare newbies:

Medicare is the federal medical insurance program; Medicaid is the program managed by states for people with limited income and assets who don’t have employee insurance. Jim and I are fortunate enough to be concerned only with Medicare, not Medicaid, at least for now.

Medicare has several parts to it:

  • Part A: Hospital insurance;
  • Part B: Medical (outpatient) insurance;
  • Part C: Advantage (comprehensive) plans;
  • Part D: Prescription Drug plans.

Not included in the official Medicare list but an absolute necessity if we don’t have an Advantage plan is a Medicare Supplemental policy. For some people, Advantage plans work just fine, but most of those plans involve networks. That means you pay the least if you stay with providers in their network. But if you want to see a doctor or go to a clinic or hospital that’s not in their network, you could end up paying a lot more money than if you stuck with Parts A and B and a Supplemental plan.

Because Jim and I both have multiple health issues and we live in a county that’s considered rural, even though both neighboring counties include the two largest metropolitan areas of the state, we were pretty sure if we tried to deal with an Advantage network, we’d have to give up some of the doctors we’ve grown to trust over the last several years.

Turns out the truth is even worse than our suspicions: Even though the regional medical center a mile and a half from our house has recently been credited as one of the best in the state, it’s not in the network of the biggest Advantage plan serving Arizona residents. On the other hand, if we did stay in network to save possibly hundreds or more dollars with a hospital stay, we’d have to travel at least 50 miles one way to reach the nearest in-network hospital. In our conditions and at our ages, that’s not an option. So, we might have to pay a little more month-to-month, but at least we know we can get great care with providers we know and trust for little to nothing right here in our own area.

There are several groups of people who qualify for Medicare. Our eligibility began when we turned 65. We followed Step 1 of good Medicare planning by calling a couple of months before our 65th birthdays to set things up so coverage would begin in the months we turned 65.

Since Jim was still working and his employee insurance covered prescription drugs, we didn’t need Part D, so we opted out of that at first. But we were automatically charged for Part B for several months until we learned we didn’t need it while he had comparable employee insurance. That’s when we canceled Part B and saved a bunch of money. Then a couple of months before his retirement date, we went to the local Social Security office to renew Part B, beginning on the day his retirement was set to begin.

Now that I’ve introduced the basics of Medicare, in the Part II of this series, I’ll tell you about some of the bumps we encountered in our journey to set things up so that we should be prepared for any medical possibility--Good Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise, as they say down south.

Managing the Medicare Maze (Part II)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part III)
Managing the Medicare Maze (Part IV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, November 18, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Broadway St. & 5th Ave.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, November 18, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the corner of Broadway St. & 5th Ave., Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Whoa! Just when we think we’ve got our medical insurance crazy quilt all sewed up, another strip of red tape rears its ugly head. How’s that for a totally mixed-up metaphor?!

I’d hoped to finish and post my blog article on the Medicare maze this week--until we got some letters showing two more problems, not with the government aspect of the puzzle but with one of the corporate players in the game. In fact, when I do put the finishing touches on that article, I plan to emphasize the fact that the insurance and drug company lobbies are keeping the process so messy that as much as the government agency tries to keep up with it, even they can’t be aware of all the problems we’ll have to face. That’s not only shameful, it’s a complete waste of time, money, and energy, both physical and psychological. So, as soon as we iron out this latest wrinkle, I do plan to tidy up that article and post it for everyone right here and on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Watch for it!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Trouble with Electric Shopping Carts (Part IV)

In the first three parts of this article, I detailed the steady deterioration of electric shopping cart services at stores in Casa Grande. Now it’s time to wrap up this series by explaining what happened when I tried to get help with this and other problems related to my disabilities from the Casa Grande Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues.

When I first wrote the two-part article about electric shopping carts for my column in the Arizona City Independent/Edition, I also called and sent a letter trying to get the attention of someone on the Committee regarding the problem. We lived in Arizona City at the time but did all our shopping in Casa Grande, 15 miles north of our home.

I’ll give Committee members the benefit of the doubt and just say the reason they might not have responded to my original complaints might have had something to do with the fact that we weren’t residents of the city. Still, that logic doesn’t compute when you consider most subsequent developments in relation to the issue.

In 2007 we moved to Casa Grande, and a few months later I volunteered to serve on the Committee. At that time I explained that since my original complaint regarding the lack of enough working carts, stores had begun to replace their old carts with new ones without arms, making it difficult, or even impossible, for people with certain types of disabilities to use the carts and, thus, shop in those stores.

Finally, a Committee member called several large grocery and discount stores in town to survey them regarding the replacement of their old electric shopping carts with armless carts. When I attended my first Committee meeting as a member, they presented me with the survey report. After that, there was no more talk of armless electric shopping carts--or any other issues connected with hidden disabilities.

Conversations at meetings were mostly about visible disabilities, such as mobility, sight, or hearing problems. I heard little or no discussion of other disability issues, such as those affecting people with seizure disorder, mental or developmental disabilities, AIDS, or those confined to nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities.

The same problem existed with outside activities sponsored by the Committee. For instance, the annual Disability Awareness Day was focused on difficulties faced by people confined to wheelchairs or those with visual impairment. The one time I was able to attend a Disability Awareness Day luncheon, I told a couple of people attending who held management positions at the local Wal-Mart that I hadn’t shopped at their store for a couple of years because of the problem with armless shopping carts. They said they’d check into it, but they never got back to me and didn’t even answer the followup email I sent after that meeting.

Besides that, I could never attend the Committee’s annual Halloween party because my nervous system can’t tolerate vibrations from loud music and I’m deathly allergic to dyes in all the refreshments served at the event. In fact, in 2009 after taking a colored pill I’d previously been able to pass in a few days with minor symptoms, I ended up in the ICU for two and a half days. That means that for the rest of my life, I have to avoid all those chemical dyes that make food and drugs so pretty to look at. One more exposure could propel me past the ICU all the way to a slab in one of those little refrigerated compartments in that windowless room in the hospital basement. No thanks!

