Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Subtle Shift

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dear Office Depot, AIG Warranty and Toshiba: Please educate your employees about your products and services

Rick Lepley, Executive Vice President, North American Retail, Office Depot
Mark Holifield, Executive Vice President, Supply Chain, Office Depot
Chuck Rubin, Executive Vice President & Chief Merchandising/Marketing Officer, Office Depot
Paula Martin, Vice President of Mobility, Office Depot

Taro Hiyama, Vice President of Marketing, Toshiba Digital Products Division
Carl Pinto, Director of Product Marketing, Toshiba's Digital Products Division

John Doyle, President, American Home Assurance
Matt Frankel, Senior Vice President, AIG Warranty

Dear Sirs:

I was all set to buy the Toshiba M45-S355 at Office Depot on Saturday, August 27, 2005. List price $1449. There were two discounts listed with this machine, one mail in for $150 and another in store for $50. I was also prepared to buy the 3 year Performance Protection Plan (PPP) from AIG Warranty for $444.99.

In addition I was also going to buy a Targus® Defcon Cable Lock for Notebook Computers for $29.99 and the Samsonite® Notebook Computer Case for $82.80.

The grand total sale would have been $2006.78. But I didn’t buy anything from Office Depot. Why?

Several reasons. I've been looking at notebook computers all week. Thursday August 25 I was at the Office Depot store on Geary Avenue at Masonic in San Francisco. I was looking at another laptop as well, the Toshiba M55-S325. The store associate and I talked about the various features of the two laptops. I noticed that the M45 had more memory as well as a bigger screen. I also noticed the sale of the M45 expired on Saturday. I wanted to compare prices at other stores before I bought. I also wanted to check the reliability specs of the new model I was now considering. I went to CompUSA, Office Max and called Fry’s. Then I returned to Office Depot on Friday August 26 to ask more questions, specifically about your Extended Warranty so I could compare it to what the other stores were offering. The associates I talked to Friday evening weren't sure about the details of the PPP. I talked to a friendly trainee, but he didn't know the specifics of the Screen Protection policy vs. the standard policy.

No one else in the store knew details about it either. They didn't have any fine print to show me so I could compare. Since I had the PPP 800 number from the trainee’s brochure, I called it while still in the store to see if they could explain. Unfortunately the person I talked to could not explain what the criteria were for the Screen Protection policy. I might have bought the laptop and the PPP right then, but since I didn't have the details I had to go home empty handed.

Saturday I went on-line and looked up the details about the PPP. Unfortunately I didn’t find what I was looking for on-line, so I called them again. The man I spoke to was very helpful and explained what the Screen Protection would cover. It sounded like a good deal and I decided to go for the 3 year plan.

Before I left for the store to buy the laptop and the PPP, I dug up my Office Advantage number and checked to see if the products I was going to purchase were covered (I couldn’t tell based on my research online) and left for the store. When I was at the store I told a sales associate I wanted to buy the Toshiba Satellite M45-S355. He went to a computer and came back and said that they didn’t have any in stock. I asked if I could order one or get one from other stores. He checked and said there weren’t any available. I asked if I could buy the computer today and have it delivered next week before I left on a business trip. He said that they weren’t sure if any would even be available by Tuesday, but that I should wait and try back then. I explained I was going out of town and I wanted to make this purchase before then. A manager came over and I asked him if there were any other people he could check with at the warehouse to see if I could buy it today for delivery this week. He told me that they didn’t have any more, that there had only been a few available and that they had sold out early in the week. He also said that even if there were some in the warehouse they couldn’t sell me the computer today with the rebates. If I came in next week and they had any, they would be sold at the full price of $1449.

At this point the offer felt like a bait and switch deal. If any of the Office Depot associates had told me that this computer wasn’t even available I would have stopped considering it or focused on the model I was initially considering. Yet it was still there, luring me away from another similar purchase. If there were notebooks still available when I was in the store on Friday, and an associate had known the details about the Screen Protection in the PPP (or at least had a copy of the fine print) I could have bought it then.

Finding details of the Screen Protection Program was an incredibly difficult process. I asked three associates, went on-line and made two phone calls to get the answer to a straight forward question about the primary differentiator of this plan vs. the standard plan. I would think that a $444.99 product that offers Office Depot a high margin would be better understood so that it could be sold. As it was, the lack of knowledge about your program held up my purchase.

