Voter ID and ME… with update.

UPDATE: The following was written a year and a half ago. Since then I’ve tried three more times to correct the disparity between my driver’s license and my voter’s registration. As it stands now, my driver’s license spells my last name all one word but my registration separates the ‘De’ from the rest. The poll workers know me but tell me if Pennsylvania’s voter ID law goes into effect, I will not be permitted to vote.

Yeah. Don’t tell me voter ID is about fairness.

 

 

I AM PISSED!!

I’m a registered voter in Pennsylvania, one of the numerous states whose Republican Governors have proposed laws to require voters to present “State Approved Identification” in order to cast a vote in upcoming elections. On the surface, these sound like common sense laws. In reality, they are bureaucratic nightmares. These laws are solutions to problems that do not exist. But that’s not what this post is about.

During last November’s general election, the courts had put a stay on Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law. They found that there wasn’t enough time to provide proper ID to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who didn’t have it. The lines at the PA DMV were so long that people were being turned away. It was decided that voters would be asked for ID, but it would not be required to vote. Poll workers were also instructed to ensure that each voter’s ID correctly matched what was on record, and to advise the voter to rectify it before the next election. There were leaflets and everything.

I didn’t think this would be an issue for me. I had my ID. So, with ego properly inflated, I confidently marched up to polling place and proudly presented my driver’s license.

The woman behind the table carefully examined my driver’s license, expelled a sigh, and looked up into my smiling face. “It appears we have a problem,” she said. “The way your name is printed on your driver’s license does not match the way it is printed on our records.”

What?

Apparently, my middle name is spelled out on my driver’s license, but my voter’s registration shows only an initial. My registration also shows a “Sr” after my name, as in Frank Senior. This is ostensibly a problem because I don’t have a son named Frank Jr..

NOTE: Other than my address, the information on my voter’s registration has not changed in almost three decades.

After voting, I thanked the nice woman and promised I would fill out a new registration form with the correct information. All was well with the world.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I filled out the new registration form at the end of March. There were a myriad of reasons why I waited. There always are. Three weeks later my new voter’s registration arrived by mail.

The new registration is printed exactly the same as my old one, with the exact same errors. What gives? How difficult is it to copy information from a piece of paper? How hard is it to check the information found on my driver’s license, and enter it into a database? Wasn’t that the reason I was asked to provide them with my license number?

I contacted the Election Commission and spoke to a very patient gentleman who was as puzzled as I was. He accessed my driver’s license information to verify my identity. He looked at a scanned image of my new application, which had the correct information. and couldn’t understand why the records hadn’t been updated. After a few questions, I was told that my new registration should arrive within a week.

It took almost four weeks for the new voter registration to arrive, just in time for Pennsylvania’s Primary Election. This time, my last name was altered.

I have an Italian last name with a “De” prefix, as in DeNiro, DeLuca, or DeAngelo. Pennsylvania driver’s licenses use all capital letters, and the De is not separated from the rest of the surname. On the new voter’s registration however, the prefix IS separated. You wouldn’t think this was an issue. Apparently, the poll workers thought it was enough of an issue that it needed to be addressed. I was told that I could be turned away because of that simple technicality. REALLY??

Now I have to contact the Election Commission AGAIN, and walk them through the correct spelling of my name.

Does anyone else see the problem, here?

I vote every election. I take it very seriously. It’s about more than just selecting a new Mayor, Judge, Senator, or President. There are ballot questions and referendums. The voting booth is one of the few places in which my opinion matters. In the words of ronsuperman, I don’t vote “because campaigns have been drilling it into our heads reasons why we should or should not vote for a particular candidate. But I will be voting because voting = power, and I cannot sit back while decisions are made around/about me, and I have no input.”

I also don’t want some inattentive paper pusher’s mistake to prevent me from casting my vote.

How can they ask for proper ID if they’re not going to ensure that the information they record is correct? Why must I jump through hoops if a bureaucrat can’t get it right?

If we can’t ensure that everyone can easily obtain the proper ID required to cast a vote, then we need to stand down on aggressive laws designed to make it virtually impossible to engage in our Federal Voting Right.

Speaking of constitutional rights…

The logic of the GOP astounds me. :\

I threw that last thought in there as an expression of my angst.