Meanwhile, two more of my problems continued to worsen, but whenever I mentioned anything I was going through to anyone on the Committee, they showed absolutely no interest. First, even more stores are replacing their older electric shopping carts with newer armless ones. That means it’s getting to be impossible for me to shop comfortably in just about all the larger stores in town. I am fortunate enough to have a manual wheelchair, but anyone who’s confined to a chair knows that sitting low to the ground limits their view of most store shelves and makes it difficult to chat with people standing up near them.

Meanwhile, my physical symptoms are deteriorating, as they have slowly but surely pretty much all my life. I no longer have the stamina to manage most normal activities. When I need to go out to see a doctor or shop at a local store, we have to plan the logistics carefully. My husband does all the driving now, and since I lack the upper-body strength to push my own wheelchair, he has to push me wherever I want to go.

Of course, it would be great if I could use my own electric cart. Unfortunately, our house isn’t accessible and has no garage. We can’t just roll the cart in or out of the house, and if we had a hoist installed on his truck, it would be vulnerable to theft or vandalism. That means I’m stuck with the inconvenience of my wheelchair. At least I do have that.

And since my disabilities are of no interest to anyone on the Casa Grande Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues, I’ve chosen to focus my limited energies to more important and more effective activities, such as writing about a world in which the needs of every single person are respected, even those people who have to deal with hidden disabilities.

Part I: Going the Distance (Part I)
Part II: Going the Distance (Part II)
Part III: Disarming the Carts

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, November 11, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Belmont Ave. & E. Liberty St.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, November 11, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Belmont Ave. & E. Liberty St., Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Whew! Jim and I were finally able to put the last piece of the senior medical insurance puzzle into place. Now we’re trying to catch up with all those other things, large and small, that we hoped to take care of during his first weeks of retirement. I hope to regain my focus soon so I can finally begin to write about all the tricks and traps we had to go through and around in order to get things set up so we’ll get the care we need. Then there’s that last part of my report on the problems I’ve encountered with electric shopping carts. I hope to have these articles written and posted by this time next week. Hold onto positive thoughts for that miracle!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Trouble with Electric Shopping Carts (Part III)

If you’ve read my last two posts, you know about some of the problems disabled people have long met with when we tried to use electric shopping carts provided by large stores. Those issues were minor, though, in comparison to the latest situation that has arisen In the last few years, which I first wrote about in my column in 2008:

Disarming the Carts

Here we are, finally settled in Casa Grande, where we’re close enough to stores that I can go shopping more than once every month or two--and wouldn’t you know it? Some of my favorite stores are making it impossible for me to patronize them. They might not realize what they’re doing, but it’s true all the same.

The problem has to do with those electric carts I wrote about three years ago in my two-part article, “Going the Distance.” At the time I explained that many stores don’t have enough carts on duty at their peak shopping hours. I even suggested they truck some carts from their northern stores down to their southern stores for the winter season, then return them as the “snow birds” are flying north so the carts will be available up there during the summer months.

It sounds perfectly logical, but to date, no one has paid any attention to my idea. Pretty soon I’ll post the article on my web site and start spreading the word again, but that’s not my big beef this time. Now, those same stores are beginning to replace their old carts with new ones that make it impossible for me--and probably thousands of other disabled people--to ride at all!

You see, the new carts have no arms. None at all.

For some people that doesn’t present a problem. But for me, and most other people with serious back and/or balance problems, this means we can no longer use their carts. And since at least one major discount store in town has replaced all their old carts with armless ones, that means the store could lose thousands of paying customers in a very short time. I know they’ve already lost me!

With scoliosis, I require side support for damaged back muscles. Reaching the front steering column is difficult for a small person like me because the nonadjustable seats are set very far back and very high up. Leaning forward stretches my damaged back muscles, aggravating my pain. Without protective arms on the cart, people like me with dizziness or stability problems could fall out. The one time I tried riding that cart, the experience was so painful and disorienting that I left the store vowing not to return until they bring back the carts with arms.

I’ve heard a couple of explanations for the situation. One person said the armless carts make it easier to transfer people from wheelchairs into carts and back again. But in the two decades I’ve used store carts in three different states, I have yet to see anyone roll in with their own conveyance and transfer to a store cart. On the other hand, I have noticed hundreds of people with obvious back and balance problems who need the carts to get around. So, the statistics don’t support this theory at all.

The explanation that is probably closest to reality came from a store manager who said the decision was probably an economic one--which doesn’t surprise me at all. This person said that the elimination of a single moving part multiplied by thousands of carts across the country could save the company thousands of maintenance dollars. I doubt they’ve thought about the possibly more thousands of dollars in sales they could be losing with all the disabled patrons they’re turning away.

I’ll be honest, I own a cart myself. The problem is, even when the electric hoist in my little old station wagon actually works--which is rare these days--the cart is much too cumbersome for me to manage on my own. My next option would be to buy a cart rack that goes on the back of a car, but that will cost hundreds of dollars that we can’t afford. And what about all those disabled people the store has turned their back on, figuratively speaking, who can’t afford their own carts?

No, I’m not going to budge. They’re not going to see me until they get those arms on their carts again.

And just in case anyone wonders about the logic in this attitude, let me point out one more fact: In the past, carts had signs warning that arms must be in the down position when the cart is moving, for the sake of safety or insurance or both. When did it suddenly become safe for people with balance problems to ride a cart without any side protection? Not in my lifetime!

I wonder if the company is prepared to deal with the lawsuits when people with a tendency to faint start falling out of those armless carts and hurting themselves. Maybe then they’ll start thinking about the economics of fixing a simple moving part, and serving disabled customers the way they should be served!

Okay, that’s everything from the past. Since I wrote that last article, the situation has deteriorated in several ways. In a few days, I’ll post a new report about my efforts to get help for this situation, along with a list of those stores in my town, all major chains, that have joined the parade of companies that don’t seem to want people with certain disabilities shopping at their stores. Watch for it!