My questions
Pricing and Display Practices

If the product is no longer in stock, why was the model still out on the floor with the sale price? I called customer service Saturday night after I left empty handed and was told that the store manager could have offered me the floor model, (which he didn’t). If I went back into the store on Sunday would that model be on display for other unsuspecting customers who might get their hopes up and attempt to purchase one? I did notice that there were a few models that were not on display, so clearly this store has removed products in the past, but evidently not this one.

Sales Associate Education
I can understand a trainee not knowing all the details of the PPP plan, but why weren’t print outs of the fine print available in the store? The trainee went and printed up a spec sheet of the laptop for me, why wasn’t a PPP sheet with details available? Perhaps if anyone in the store had the correct information at that time, one of the computers would still have been in stock and I could have purchased it.

Extended Warranty Information
If I’m buying a $444.99 insurance policy that is 1/3 the cost of my computer, I’d like to know the details, especially if there is a $200 premium on the specific protection I’m concerned about, the Screen Protection. If the associates in the store don’t have the info, I would expect someone at the PPP 800 number to have it. I shouldn’t have to leave the store to find this information. I understand this is a HIGH MARGIN ITEM for Office Depot. I shouldn’t be forced to call the Extended Warranty vendor or be told to “go online” while I’m standing in the store to get the detail I need to make an informed decision. As it turned out, I DID decide to purchase the PPP with Screen Protection after I talked to a knowledgeable person at the vendor. (Of course now I have purchased nothing, so the PPP was not purchased either.)

Office Depot Advantage Program
I couldn’t determine if the extended warranty purchase would be part of my potential rebate. I saw that the computer was excluded, but I couldn’t tell if the PPP was considered a business service or not. When I called the 800 number to inquire, I couldn’t even leave a message because “the mail box is full”.

Manager Discretion
I got the impression from that manager that since this was such a good deal; I shouldn’t have waited until Saturday to buy it. Of course if he had asked me I would have told him I was ready to buy the product earlier in the week if only someone had provided the right information. I might have bought another laptop had this one not been on display in the first place and lured me away. I had spent a considerable amount of effort finding out info about Office Depot programs this week.

As I stood there disappointed and annoyed by my inability to spend $2006.78, I got the impression that it really wasn’t his problem, that someone else was really to blame for my inability to purchase this product. It appeared that he had NO INSIGHT into the status of current or future inventory of these Toshiba laptops. He didn’t even have insight into the projected inventory for the next day! Maybe the people at headquarters making up the sale prices and dates for sales are to blame. Or maybe the people in charge of the supply chain are responsible for not giving insight into the inventory for the following week. Maybe it is Toshiba’s fault for not delivering as many notebooks as promised. Whatever the problem was, there was clearly a lack of communication about inventory, potential inventory, products, pricing and potential pricing. I can understand this information being a mystery to a trainee, I can understand not telling a customer about a future sale price, but a manager at the store should not feel so left in the dark it impacts his ability to sell thousands of dollars worth of products.

Gentlemen, the bottle line is this: My credit card was burning a hole in my hot little hand, I had already switched models once, I was prepared to buy a laptop, accessories and a service plan, yet no one suggested another notebook model or worked to keep a sale in the store or even within the Office Depot network.

Today, Sunday, August 28, 2005, I went to CompUSA to buy a laptop. I’m now the owner of a Toshiba M45-S355. Interestingly, the manager of the CompUSA Stonestown’s store also didn’t have any in stock. He also was promised several M45-S355s that didn’t materialize. His response to this situation was different.
1) His sales associate called other stores to find one.
2) Both he and his sales associate knew the details of their extended warranty.
3) He offered to sell me the demo model, which I declined because I wanted a new one, and one was available in another store.
4) He contacted the other store, asked them to hold one for me and gave me the name of the person to talk to and directions to the store
5) He gave me his card and asked me to call him if there were any problems.

I’m not a big customer. I don’t represent a Fortune 500 company. My potential purchase would have been merely a drop in the bucket in your multi-billion dollar sales for the quarter. I just thought you might be interested in the story of one lost sale, the customer that got away and the reasons why.

Mr. Spocko

I sent this off on Sunday night. It will be interesting to see what response I get. I'm getting ready for EschaCon and I didn't want to be laptopless!