Seriously though… If anyone, regardless of criminal background, can order an assault weapon online without proper identification, why should my middle initial, or the prefix of my ethnic surname cause so much trouble at the polling place?  #smh

PS: The point of this rant is simple. I’m surviving on minimal resources. If I’m having trouble meeting the requirements for “State Approved Identification”, what about the people who don’t even have what I have?

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What Kind of Ass**** Shoots a Gun Into a Car Full of Teenagers?

There is an ongoing battle in my neighborhood between residents and teenagers in parked cars blaring loud music. Not once, in the years that I’ve been living here, has any of us pulled a gun on one. single. teenager.

Not once!

To be sure, blaring your music at top volume, with the bass up so high it shakes my house, is inconsiderate at best. It shows a lack of respect for your neighborhood. It shows the world that you’re the worst kind of ass who’s probably trying to overcompensate for some major insecurities. But it’s not reason enough for me, or anyone for that matter, to take a life.

Most of the time, as with Mr Davis and his pals, it’s just teenagers being teenagers. They haven’t had enough life experience to understand that the people who live in these houses have to get up in the morning to go to jobs they hate, jobs that don’t pay very much, so that they can pay an outrageous amount of rent. They don’t need to listen to some punk kid showing off his bad taste in music. Oh… Don’t think you have bad taste in music? Just wait until you’re an old head like me and some snot nosed kid blasts your house with whatever passes for music at that point.

But I’m in a residential neighborhood where there’s a certain expectation of a reasonable noise level. Something just above a whisper would be nice, but probably unrealistic. Mr Dunn was at a gas station where there is no such expectation.

He was at a friggin gas station convenience store, for crying out loud! It is reasonable to expect that there will be lots of noise! Hell, it’s almost guaranteed!

I wasn’t on that jury so there’s no way of knowing what the hell was going on during deliberations. But there’s one fact that I just can’t get past. After shooting ten rounds into an SUV full of teenagers, Dunn left the gas station and drove 40 miles away to a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine, where he “walked his dog, ordered a pizza, and drank rum and cola.

A normal human being would have called for an ambulance.

But then, a normal human being wouldn’t have fired a gun into an SUV full of teenagers over loud music.

What an ass****!

World AIDS Day

“There will never be a cure! Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another.” – Sam W.

In order to help keep AIDS awareness in the minds of people around me, I thought I’d share some of my personal experiences, and how HIV/AIDS has affected people in my life. The following is pulled together from casual conversations with my friend Sam, whom I’ve known for almost two decades. I’ve entered direct quotes as I remember them. Everything you read here is fact.

Sam, quoted above, has been living with AIDS for a little over twenty years. He tested positive in 1991. His survival, he says, is a double edged sword. He feels fortunate to be alive but, like many LGBT folks our age, most of his close friends are gone. “There’s no one left!” he says. “In the early 90s my friends were dropping like flies, one after the other. I thought I was next. My doctor told my parents to make my final arrangements. I was prepared to die.” Sam told me that when he didn’t die, he went into a depression. Psychologists call it Survivor’s Guilt.

Though ten years younger than Sam, I can easily empathize. At the height of the pandemic, AIDS took most of my friends. But the friends that I lost were relatively new friendships. Sam had known most of his friends for ten, fifteen years. You’re not supposed to lose so many friends at such a young age.

Sam says his biggest lament is the cost of survival. He was fortunate enough to have had a decent enough employer who provided him with healthcare, and who was understanding enough to alter his work schedule as needed. He worked for as long as he could, but by the mid-nineties his health had so declined that he had no choice but to go on Social Security Disability and wait for death. Then Protease Inhibitors came along.

The new drugs that saved his life cost a small fortune. Sam takes three Anti-HIV pills which cost about $900 per bottle, and a handful of medications to handle side effects that cost between $20 and $150 per bottle. And that doesn’t include regular blood tests, doctor visits, and medical procedures.

“Remember the assisted suicide controversy in the 90s?” he asks. “All those conservatives wanted to hang Dr. Kevorkian! Now they want to cut my benefits! (Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare) Where’s their compassion for the sick and dying, now?? If you don’t want to help me live, then allow me to die!”

Sam assures he doesn’t really want to die. He’s understandably frustrated by a system that has failed him. It would be difficult for him to go back to work. He couldn’t even afford a part time job. If he went back to work, he’d lose his healthcare. If he lost his healthcare, he’d get sick again and most likely die.

