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Betting the Farm at Athens

To most of us, spring's daylight savings time means that we deal with the nuisance of resetting clocks and watches, and maybe some disruption of sleep routines. To college students at Ohio University in Athens, it has come to mean that it's time to riot in the streets. In case you missed the story, last weekend saw thousands of "students" milling about the streets of a three-block area in protest after the bars closed an hour early. By most reports, an appreciable number of those in the crowd were not actually drinking, but showed up specifically to get in on the "fun." Five officers and three participants were slightly injured, and dozens of people were jailed. Newspaper reports quote the president of OU as saying that police "might have been overly aggressive in trying to assert authority over a crowd that was boistrous (sic) but behaving until officers moved in on horseback to clear the street." "This was not a drunken, unruly mob by any stretch ... I would wager the farm that if they had not tried to take back the street and waited for the crowd to wear out, there would've been no trouble at all." His position is that police were wrong in clearing the three-block stretch of bars and businesses that cater to students: "I'm not sure that it was important that the street be left open."

I'm not sure that this person belongs in a position of authority at an institute of higher learning. This aw-shucks-they're- just-fun-loving-kids attitude is a big part of what is wrong in our society. At what point does a boisterous crowd become a destructive riot? And at what point do we think that an ordinary citizen's opinion is worth more than a police officer's? Apparently, this college president decided that his evaluation of a crowd of thousands in a three-block area was worth more than that of trained law enforcement professionals on the scene. The officers quite properly chose to control the crowd before it became truly destructive; even so, there were injuries. The college president might be willing to "wager the farm" that this would have been a peaceful group, but you can bet a year's worth of malpractice insurance that if police had not acted, and the crowd turned ugly, all those "bars and businesses catering to students" would have been lining up in the courts to sue the police for not protecting their property.

Later reports quote the OU president as saying that the behavior was "really unwarranted," embarrassed the university, and any students who assaulted police officers would be dealt with "severely." It's a safe bet that these 180-degree-changed statements reflect more a reaction to adverse public sentiment than a true change of heart. It's about time civilians, especially those in positions of authority in the community, start supporting our law enforcement officers instead of second-guessing and criticizing them.

Playmates' Remorse

In the buy-and-sell game, when a seller regrets the deal and tries to make trouble for the buyer, it's called "seller's remorse." This sounds quite a bit like what is going on in Washington these days. A group of supposedly adult women made what they in retrospect regard as bad deals with Bill Clinton. Whatever they expected to get out of the activity, they feel they didn't get it. Now these disgruntled bimbos expect some kind of satisfaction to come out of a convoluted and misguided legal process provided for through the same mechanism that has chewed up six years and millions of dollars in not resolving the Whitewater issue.

Here's some free advice, gals: get on with your lives. If in the future some oversexed and underthinking person in authority over you at work makes a pass at you, file a harrassment complaint at the time of the offense. Oh, and by the way: don't put out if you don't want to. And if you want to and do, don't cry about it later.

Here's some advice for you, too, Bill: keep your pants zipped, at least until you're out of public office. All this commotion is disruptive to an already-chaotic governmental process.

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Stop ... Stop ... Stop ... !!!

A particularly disturbing trend has shown in the news has recently. There has been a rash of serious, senseless accidents with one thing in common: the drivers did not stop at intersections. Think about how many traffic accidents you have heard of or seen recently that were caused by drivers' not stopping at stop signs or traffic lights. Sometimes excessive speed is involved, but frequently not. It is as if suddenly those big red signs and bright red lights have gone invisible. Within the past two weeks, we have experienced a family member's car being crashed into by another driver passing freely past an intersection's stop sign without applying brakes (fortunately, no injuries), seen a serious (two passengers carried bleeding on stretchers into ambulances after having been cut out of a wrecked car) accident caused by a driver sailing through an intersection under a red light, and seen news stories involving no less than 27 fatalities in three separate incidents involving drivers blasting past stop signs at intersections. THINK, people! ...stop signs and red lights are not suggestions, they are orders!!! There flat out IS NO EXCUSE for not stopping. End of story.