UPDATE 8-29-2005
Well I got a very nice call from the district manager from Office Depot. I'm guessing that one of the execs at Office Depot will find his name on my blog from Googling it and want to know how it was resolved after he pushed the issue down to the district manager.

I pointed out that it appears to me the problem lies further up the ladder than the local level and since I didn't send this letter to shake them down for a better price, I would love to ensure that the people at the various companies look at their education and communications processes instead of placing the blame at the local store manager or associate level.

Unanswered questions:

-> What was Toshiba's role in this? Are they promising inventory and not delivering?
-> What was the inventory system's role? Do they not provide information on purpose so they don't sell items at a low price when they can sell it at a higher price next week after the sale is over?
-> Is the supply chain director giving managers enough information? Why not?
-> What role do the pricing people have in this deal? Is there a "We would rather sell only a few units at this low price." policy?
-> How come AIG didn't provide detail about their $444.99 policy?

The nice district manager said all the right things, but I told him that I would be most satisfied if this mess got pushed UPSTREAM instead of down. Sure it would be great if some 10 dollar an hour sales associate knew what was going on, but what's the deal with the multi-million dollar inventory systems?

I'm trying to HELP all these companies do a better job. Maybe I should have held off on my purchase and then got them to match prices and pull a laptop out of someones store in Modesto, but that is not my style. I got the machine I wanted at the price I expected with the service I needed, just not at the store that was closest to me.

Now if Office Depot, AIG or Toshiba want to contact me to explain how much they have benefited from my comments and how it will help customers in the future, that would be swell.

I fully expect that when these execs run across their names in this document they will be on the horn to the lowest person they think of who is responsible to see if this "situation" has been resolved. Then they will want to figure out how to get this off my blog. Hey, here's an idea--call me! You have my number, I won't bite. I spent a lot of time figuring out who you were and how to contact you. I've made it easy for you to contact me. I won't remove my post, but I will update it if experience warrents it.

In my experience most executives are so far away from their customers they couldn' t name 3 end user/customers if their lives depended on it. If they want to give me treats (an extra battery for the laptop, a wireless travel mouse, a wireless PDA with a service plan, etc.) I wouldn't stop them, but that would seem a little greedy on my part. Of course if they want to hire me to talk about my customer experience that would be even better. But I didn't write this for that purpose. Because of my experience in multiple industries I see things that the average customer misses. And because I would rather teach than argue, I always want to help--and when possible--get paid for it.

I told the nice district manager I'm available to talk to anyone, my one fear is that the only people who will take any heat on this deal are the associates and manager at the local store. I didn't name them on purpose, although I have all their names. Although they bear some responsibility, my sense the problem lies elsewhere. So if THEY find this page, please understand I'm not mad at you. I'm just trying to help you do your job better for other customers.



Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Bad Weather Man: Brian Sussman

I couldn't sleep tonight because I was wondering how to show Neocon radio host Brian Sussman just how heartless and cruel his comments about Cindy Sheehan are.

What did he say that was so offensive? Lots of crap, but this one just struck me as especially sick.
"What's the problem Cindy? You are calling these guys freedom fighters.

Well shouldn't you be honored that a freedom fighter killed your son?"
(mp3 audio file here) (Windows audio file here)

Brian, imagine some cocksure radio talk show host mocking your wife's comments after she talks about the war that killed one of your girls.

Yes you make the obligatory, "I cut her some slack because she is a grieving mother," but then you proceed with the character assassination. Seriously, where is your empathy man? Have you no shame? Did you REALLY have to go there? Is sarcastic smearing your only tool?

You joke that this job is a calling, but clearly this is all just a word game to you. For you to actually believe what comes out of your mouth is too sad to contemplate. Perhaps I should send some of your comments to child protective services with a note, "Is this man fit to raise his children?" Maybe a call into your pastor would be in order. You are a Christian aren't you? Heaven forbid you are of some other faith in today's climate. It would be interesting to hear if your pastor agrees with what you have to say on the air. Why not have him on as a guest? Do you tell him it is all a joke? That it's just "A fun gig where you argue with the liberals in the 'belly of the beast'."? Frankly I wish we could vomit you out. Why? Because you aren't funny, you aren't insightful and by continuing to smear people who disagree with your views you are simply taking the low road to support your self-centered, hateful views.