Part I: Going the Distance (Part I)
Part II: Going the Distance (Part II)
Part IV: The Trouble With Electric Shopping Carts (Part IV)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, October 28, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Wick Ave. & Lincoln Ave. (Near YSL & Main Library)

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, October 28, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Wick Ave. & Lincoln Ave. (Near YSL & Main Library), Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

We’re almost through Jim’s first month of retirement, and we’ve barely had any time to breathe. On the other hand, we’ve almost got most of the requisite red tape tied up into a nice pretty bow, and when we do, we’ll be able to breathe a lot easier. It’s been pretty exciting, but I’m really looking forward to enjoying a little of our new normalcy. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Trouble with Electric Shopping Carts (Part II)

This is the second part of the article series I wrote in 2005 for my column in the Arizona City Independent/Edition about the original problems with electric shopping carts:

Going the Distance (Part II)

In the first part of this article, I introduced the fact that working electric carts for disabled people are often unavailable at large retail stores. The problem is compounded by the attitude of many employees. That’s why I’m suggesting some changes to better accommodate the needs of disabled customers. A little common sense and courtesy can help stores keep a significant number of their patrons happy, so they’ll spend more money there.

The solution to the cart problem falls into two major areas: cart maintenance and customer relations.

The task of maintaining carts is fourfold: Cart “wrangling,” regular tuneups, emergency care, and cart location.

Wrangling is done by door greeters or other people posted near where carts wait for pickup and delivery. Most grocery stores correctly do this in an area with an electrical source, so unused carts can be plugged in as much as possible and remain charged most of the time.

Sadly, in newer discount stores, this isn’t usually the case. Carts are charged in an area off the foyer where regular carts are stored, but they often sit idle next to the front doors, far from an electrical source. Since the most common problem occurs when they run out of “fuel” in the middle of a huge store, carts should be attached to a “fueling station” whenever they’re not in use.

But even well-charged carts break down. I was prompted to write these articles when a cart I was using stopped moving in the middle of a local discount store. The battery light showed a good charge, and the soft mechanical purr when I pushed the handle indicated the engine was working, so I knew the machine had probably slipped its gears.

Breakdowns can be avoided through regular maintenance, but no amount of upkeep can prevent every emergency. Dealing with the problem in a timely manner is the responsibility of management, at the store as well as higher up the corporate ladder. Of course, it’s also the wrangler’s duty to report ailing carts immediately, so the “little cart doctor” can repair them quickly!

I’ve made one more logistical suggestion to both local and corporate people at one company, but haven’t seen any action yet. Since so many “snow birds” move south for the winter then fly north when things heat up, the company should do the same with a percentage of their carts. It wouldn’t be difficult to manage, since trucks move all around the country, and many trips are “deadheads,” with little or no cargo when rigs must move to distant pick-up locations.

Dealing with the cart issue can be problematic because of the negative attitudes of some people toward disabled people. It’s important for store employees to remember that customers keep them in business, even disabled ones. So the first rule of customer service applies, even in this situation: Every cart request must be taken seriously.

Problems can occur because greeters are often older and/or disabled themselves. When a working cart isn’t available for someone who manages to walk into the store, employees sometimes give the impression they don’t believe it would hurt them to continue walking instead of using a cart. No one can judge how much stamina another person has or what the medical consequences would be if they overdo, so greeters should do everything possible to locate a working cart--and leave their personal opinions to themselves.

One problem occurs because many large stores have two entrances separated by a significant distance. There might be no working carts at one end, while several carts could be idle at the other entrance. Once I entered a door with no carts in sight, and the greeter used a walkie-talkie to learn that a cart was available at the other door. Even better, an employee drove that cart down the long front hall to meet me, so I didn’t have to walk the width of the store to get that cart. Now that was service!

Unfortunately, that was a one-time event. The next time I came in, the greeter on duty said her walkie-talkie wasn’t working. Translation: She didn’t feel like bothering to help me! So I walked the store and made myself sicker than usual for a couple of days. Believe me, my “normal” is bad enough!

Once when I came into the store, several carts were busy sucking up tasty electric “juice,” and the greeter said they wouldn’t be ready for at least a couple of hours. When I limped out through the same door less than an hour later, I noticed that all those “thirsty” carts had long finished their “snack” and were on the job again. So much for “a couple of hours” of recharging!

These problems wouldn’t be so bad if the staff showed real concern for disabled customers. Their attitude hurts more than the fact that walking around the store makes me so much sicker than usual. A simple declaration that they’ll find the next available cart at either door would assure me that it’s worth my time to sit on the foyer bench and wait for that next cart. The fact that I’ve only heard that promise once is the reason I don’t do that.

Another problem occurs because the baskets in those electric carts fill up quickly. One time I needed some large items, so in the middle of my shopping trip, I drove back to the entrance and asked the greeter if I could leave my first load in a regular cart where she could keep an eye on it. She didn’t seem thrilled about the idea, but she reluctantly agreed. Though it meant my spending more money, she acted as if I was imposing on her. As a result, I now deliberately plan my shopping to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

But it’s in everyone’s best interest to accommodate that request, since it would benefit non-disabled customers as well. Stores should designate an area where shoppers can park extra cartloads of goods until they’re ready to check out. If it’s very far from the entrance--in the customer-service area, for instance--they should keep a couple of empty regular carts there so no one has to haul any carts from the front--especially since people in electric carts can’t manage that task anyway.

The problem with small baskets leads me to another issue. I own an electric cart which is smaller than the ones in stores, especially the basket. I got it some years ago, so it’s not as light as newer carts. It’s difficult for me to move in and out of my car alone, even with the electric hoist, so when I shop alone, I don’t bother to bring my cart along. Instead, I hope to find a working cart at the store, but I’m usually disappointed lately.

If I knew someone would help me move my own cart in and out of my car before and after I spend money at their store, then I’d have Jim put it in the car the night before I go out. Of course, that also depends on whether there would be a place for me to park some of my overflow goodies until I’m ready to check out, as explained above.

I wonder if it’s possible to get that kind of service at my local discount store. Maybe when they realize that the money disabled people want to spend there is just as green as everybody else’s, they might decide to do something about it! It never hurts to dream!

Be sure to check back soon because I’m going to post the next article I wrote a few years later about even worse problems with electric shopping carts. Watch for it!