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Check Your Checks

A long time ago, our bank sent us new ATM cards with a notice that they now would do something wonderful for us: allow those cards to act as debit cards on our checking account. Aside from the obvious fiscal weakness in that idea (why would any consumer want money to leave his account faster?), we quickly perceived the security threat of that card's providing any thief with instant access to our checking account. We immediately cancelled that feature of the cards. But recently there was a news story warning people that if a thief gets hold of your debit card, he has access to your money ...Why was this a surprise to anyone? The unfortunate cardholders who were interviewed had, after much distress and paperwork, had most of their money returned to them, but it put them at a big disadvantage (one family, in particular, missed a planned vacation due to temporary loss of their money).

Debit cards are not just credit cards, they are in effect blank checks written on your checking account. If a credit card is stolen and used by crooks, it's a straightforward matter for you simply to notify the credit card company, and not pay any invalid charges. Oh, sure, you might have to write a letter or two or get a signed statement notarized, but you would not lose money for any amount of time. If a debit card is stolen and used by crooks, they have used your money, not the bank's money. Even if you manage to prove that you did not make the purchases, you are at the bank's mercy for when and if they reimburse you for the loss; isn't it better not to let the money go in the first place? Anyone who has credit cards has no need for debit cards.

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Wreckless Driving...and Reporting

Did everyone see the TV report about the "reckless drivers" putting us all at terrible risk? This show could have been effective and made more sense if it had focused on drivers with bad records who have caused multiple accidents. Instead, it pretended to "catch" such desperados as a man on his way to his kid's school function, a lady on her way to the dentist, and some poor schmuck who'd never gotten a ticket before. Their crimes? ...speeding (10-20 miles over on the freeway) and improper lane changes (not signaling)--real scary stuff. Now before you get all excited, I don't in any way condone bad driving or speeeding, and it really annoys me when inconsiderate drivers change lanes with no indicators. But does it scare me? ...hardly, especially looking at it from the phony "problem" car they drove in the report.

The reporter, while driving at the posted speed of 55mph, showed footage of nasty drivers in cars riding up his back end, flashing their lights, passing while sounding horns, and glaring meanly at him. This would have seemed a lot more unreasonable if he hadn't been toddling along at 55 in the far left lane, while surrounding cars were zipping by faster in the "slower" lanes. Evidently, he is unaware of the (sometimes even posted) normal practice of slower traffic keeping to the right-hand lanes. It seems to me that a couple of years ago I heard of a driver in California who was ticketed as a traffic hazard for going at the posted 55mph speed while all surrounding traffic was going much faster--seems the poor fellow was being unsafe by going so much slower than everyone else! Again, I am in no way condoning speeding, or some drivers trying to intimidate others by rudely (and unsafely!) tailgating. But it seems to me that flashing your lights behind slowly-moving cars is a normal method of signaling that you'd like to pass (especially when you're both in the far left lane). And, while I've never seen the sense in glaring at other drivers as you pass, it seems more rude (and rather silly) than dangerous--it's always reminded me of baboons in a zoo making nonverbal threats over territory infringements.

I'm torn between being appalled that this is the best they could come up with, and being glad that there are so few problems in this country that this is the most important one on which to report.

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Getting Work Done

Without sounding too much like Andy Rooney, "why is it so hard to get good work done these days?" We're homeowners, and that sometimes can translate into a bad imitation of "The Money Pit."

Including basement waterproofing (we finally put in a sump pump), insulation (it disintegrated after a couple of years), cement work (first ugly, dangerous & short-lived; then the next job sloppy and anybody's bet if it lasts over its first winter), vinyl siding (they tried to substitute cheaper materials than we paid for), roofing (ugly when done, and didn't last), room addition (bad work all around), and a new chimney (the original house builders had installed a broken liner, which led to the disintegration of the mortar around the bricks), we've only had success with one project.

We hired a contractor to build us a new chimney, and something remarkable happened: he came when he said he would, did the work he promised in a high-quality and timely manner, and cleaned up the work site. We were astounded and, of course, very pleased. At various times throughout the construction, we would gaze up at the work-in-progress and marvel at its appearance. We found ourselves saying things like, "look how straight it is" and "look how clean the lines are" and "look--he's using a level on every layer!" When friends and relatives inquired about the progress of the job they, also, were surprised that it went well and was properly completed.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I've got to ask this question, "Why is it such a wonder that the job was done well?" When did we start expecting less than "right?" When did competence become the exception?

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     [Last Updated: 4/8/98.]