While looking for some context to a quote from Cindy Sheehan, I found some blowhard's website trashing what Cindy was doing. It was nice to see several well reasoned comments pointing out the errors in his thinking. I'd like to do that with Sussman, but calling and chastising Sussman will simply play into his word game. He WANTS people to call and argue with him. I don't want to give the show juice and a ratings bump with a call. I want his show to whither and die from a lack of ratings. But it would be fun to give him the equivalent of the verbal smack down like Jon Steward gave Tucker Carlson. Maybe I'll get some tips on how to do this over Labor Day at Eschacon in Philly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Kill! KILL! KILL! Pat Robertson Vs. the 6th Commandment

Dear WB20:

You carry the 700 club. On the August 22 broadcast of The 700 Club Pat Robertson suggested that America assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

I think that these comments should be condemned in the most serious fashion. He is inciting violence, to say nothing of the inappropriateness of a Christian program talking about KILLING someone else.

I think you need to run one of those disclaimers before the show saying that the views contained on this program do not reflect the views of WB20 or its affiliates. Maybe you should also run a warning that the show might contain some violent content and parental caution should be advised.

I do not understand why the host of a Christian program would suggest KILLING someone in cold blood. What's next, Robertson having sex with a guest on the air? Maybe that would be outrageous enough to get the show off the air.

I want to hear him Robertson recant his comment. I doubt he will, so I'd like your station to make a statement that you do not condone these comments.

Here is a link to his comments:
Pat Robertson, the capital crime of Hugo Chavez

Mr. Spocko

Friday, August 19, 2005

Jesus "Prince of Peace" says No to War! Dobson Christians Froth at the Mouth in Surprise!

This post over at Digby made me sad but I didn't totally lose hope, especially after learning that the conference that Rabbi Lerner and Jim Wallis held last month was a huge hit. There are great religious and spiritual people on the left. People who don't just talk about how they are saved, but act on their belief in the things that Jesus says. Things like, blessed are the peacemakers and love thy neighbor. People who don't call themselves a Christian one moment and then talk about turning Iraq into a Glass Parking lot in the next.

That the Christians have been co-opted by the Republican's is something that frankly should stop. Hopefully a growing respect for the authentic teachings of Jesus, not the rantings of James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will come to pass.

Again, cCheck out this post on Digby and then read the comments, some EXCELLENT thoughts there.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

When it comes to war in Iraq, George W. Bush. You ARE the Father!

One of my favorite morality plays was just on the Maury show. Today's show title was, "13 men tested already... Will I find the Dad today?"

It is so great! The format is always the same. Show the woman saying she doesn't know who the father is so they test some schulb, the more bizarre the relationship the better. "Your sister's husband! Your step father! Your best friend's husband!" Then when they reveal he isn't the father, the mother screams and runs off the stage.

Often she falls and howls in emotional pain. Of course Maury and the cameramen are there to "comfort" her.

I have to wonder how many of these displays are scripted? Do they tell them, "Okay, when you find out the results you are going to run off this way, don't trip on those cords, by the way, then the camera will follow you as you cry. If you collapse in tears be sure to do it where the camera can see you. Maury will follow you and then ask you how you feel. Oh and be sure to keep your mike uncovered so we can hear you, okay? Good girl, now lets go have a great show!"

In the most recent one the woman "Talina" picks up her kleenex
(she's ready to go!) hears the news and... "she's off!"
She runs off stage right, collapses with her head in the couch. The the guy who WANTS to be the father comes and gives her a hug. Ahhhh. How sweet!

I gotta wonder how often the people involved (Like Georgette- 13 men tested!) are simply pulling the leg of the shows producers. I'm sure by now everyone knows their part. Georgette to man #12:
"Okay, Wam (the name of a recent guy, I kid you not) all you have to do is pretend to be my baby's father. You have to pretend you had a one night stand with me and then act all excited when you find out you are not the father. I'll collapse on stage or run off the stage so I can cry on cue. I get a free trip to the show, you get to stay in a nice hotel and we both get to be on TV. Sound good? Cool. What day can you do this? I'd like to do the Thursday show so we can go shopping on Friday."

Georgette even says, "I don't want to make a career of finding out who the father of my child is!" Yes you do.

Georgette probably knows the producers by their first name,
Hi Mary!
Oh hi Georgette. What number is it this time?
Really? It seems like only yesterday we were looking at #6. My how time flys. Here's your hotel voucher. Oh, and be sure to pick up your Maury mug from the break room before you go.