Part I: Going the Distance (Part I)
Part III: Disarming the Carts
Part IV: The Trouble With Electric Shopping Carts (Part IV)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Trouble with Electric Shopping Carts (Part I)

In the introduction to my earlier posting of my letter of resignation from the Casa Grande Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues, I promised to post articles I wrote in the past detailing my experiences using electric carts at large retail stores.

In the summer of 2005, I wrote a two-part article, “Going the Distance,” to explain problems I often encountered with store carts that were either lacking a sufficient charge or in disrepair. Then in 2008 another issue arose and I was forced to write “Disarming the Carts.” Those articles were first published in my column in the Arizona City Independent/Edition. I later posted them again in my online column as Phoenix Progressive Examiner for

Since then, I’ve been trying to get help to address these problems from the people at the stores and at the corporate offices and members of the Mayor’s Committee, but to no avail. That’s one of the reasons I finally had to resign from any involvement with the Committee, which I will explain fully in a later article. First, I’ll post the original articles here, for your enlightenment:

Going the Distance (Part I)

For decades I’ve fought the battle of the electric shopping cart. The first problem I had to overcome was my own attitude toward my developing disability from lupus and complications. For over 30 years, I’ve had intermittent mobility problems, but I can usually maintain a steady gait for short distances with the aid of a crutch (Canadian cane) on my left side. On the other hand, walking any significant distance is so exhausting that I can barely do anything productive for a day or two after that.

By the mid-1980s, I realized it was becoming harder for me to shop in a large store without using an electric cart. It wasn’t easy to face this reality, especially since I’d been taught from childhood to ignore my long-developing disability, usually to my detriment. But I finally had to accept that I’m not as strong as I wish, and I need help to do many things in life--if I can, or should, do them at all!

Unfortunately, once I was comfortable enough with my own limitations to tell others about my needs, I found myself in the midst of the real battle!

Some stores do provide plenty of electric carts for their disabled customers, and they try to keep them in tiptop shape, but those stores are in the minority. The sad fact is, the busier the store, the less likely they are to have a sufficient number of working carts, especially at peak shopping hours. And the more successful stores seem less likely to maintain their vehicles on a regular basis.

Of course, electric carts in the busier stores are well-used, and no one can foretell how many carts will be needed at any given time. Though the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public facilities to provide architectural access for wheelchairs and electric carts, they aren’t required to provide those carts themselves. That’s the letter of the law.

But the spirit of the law calls for a better attitude from store employees toward disabled patrons than what I’ve often experienced. The real problem is not so much that there aren’t enough working carts to meet demand, especially at certain times, but the fact that managers and employees don’t seem willing to address the problem.

I’ve explained the situation to several people at the biggest store in town and at their corporate headquarters, but the response is little more than a symbolic “pat on the head.” Meanwhile, more carts seem to be breaking down, so fewer of them are available, even after the “snow birds” fly off to their summer homes in the north. Worse, the attitude of many employees toward disabled customers who need carts seems cooler than ever.

In the interest of good corporate relations, I’d like to pass along some suggestions that might help the situation. Perhaps others will join me in trying to get store managers and employees to consider the needs of their disabled patrons, who, like every other customer, come there to spend money.

I’ll share those ideas in the second part of this article. Meanwhile, I want to pass along a little story to demonstrate the depth of the problem we disabled people are facing--not the lack of carts, but the attitude of many people regarding our disabilities. This anecdote has been repeated often in motivational speeches and sermons over the years:

Somewhere in the South Pacific there was a hospital ward full of men who’d been damaged in the war (the Big One, WWII, according to reports). Everyone in the ward had problems walking for reasons that doctors couldn’t always explain. “Shell shocked,” they called it at the time; the condition is now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. One day a huge snake slithered into the ward, and when someone screamed and pointed to it, all those disabled men made a beeline for the exit--on foot!

The moral, according to all the motivational speakers and preachers, is that we don’t know what we can do until we try. They fail to consider the possible damage to both body and mind that could result from the effort of performing an act we’re not fully equipped to do.

Certainly, people have been known to summon up the courage and will to accomplish great things, but they’ve also been known to do great harm to themselves by doing some of those remarkable things. For someone with a disability, whether doctors can understand or measure the condition or not, that effort might be doubly dangerous.

This is especially true when you consider that the power to perform unusually brave acts comes from a sudden burst of adrenaline, which speeds up the heart rate, raises the blood pressure, and intensifies other bodily functions. Though handy in unusual circumstances, this “fight or flight” mechanism puts extra stress on a number of organs, especially the heart.

For someone whose body is already weakened by illness or injury, experiencing this type of stress can be a dangerous practice. That’s why it’s not always safe for people with certain types of disability to do too much. It is also why doctors now tell patients to listen to their bodies, which is something only disabled persons can do for themselves.

That’s why I have a different moral to offer to that “inspirational” story: Just because a disabled person can do something once, or for a short period of time, doesn’t mean they can do it on a sustained basis. Neither does it mean they should be doing it at all.

I’ll keep that principle in mind in my next article, when I discuss some of the things that need to be done to solve the electric-cart problem at large stores.

Part II: Going the Distance (Part II)
Part III: Disarming the Carts
Part IV: The Trouble With Electric Shopping Carts (Part IV)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Disability Committee Resignation

This weekend, I finally resigned as a member of the Casa Grande Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues, as detailed in the letter below. While I explain the reasons in general terms here, the personal issue that made me finally decide to take this step involves the fact that no matter how much I tried over a number of years, I could not get anyone on the Committee to understand the need for a greater variety of electric cart services in the largest stores around town.

In the past, I wrote an article series explaining the problem for my column in the Arizona City Independent/Edition. In the next day or so, I’ll post that series on this blog, so watch for it. Meanwhile, here is the notice I just sent to the Mayor of Casa Grande, members of the City Council, and members of the Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues:

To Whom It May Concern:

After much careful thought and soul-searching, I’m forced to resign from membership on the Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues.