Georgette will never know the father of her baby! If she does, she won't get to come back. Of course she will keep finding new guys to come on the show with her. Even when she found the father of one of her kids she ran off stage crying (force of habit?)
She said on today's show "I will continue looking for the father no matter what anyone thinks (a.k.a. I will continue looking for the father until Maury stops letting me on the show.)

Maury asks, "Are you real positive he is the father?" (How can Maury say that with a straight face? I guess he is acting too.)

Guess what? He wasn't the father! The funny part was that even Georgette couldn't get it up for the crying. It reminded me of that classic Cheers episode where Norm was a hatchet man for his company because he cried for all the people he fired, but finally he couldn't tear up anymore. Very funny show.

What does this have to do with George W. Bush and the war? Nothing. Unless you want to see it as a metaphor for how the Bush Admin are constantly changing their story about the reasons we are in Iraq. They know the real reason we are there, but they also know that if they told the people, even the most ardent supporter would have to condemn them, it's just too cruel to admit it to the parents of dead children. The fake story is "kinder" because what kind of MONSTER would send people to die for power and natural resources?

Can you imagine this reason given by the President?

"Sorry folks, we really just wanted to get control of the middle-east and all that juicy, juicy oil. We need it! We figured Saddam would be an easy mark, we figured we could pin terrorism or at the least some WMDs on him. Imagine our surprise when we didn't find WMDs! We totally thought he would have some lying around, even the old stuff we gave him would have been fine. We can't believe he really destroyed it! Anyway, since we couldn't tell you all that, we kept bringing in other reasons, "We were doing it to get rid of Saddam (hey we actually did that one! Give us some credit!) We did it to bring freedom to the brown Iraqi people. We are creating a democracy!" And of course all the time Cheney keeps hinting a link between 9/11 terrorists and Iraq.

And the media is there to pay their part in the show. Now we even have a grieving mother asking "What noble reason is the one that my son died for?" Because the "we wanted to get control of the middle-east and all that juicy, juicy oil" one just ain't noble enough. The "protecting America from Nukes" was a sweet one, but that one didn't work out, did it? The "they are linked with Al Qaeda" one would have been swell if it was true, but the few remaining practitioners of journalism forced the White House to admit that wasn't real. Of course the democracy one has a nice sound to it and it would have been more credible if they had STARTED with that one, but they didn't did they? So now the White House is clinging to this "We are there for the democracy" reason like "Georgette" is clinging to her Kleenex hoping that the producers will buy her fake tears. Because if they don't they won't let her on the show next month when she wants another trip to the big city and a chance to be on TV again.

Is this George W. providing fake comfort to the mother of a real dead soldier who died for a less than noble reason? Or is it Maury Povich providing fake comfort to a woman who provides a fake father for her real baby because knowing the real father won't get her a chance to show off her crying chops and get on TV?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cindy Sheehan is NOT a tool of the left!

Here is my comment about this KPIX Channel 5 story about Cindy Sheehan on Friday night, August 12, 2005

News Director

I’d like you and everyone reading this blog to note the way your story tonight on Cindy Sheehan was directed and stage managed even more than it was insinuated that Cindy’s message was directed.

Your producer (or your affiliate’s producer) made a big deal about how someone told her to show her face and how some “anonymous” woman gave her some advice on how to hold her sign. Clearly this footage was designed to show that Cindy was a tool. The “Cindy is a tool of the left” is one of the current talking points of the right-wing talk radio pundits. Your producer worked very hard to attempt to prove it by focusing on those moments with the sign.

Unidentified woman that KPIX producer didn't bother to identify

Why didn’t the producer find out the identity of the anonymous woman? Maybe she was another Gold Star mom. Maybe she was a photographer’s assistant from a competing TV station. By choosing not to identify that woman the story insinuated Cindy was being used by “liberal extremists” or other forces. And by the way, since when has telling someone to not block their face with a sign been high-level strategic advice?

Cindy holding the sign and blocking her face. Was it a common sense suggestion to lower it, or an evil plot by Michael Moore's henchmen?

Here’s the point: Cindy’s message was her message before your cameras and other people were there and it will be her message after you (or your affiliate) have left Crawford Texas. The question should be: Why is the President so afraid to talk to her? Why is it news? Is it because he rarely has to provide real answers to real people in a public setting? Instead of the left using her, perhaps she is using the left to help get her message out. The President doesn’t attend funerals, he has photo ops, not real press conferences and he only speaks to stage managed, pre-screened audiences. Mrs. Sheehan is speaking from the heart in an articulate fashion and a meeting would show just how disconnected he is from the people.