This decision does not mean I’m going to stop writing about issues affecting people with all manner of disabilities, which is only one of the vital social issues I’ve discussed in my earlier newspaper and online columns, and now in my Peace Blog:

I feel this Committee’s focus is too narrow, concentrated almost entirely on people with a couple of the most obvious disabilities, while virtually ignoring the needs of citizens with other conditions, especially hidden disabilities affecting millions of people, like me.

While I know it’s impossible for anyone to work on all the issues, I’ve tried to educate my readers regarding a wide range of disability issues in my work as a columnist and blogger. That’s why I don’t feel it’s an effective use of the Committee to simply repeat well-known and understood messages year after year. Since I want to help people with a variety of needs and find support for my own needs as a disabled person, participation in these activities is a waste of my time and energy, which are extremely limited because of lifelong chronic illness.

I would love to see Committee members adopt at least one new issue each year, learning and spreading the word about it throughout that year. Among the many groups that could benefit from this attention are students with learning disabilities, prisoners with untreated and often undiagnosed mental disabilities, seniors with age-related disabilities, and numerous people in the area whose lives are limited by the effects of chronic illness, like me.

As part of this broader focus, I believe it would be beneficial for the Committee to organize an annual public gathering in which people affected by that year’s subject condition(s) present information about their situation and follow up with a question-and-answer session in which they can better educate audience members.

In addition, I would like to see at least some member of the Committee respond quickly when any issue is brought to the attention of the Committee. And when action is finally taken, I hope that if one step has little or no effect--and indeed, the situation continues to worsen--Committee members do not simply dismiss the issue because it doesn’t fall within the limited focus that now seems to be considered the only mandate of the Committee.

When I tried to get help for the problem I’ve tried to get the Committee to address, I had to send several messages over about four years before anyone responded. Then one step was taken and the results reported to me. Unfortunately, since that time, the situation has not only not improved, it has deteriorated throughout the city. But each time I bring up the issue, I’m treated as if I’m bothering people about something that is of no importance to anyone on the Committee and, therefore, something I shouldn’t think about, even though the situation further limits my access to local services that most people take for granted.

Believe me, if a problem affects one person who has the courage to speak up, then it affects a lot more people who lack the means to stand up for themselves. That’s why I’ll continue to write about this problem, along with the fact that people with other types of disabilities are ignoring those of us who are not like them. That’s why besides sending this letter to members of the Committee and other city officials, I’ll use various internet tools to spread the word about all the problems I’ve discussed here, and much more.

I regret the situation has reached this point, but it will not stop me from using whatever means I have to continue trying to educate people about all types of disability, without regard to who these conditions affect. That’s because, no matter what my own personal issues are, I understand and work in support of issues that affect people of all kinds. I make no distinction because certain people aren’t considered to be among the favored few. If more people felt that way, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re dealing with now.

In peace,
Debbie Jordan

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Cornersburg, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, October 21, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Canfield Rd. & S. Meridian Rd.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, October 21, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Canfield Rd. & S. Meridian Rd., Cornersburg, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Now that we’re into the newest phase of our lives called “retirement,” we’re still busy trying to deal with all the medical and senior insurance odds and ends. Trust me. Old age is not for cowards! It takes everything you’ve got when you’ve got even less than you ever had before. But once we get past all this friggin’ red tape, we hope we can be more productive than we ever have been before. Hold onto the hope!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, October 14, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
E. Midlothian Blvd. & Youngstown Poland Rd.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, October 14, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the E. Midlothian Blvd. & Youngstown Poland Rd., Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Since Jim has recently entered the more relaxed stage of life called “retirement,” he’s busy trying to catch up on several tasks that he’d been putting off when he was still involved in full-time employment. Meanwhile, we’re also trying to tie up some of the more knotty red tape of that wonderful senior “benefit,” Medicare. Trust me, things don’t just fall into place automatically because we’ve jumped through all the hoops they’ve held up for us. No matter how much we do, it seems we always have to turn around and recheck their work too. Frustrating!

Anyway, we hope to have everything arranged by the end of this month. Or maybe we’re just dreaming. Won’t be the first time!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, October 7, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Courthouse at 125 Market St

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, October 7, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Courthouse at 125 Market St, Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

We are now officially “retired.” Last Friday was Jim’s last day on the job. But not to worry. He’s keeping busy doing a variety of tasks, both in the house and elsewhere. So boredom is not even in the picture.

Speaking of pictures, one thing he’s enjoying doing more of is painting. He already has a page showing one of his paintings on my website, and in time we hope to build on this page and feature much more of his work. I’ll let you know when it happens. He’s also posted many pictures of his paintings on his Facebook page. We hope you like them. Enjoy!

Now that we’re settling into this new phase--the “rest” of our lives--I hope to be able to finally get back to doing more of my own work. Shouldn’t be long now. Watch for it!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Warren, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, September 30, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Courthouse Square

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, September 30, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at Courthouse Square, Warren, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Two more days and Jim and I will be a “retired” couple. On the other hand, we both look forward to this as the beginning of a new period of shared activities to the extent we’ve never enjoyed before. But unlike many people at this stage of their lives, we’re not planning to waste our precious time on selfish pursuits, like traveling for fun or playing golf, trying to find pleasure while forgetting the needs of others. We hope to use whatever resources we have to find ways to be useful, through my writing and Jim’s painting, and making every effort to take advantage of whatever other opportunities for productivity become available to us. We hope that when we reach the end of our lives, we can look back and say that we did our best to leave the world a little better than when we arrived, albeit in the smallest way. Wish us luck!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Campbell, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, September 23, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Rte. 422 (McCartney Rd.) & 12th St.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, September 23, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at Rte. 422 (McCartney Rd.) & 12th St., Campbell, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

In just one more week, Jim will be a retired old man. We’re really looking forward to the change. We’re almost ready, but there will still be some more things to take care of so we can get on with the next phase of our lives. Wish us luck!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, September 16, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Wick Ave. & Rayen Ave.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, September 16, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at Wick Ave. & Rayen Ave., Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Jim’s just got a couple more weeks of slogging in the salt mines and then he’ll be officially retired. We’re really looking forward to it. I should be able to get back to doing my own thing by then. I’m holding onto positive thoughts for that!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, September 9, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Belmont Ave. & Gypsy Ln.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, September 9, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at Belmont Ave. & Gypsy Ln., Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week:

Jim is now in his last month of employment at the Gila River Indian Community, as he retires at the end of this month. That means we still have things to do to get ready for the next phase of our lives. Meanwhile, it’s sad to hear so many candidates spouting off about how much they want to destroy the very systems that are keeping older and/or disabled people from total starvation while they preach about granting more benefits to their wealthy contributors. If they really believed in shared sacrifice, they’d stop demanding so much more from the people who’ve sacrificed so much already and start demanding real help for the economy from all the rich people who made everything so bad in the first place.