Your producers should know by now that any public criticism of the President has always been met with blatant smears and insinuation. No one is good enough to avoid the attack. The smear process is as regular as clock work and your producer followed the standard smear script. Ask yourself, has ANYONE criticizing the President been allowed to speak WITHOUT being smeared? Must you ALWAYS balance criticism of the President with a smear of the critic?

Of course this smear has been a bit more difficult to believe than the rest because reasonable people know it is unseemly to attack grieving mothers of dead children.

Your producer also fell into the “If we cover the parent of a dead child against the war we need to interview the parent of a dead child for the war” trap. This is a false equivalency. Maybe if you did a survey of the parents of all 1836 dead and found 50 percent for the war and 50 percent against it, it would be appropriate to have on the man who was fine with the war and his son dying in it. Then you also might ask yourself, “Did we have to look hard for that parent or was he supplied to us by “the extreme right” or the military? Are you questioning if he is a tool of the administration? Did your cameraman give him any advice on how to sit during his interview? If you are going to use the false equivalency gambit, please go all the way.

I do hope in future stories of people critical of the war or the President you will consider how you frame your story and notice if you are being the unwitting tool of the right wing smear merchants.


After I sent that letter I did a bit of research about the man who was "the parent of a dead child for the war". What is interesting is that he might have been coached as well, he also has an agenda and it looks like he might have a problem with the grieving mother of his dead son.
the parent of a dead child for the war

Who pitched him to appear? Who coached him on what to say? Why isn't Ken Ballard's MOTHER his ex-wife who is angry at the miltary speaking?

Dear News Director:

Just an addendum to my earlier comment about your Sheehan story below. I questioned the choice of Tom Ballard as the counterpoint spokesperson to Cindy Sheehan. Why didn’t you use Ken Ballard’s MOTHER? Could it be because she would have supported Cindy? Ken Ballard’s mother, Karen Meredith, is divorced from his father, Tom Ballard. Karen Meredith identified herself as a single mom while raising Ken. In addition, if you would have done some research you might have found that Karen Meredith is also unhappy with the military. Note her comments in an article last year by Cox News service.

Tears fall before words.
Courtesy of Cox News Service

Karen Meredith of California stands at the gravesite of her son, 1st Lt. Kenneth Ballard, Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

It's her first visit since she buried First Lieutenant Kenneth Michael Ballard, a fourth generation soldier, last fall.

Still fresh, like the soil churned behind her son's grave for another row of dead, is her anger. Anger at the way the Pentagon refused her sole wish when her son was killed by a sniper last May to photograph his casket returning from Iraq.

Meredith wanted to capture the way fellow soldiers respectfully draped the American flag across the casket, tucking the sides just so, and the way an honor guard watched over him as he was unloaded from a cargo plane.

But the Pentagon firmly said "no." It was against regulations and would violate the privacy of family members of other slain soldiers.

"It's dishonorable and disrespectful to the families," said Meredith. "They say it's for privacy, but it's really because they don't want the country to see how many people are coming back in caskets."

The Pentagon's reasons for denying the media access to the caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base are widely reported and legally contested. What isn't so well known is that the Pentagon refuses to allow the families of dead soldiers access to the caskets returning to Dover and other military bases.

"It's bad enough that they won't let the country see the pictures of the caskets, but a grieving mother?" asked Meredith. "It's unforgivable after what I lost."

The Department of Defense defends its policy, which was created in 1991 by then-secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The policy protects the privacy of families who have lost loved ones in the war and who may not want their son or daughter's casket inadvertently photographed, said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable, a Defense Department spokesperson.

What families of dead soldiers really want is "the expeditious return of their remains," not photographs at Dover, Venable said.

The department strongly discourages family members from coming to Dover to watch the caskets of the dead unload. "It's a tarmac, not a parade ground," Venable said. The caskets arriving at Dover are similar to the "hearse pulling up to the back of a funeral home," he said.

Meredith says she was prepared to lose her son in battle. What she wasn't prepared for was the way the military treated her when he died from a sniper's bullet in the head. She doesn't understand how a single photograph of his casket for her own personal album would violate her own privacy.

"It is ironic that this policy denies us the very freedoms of the press and speech my son — and so many like him — gave their lives to protect," Meredith says.

You did an exclusive Eyewitness poll for your story that showed that a large percentage of the Bay Area, 68 percent, support Sheehan’s stand off in Crawford Texas, 28 percent oppose it. Now perhaps if you followed your polling data you would have had on TWO grieving mothers who were against the war and one grieving mother who supported it. Or perhaps having on Karen Meredith followed by her ex-husband would also show that although families don’t agree about how their dead son’s life was used, there are more grieving mothers of dead children who want answers and don’t want to wrap themselves in a comfortable fantasy that the President started this war for a noble cause.

I understand the format you used “this side says X so we need to have the other side say Y”, but when your own polling data shows that the 50-50 format is not representative of the weight of the opinion, maybe you should consider how you structure your story.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Hailing Frequencies are open Captain!

I'm back! I haven't really been away physically, but I didn't have broadband access for almost two weeks. I don't like to think I'm addicted to broadband but...
I switched from my long time provider to a new one and the dreaded SBC messed up the order. I tried to post with a 28.8 modem, but it was painful to upload. I even went to the public library once to read my email. What a nightmare! (Not really, it's not like I'm living in a house with no water or electricity like the people in the newly free Iraq!)

I've been thinking a lot while I haven't been posting. Came up with lots of great opening sentences. Felt a lot of anger and a lot of frustration. I've wanted to argue with people, scream at right wing hate radio people, but kept wondering "What's the point?"

Why not argue? One, I usually prefer to teach and persuade. Two, I don't enjoy arguing, and even if you "win" it's hard to know if the exercise will lead to changed positions or to more intractable positions and alienation.

I want to enlighten, not embitter people. But that doesn't mean I don't crave the chance to give the big smack down to people who are spewing their horrific smears in the media or on blogs.

And I'll admit that sometimes the smack-down is satisfying even if you know that it won't lead to changing anyone's mind. Lame radio hosts like Brian Sussman or Lars Larson WANT to elicit a reaction. They WANT to engage with others to give themselves a chance to "win" the discussion. To them it is a form of entertainment that should lead to ratings points. File this behaviour under the category of, "Let's give the people a good cat fight!".

For years it seemed okay to ignore these people as simply sideshow freaks out to stir the pot for the sake of pot stirring, but along the way it turned out that people actually used these slippy hosts for information! It came as a shock to many rational people that, yes there really ARE people who BELIEVE this craziness! Busy people who were not critical thinkers used the phrases and arguments of these people as placeholders in their brain for where the real viewpoints should live. There has been a mass brain imprinting happening across the country. It has taken hold with the non-critical thinkers first. Along the way intelligent people have been paid to buoy up the ideas.

It is one thing if people are not very bright or very moral, but it is another thing to see people using their intellect and power of communication to support so many horrible viewpoints.

(Do you remember the story about when Mike Judge created Bevis and Butthead he said he was shocked how many people identified with them and didn't realize he was mocking them! I sometimes wonder if in a quiet moment some of these hosts don't wonder about the sanity of their fans or the monstrous ideas they have given people permission to unleash. But here I am giving these people credit for enlightened behavior. Maybe they are simply small-minded, hateful, twisted jerks.)

The issue is always how to disarm the spewers effectively. Envision the spewers as karate students at the dojo. They have attacked and are waiting for an attack back. They might have a black belt in flipping stories and twisting the truth. I would prefer to simple point out that the dojo floor they are standing on is a watery dung heap and if I run to attack him, I too will be a covered with filth. What I want to be able to do is find a way to point out to the rest of the people in the dojo is this: Do we really need to fight here? Doesn't he look ridiculous standing on his dung heap screaming challenges? Why would you want to listen to a dung covered screamer anyway? Are there other ways to defeat him that are unexpected, or clever?

See, Kirk has the right idea here, Karate guy uses his feet, Kirk uses a phaser, game over.

So here I am again adding my voice. Still frustrated, still angry still trying to articulate my thoughts to bring meaning to the chaos which hopefully will lead to skillful action on my part as well as others. But I really long for a Jon Stewart moment like the one he had with Tucker Carlson. I want to see these jerks get their comeuppance, I want truth to told, and ACTED on. I'll mediate on what form the comeuppance might hold. As always your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Thanks for stopping by.