On the other hand, if we finally began to focus on making things fairer for everyone, we could actually solve the problems we’re facing in our society. And we have to stop blaming Barack Obama. From the first day the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, they’ve done nothing but stand in the way of any progress Obama and the Democrats have been trying to accomplish. Moreover, the president is only one person. He cannot do anything alone. He needs organized support from people who truly want to solve economic problems, not just reward the rich in the mythic belief that they’re the barometer of a society’s economic success. As I explained in The World I Imagine: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace, as long as anyone continues to live in poverty, we have work to do. It’s time for all of us to get it done!

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moving forward: From the Three R’s to the Four RE’s

In these troubled times, the Republican mantra is that we must make sacrifices. Shared sacrifice, they call it. Except they expect the sharing to begin at the bottom and move up just far enough to envelop all those who’ve sacrificed for the past 30 years, whenever right-wingers have been in charge.

Heaven forfend anyone in the upper economic classes would ever have to cut back on luxuries. In fact, the GOP policy is to take whatever is saved by cutting benefits and services to the poor and middle classes and reward their rich cronies with lower taxes and higher corporate salaries and profits.

Meanwhile, the economy is in the toilet and no one seems to know the way out. Worse, by cutting educational funding, among other services, the GOP is not only hurting society now but stunting future economic growth.

Danger signs have been obvious for years, even when Republicans claimed things were great. While they worked well for politicians and their rich buddies, policies that also seemed to benefit folks closer to the bottom contained hidden booby traps.
For instance, when the Bush administration claimed they’d led the nation into the greatest era of home ownership in history, banks were giving lower-income people complicated loans deliberately designed to collapse later on. At the same time, corporate leaders plotted to lay off hundreds of thousands of those new home owners and reward themselves for their crimes.

When the multitude of foreclosures struck, the ensuing costs of unemployment and poverty quickly destroyed the consumer market that their much-touted capitalist economy needs to function. Their greedy plot to grab as much gold as they could as quickly as possible was destined to destroy the economy, first in this country and finally throughout the world.

That’s just the tip of the problem, and it’ll continue as long as Republicans stubbornly impede change. Still, the solution is simple. The journey from this point to prosperity could be short. We just have to agree on the goals, plan the steps, and get to work. Consider this blueprint:

RE-TEACH: Education is the basic building block of a successful society, but too many young people are poorly trained in reading, math, science, and the entire range of skills necessary for 21st century jobs. Besides streamlining primary and secondary educational methods, we must establish a comprehensive public-private system to train people of all ages for today’s jobs.

RE-SOURCES: Plenty of jobs are waiting to be done, from rebuilding aging infrastructure to providing services to people and communities everywhere. All that’s missing is the resources to make it happen. Step One, above, would provide well-trained workers; governments from the local to federal levels, must plan and organize projects; and businesses, from small companies to multibillion-dollar corporations, should sign up to lead projects, even investing resources when and where they can realize eventual returns. Rather than treating this plan as a short-term stimulus, it should be viewed as a firm policy for the long term.

RE-TURN: This is the most controversial step, but if done correctly, it’ll be temporary. Taxes on high-income earners must return to 1990s levels to provide seed money to implement the plan. As I explain in Step Four, below, success would mean these funds would eventually be replaced by revenue from a newly active work force.

RE-WARD: The payoff is win-win-win for workers, governments, and companies. Well-trained, fully employed workers return wages in the form of taxes and payments for goods and services needed to enjoy a dignified lifestyle; tax revenues allow governments to provide necessary services; and sales ensure that companies thrive. This is truly vibrant capitalism--the direct opposite of the reward-the-rich-at-the-expense-of-the-lower-classes system that Republicans have touted for three decades.
This idea isn’t new. Even as the Bush administration claimed things were fine, I began writing articles explaining the plan in detail. I compiled 47 of those essays into The World I Imagine: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace. The book can be purchased from online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and, as an e-book from Outskirts Press, and downloaded to Kindle.

As bad as things seem, planning and implementing simple positive steps could turn the economy completely around. All it would take is the political will to organize governments, companies, and citizens into a work force for the future, a future in which prosperity and peace are the norm, rather than the exception.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Taking a station break: Having some commercial fun

When I wrote a column for the Arizona City Independent/Edition, I sometimes took a break from serious think pieces by sharing opinions on some of the more (or less) interesting commercials on the tube. It’s been too long since I’ve done that sort of thing, so I’ve decided to throw in a few entries like that now and then. Feel free to post your comments, especially to share your thoughts about the many ways in which companies try to sell products and services to us.
I’m probably not the only person who’s happy to hear Burger King is dethroning the plastic-noggined monarch that tried in vain to increase their share of fast-food customers. Trouble is, the plastic-headed ruler was a rip-off from more successful Jack in the Box ads.
Not only does the King’s expression never change, he’s stuck with that weird grin that generated the judgment from pundits, from CNN anchors to a USA Today columnist, that he’s just plain “creepy.” Jack’s head might be merely an outsized pingpong ball, but at least he displays situationally appropriate expressions during his always funny ads.
My first thought was that at least the King won’t need embalming when he’s buried. My husband suggested they melt him down and make something useful from the plastic, maybe toys to lure in kids to ask for the food they claim is fresh and healthy. We’ll see how that goes.
A couple of commercials that get under my skin come under the heading of something my father used to say. Dad was a master of turning around old sayings to make statements that reflected more truth than the originals. One of my favorites: The labeled need not be obvious. (Think about it.)
“The World’s Greatest Spokesperson” isn’t and neither are just about all the Nationwide ads featuring the duller-than-dishwater company rep. The only two that might raise small smiles are the one with three-handed shadows to show how policies are bundled and the one about vanishing deductible in which the spokesperson does too. Trouble is, neither ad holds interest the second time around. Besides, I’d rather have the check Allstate sends to the best drivers twice a year than a deductible that pops back into effect if you have an accident.
Then there’s the guy who Dos Equis calls “the most interesting man in the world.” Every commercial he’s in is just a boring string of reasons why the guy’s supposed to be so cool, including the fact that “both sides of his pillow are cool.” If that’s the case, then it’s time to bury him along with the BK King. He’s been dead so long, he’s beginning to stink.
And while I’m at it, I’d like to report a commercial that turned out to be a lie. Earlier this year, we purchased a dishwasher from Sears for two reasons:
  • Many of their appliances are Consumer Reports Best Buys.
  • Their RAD (responsible appliance disposal) commercials generated trust that the old appliance would be recycled.

I especially enjoyed the ad where two teenage boys accuse the Sears delivery person of dumping the old refrigerator he’s replacing. When the man explains the RAD program, the expression of the boy on the left, with one raised eyebrow, is priceless. Unfortunately, we learned first-hand that the truth is far different from the promotion.
When I called to order the dishwasher, I explained to the agent several times that the RAD program was a big reason we chose a Sears appliance. Since I always take time to make sure of all the details, I assumed everything was set the way I wanted it. But when two men delivered the dishwasher a week later, they informed me no arrangement had been made--or even requested--for installation of the appliance.
Minutes later, I was on the phone chewing out everyone, from the first agent who answered all the way up to the supervisor I demanded to talk to. I finally learned Sears no longer installs dishwashers--I don’t know about other appliances, but I’m not about to test them again--so their RAD program doesn’t apply in such cases.
Instead, they depend on another company to do the job, but they don’t volunteer that detail when they sell the appliance. I had to call the other company and set up a date three weeks later to get my new dishwasher installed. You can be certain I made sure they recycle the old dishwasher. Otherwise, I’d have looked elsewhere for the service.
Because I was so adamant and had all the names, dates, and call details carefully recorded, the supervisor did refund our delivery charge, but it barely makes up for the fact that we had to wait a full month until we were actually able to use our new machine. When I shared my experience with my sister, she regaled me with an equally vexing problem she had when ordering a trash compactor from Sears. Our negative experiences apparently aren’t isolated events. Suffice to say, the company has lost a couple of customers from way, wa-a-ay back.
Meanwhile, I have not seen another Sears ad touting their RAD program. I wonder if complaints like mine are the reason the campaign ended. I’m happy they’re no longer claiming something that isn’t true, but do miss that kid with the raised eyebrow.
Okay, your turn. I’d love to hear what you think about some of the spots that are supposed to get you to buy a product or service but just don’t make the grade. Do your darnedest. I can use the (station) break.


Sunday, August 7, 2011


Note: I originally posted this article in two parts on my page in May 2009. I’ve updated several small details, and even though there has been some progress in marriage rights, all the points are still relevant.

As I explained in a posting when I wrote a column on, when Carrie Prejean was ignoring her contractual duties as Miss California USA to appear in venues where she could speak against gay marriage before a friendly crowd, I felt compelled to explain why her position was wrong. Her latest move was no surprise after she babbled: “I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose, same-sex marriage or opposite marriage.”

Besides being inarticulate--what kind of relationship is “opposite” marriage?--this statement is false, which is the crux of the criticism against her.

Prejean followed with a Freudian slip: “In my country . . . ,“ but quickly corrected herself: “In my family, I think that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.” Though she ended with, “No offense to anybody . . . ,“ she’s now doing everything in her power to offend gays and lesbians everywhere by campaigning against the “freedom” that her cohorts have made sure doesn’t exist in the first place.

The time has come to explain why they’re all wrong. Following are the primary arguments that conservatives make against same-sex marriage, along with facts that show just how incorrect they are:

Point: Marriage has always been between a man and a woman because it is an arrangement for the purpose of procreation.

Counterpoint: If that’s the case, then marriage wouldn’t be valid for people who cannot have children, such as women who’ve had a hysterectomy or have been through menopause, or men and women who are sterile for any reason.

Point: Gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage.

Counterpoint: Only the people in an individual relationship can destroy that relationship. Any marriage is good or bad, a success or a failure, because of the behavior of the two people within that union.

Point: Gay marriage violates the religious rights of the . . . uh . . . religious right.

Counterpoint: No church can be forced to sanctify a union that the leaders or majority of members refuse to recognize. For instance, remarriage of divorced people is perfectly legal, yet many churches refuse to marry people who’ve been divorced, or even to recognize such unions. On the other hand, churches that use politics to force their beliefs on those who are not members of their religion are violating our religious rights. They are preventing us from enjoying our right to celebrate the spiritual union of same-sex couples within our religious community. That should be our choice, but fundamentalist churches deny us that choice.

Point: The Bible calls sex between two men an “abomination.”

Counterpoint: Leviticus chapter 11 lists numerous types of animals whose meat is considered unclean so eating it is considered an “abomination.” Today, the most popular of those foods is shellfish, which Christians today only refuse to eat if they’re allergic. Then there’s the uncleanness of people with leprosy, as described beginning in chapter 13. Yet that disease is now so well controlled by medication that in most parts of the world, people who have it are no longer quarantined. Chapter 19 warns against cross-breeding cattle, sowing two kinds of seeds in the same field, and wearing fabric woven of two different kinds of threads. All these unclean/abominable things are in common practice today, even by Christians. So they’re pretty selective about which “abominations” of the Hebrew scriptures they choose to avoid.

Point: But what of Genesis 1:28, in which God commanded Adam and Eve to: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth . . . “?

Counterpoint: Right-wingers quote the fruitful/multiply part all the time, but they conveniently ignore the meaning of “fill.” In fact, it is a qualifying statement that foretold a point where all that multiplying would not only not be needed, it would actually be counterproductive to the survival of both the species and the planet. At the time humans received that command, if it did come from on High--and I’ll leave that question to others--there were few, if any other, humans on the planet. For thousands of years, procreation strengthened family, tribe, and nation by increasing the population, while there was still room to accommodate the increase. But some years ago, the planet reached its “fill” point, and it’s been going downhill ever since. Genesis 1:28 does not say “overflow,” so the importance of procreation must be put into its historical context and the wisdom of moderation should now prevail.

Point: Sex between people of the same gender is unnatural.

Counterpoint: If same-gender sex occurs in nature, then it is natural. And it does occur among many species of animals. In fact, scientists have discovered that same-gender sexual activity occurs most often at times when animals are struggling to survive in areas where they’re dealing with overpopulation and limited resources. Looks like animals are even smarter than humans when it comes to managing natural resources.

Point: Then we get to the ultimate lie, that marriage is primarily a religious issue.

Counterpoint: Marriage was, first and foremost, a legal arrangement between families involving--not love or personal relationships--but property. And the primary property in the transaction was the bride, who was given by the bride’s father to the groom’s family. Thus, the tradition that the father of the bride give her away to the groom is an archaic practice best left out of modern marriages, but that’s a personal choice that should be made by the bride and no one else. The second property issue in marriage was the issue: the children that came from the marriage union. They were important because the more children a family/tribe had, the greater their influence in the community/nation. Then there was the dowry, an archaic custom in which the bride’s father paid the groom and/or his family to take her off his hands. In some societies it was the other way around: The man purchased the wife from her family. Either way, money or property changed hands so that the bride could too. This is very much a legal matter, and it’s about time it was completely separated from religious control. The United States Congress should pass a law that would grant the same legal marriage rights--or whatever they want to call them--to all couples, no matter their gender makeup, then let each church decide whether they want to bless those unions, just as it’s done in so many European countries today.

Point: Marriage is a tradition that has not changed in 5000 years.

Counterpoint: Those who think marriage has always been hearts and flowers are dead wrong. The institution has long been in a state of flux as the rights of women and children have slowly come to be recognized and protected. Throughout history, traditions that are morally wrong--such as spouse and child abuse, discrimination, slavery, and war--have changed with our growth as an enlightened society, though we still have a long way to go in all these areas. And if they’re really interested in following traditional marriage practices, they’d allow polygamy again and stop providing the cover of secrecy that allows people like Warren Jeffs to get away with all their crimes. The time has come to finally end one more form of bigotry by allowing any two people who love each other to enjoy the same rights and privileges now granted to “opposite” couples, whether money changes hands or they plan to have children, or none of the above.

Point: Gays and lesbians should be satisfied with civil unions.

Counterpoint: Civil unions, civil partnerships--whatever they’re called--only grant a handful of the more than 1400 legal rights and benefits given to straight married couples in the United States. Even marriages honored by individual states are not recognized in most of the other states, and many federal rights are not recognized for same-sex couples whose unions are fully blessed in the small number of states that allow gay marriage. The battle will not be over until everyone in the U.S. can marry whomever they choose and their relationship is recognized and honored in every state and county in the country.

Point: Children need both a mother and a father in order to grow up to be psychologically healthy adults.

Counterpoint: The American Academy of Pediatrics is only one of the many professional organizations that have debunked this piece of lunacy. While it is true that children derive great benefit from developing close relationships with people of both genders, even single parents manage to overcome the missing-parent gap by having relatives and/or friends act as psychological surrogates for their children. And when two people of the same gender live together, they tend to develop roles that span the range of psychological behaviors that address a child’s needs under most circumstances, just like “normal” couples, and provide models for good behavior as they’re developing and once the children are adults themselves.

Point: Children who grow up with gay parents of the same sex are more likely to be homosexual themselves.

Counterpoint: This is another fallacy created, fostered, and promoted by the anti-gay marriage crowd. If this were true, then no one who grows up in a family with heterosexual parents would ever turn out to be gay, but that’s simply not the case. And neither are children born to and/or raised by same-sex couples any more likely to be homosexual themselves. In fact, the percentages generally follow the same average in the population that they always have: Throughout history, approximately ten percent of the population, in every part of the world, have been gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (born with organs of both sexes). In most times and places, they were forced to hide their true nature, but they were everywhere, in all eras of history.

Point: Gay marriage violates conservative values.

Counterpoint: Traditional conservatives focused on economic issues, rejecting the notion of delving into people’s private lives. In fact, Barry Goldwater, the uber-conservative of the previous generation, believed government should stay out of the issues of abortion and gay marriage, and that churches should stay out of politics--as in the First Amendment tradition of separation of church and state.

Point: The majority of people in various states continue to vote for laws and constitutional amendments that define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. Are they all bigots?

Counterpoint: In fact, the name for this situation is: “tyranny of the majority.” In fact, the history of our country is a saga of growing beyond the bigotry of the majority to the enlightenment that sprang from small minorities, such as slavery, Jim Crow, anti-Asian policies, etc. And since the debacle of Proposition 8, polls are beginning to show that more people in California have come to regret their failure to understand the true meaning of that odious law, and polls reflect similar changing attitudes around the country. It won't be long before the votes will begin to turn things around.

Point: But what if, in spite of all these other arguments, same-sex marriage is just plain wrong?

Counterpoint: Whether same-sex marriage is morally right or wrong is not up to us to decide. We should heed Jesus’ advice and leave the judging up to God (Luke 6:37). Since the legal--and even religious, in the case of liberal sects which accept gay marriage--arrangement is between two consenting adults, it harms no one, and actually has beneficial effects on the parties involved. In the end, there is no basis for using the law to prevent people from honoring what is, after all, a basic human right.

Point: The current (now former, as of this updated posting) Miss California USA claims she meant “no offense” by declaring her belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Counterpoint: Carrie Prejean can say all she wants about her belief in “opposite” marriage. But she is using her notoriety to make sure millions of same-sex couples in this country--their country too!--continue to be denied the same rights and privileges granted to her married “opposite” friends. In the end, her ongoing attempt to continue denying this basic civil right to millions of Americans is offensive!