In a perfect world, Sam could rejoin the workforce, keep his healthcare, and maybe pay an affordable percentage of his salary back into Medicare. The trouble is the cost of prescriptions. As long as he has to take those expensive medications, he can never leave Social Security.

I reminded him of the recent advancements in developing a vaccine. “There will never be a cure!” he says ” Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another! It’s a scam, and the American people are too blind to see it!”

Though careful what I say to him, I can’t help but think perhaps he’s right. There’s no money in cures. The money is in treatment. If you cured cancer tomorrow, all those Cancer Treatment Centers would go bankrupt within months. Susan G Komen would cease to exist. I hate to sound pessimistic, but I have little faith in a system that values money over people.

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The best I can offer is try to educate people around me and hope that they pay attention.

AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) has been around for three decades. Some of the biggest myths about AIDS that still persist today include, “It’s a gay disease” “It can’t happen to me” and “There’s a cure”. AIDS is not a “Gay” disease. It CAN happen to you. There is NO cure.

Treatment has it’s own issues. Side effects of Anti HIV medication include, fatigue, neuropathy, fungal infections, liver damage, heart disease, kidney disease, body fat re-distribution (buffalo hump), chronic headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision loss, blindness, high cholesterol, diarrhea, constipation, dementia, calcium deficiency, loss of bone density, death and more.

  • Sounds fun, right? Especially when you consider prevention is as simple as proper condom use.
  • And ladies, because men are so reluctant to wrap it up, there’s a condom designed just for you. – Introducing… The Female Condom!

Knowing all of this, would you rather protect yourself and your loved ones, or spend the rest of your life at a doctor’s office?

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, check out the NIH AIDS info page.  http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/

Which Would You Rather…

Here’s a rather gruesome thought.

I was asked, yet again, which I’d be willing to give up if I had to choose, vision or hearing.

I don’t know why my friends feel the need to ponder such hypotheticals.

I can’t even imagine the situation in which I’d have to offer up one of my senses. Would it involve some 007 super villain?

Because I love music so much, my initial answer would be sight – but then logic took over. Our world is so visually oriented, it would be difficult, if not expensive to get around without sight. For starters, I’d have to get a seeing-eye dog and learn learn braille. Furthermore, I’m not very organized, so I’d always be tripping over all my stuff.

Giving up sound would mean missing music. But I’m at the age, quickly approaching the half-century mark, where I’ve stored enough aural information that I can call upon it almost at will.

Not to mention the movies that I love so much that I know the dialogue by heart. I wouldn’t need subtitles.

Now I’m gonna be thinking about this crap all day. :\

—————————————

Please note: The above may seem insensitive. I do realize there are people who have no choice in the matter. As the saying goes, “I complained about having no shoes until I saw a man with no feet.”

Two Days Later…

Falwell and Robertson on The 700 Club just two days after 9/11

“The most disgusting rhetoric that came out of 9/11/2001 was the assertion by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that America somehow brought the terrorist attacks upon itself. On September 13, just two days after the terrorist attacks, they appeared on The 700 Club and claimed that God smote America because of all the “Pagans, Abortionists, Atheists, Feminists, Gays, and Lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way”. What?! I thought my head would explode when I heard this. How could purported “Men Of God”, mock the memory of so many innocent lives with such hatred and vileness? I’ll let God settle that one.”

May the people, and their families, who were affected by the events of that day somehow find the comfort that they need. – Frank (@ADignorantium)

Teachers and Education: A love story

“ALGEBRA”

I wasn’t an honor student, but I wasn’t a screw-up either. Like most kids, I had my favorite teachers. I had teachers I didn’t like.

…and then there was Ms. White.

Ms. White was my ninth grade Algebra teacher. I struggled in her class because she wasn’t very good at explaining how X = Y. I learn best with demonstration, but she couldn’t walk me through it.

Ms. White was good at one thing, though. She knew how to make us laugh.

On one November afternoon, I was so confused by her diagram that I asked her to explain the process in a way that I would understand. She turned around slowly and looked at me. A smile spread across her wide face, and with great triumph, she said…

“Frank. If we opened up your head, and poured the knowledge in, it would leak out your feet!”

This, of course, got a roar of laughter from the class; but did little to help me understand the algebraic formula she had drawn on the board.

Ms. White reused her clever little line on several other students that year. However, I hold the honor of being the first. My fellow classmates didn’t let me forget it, either. As a result, I was reluctant to raise my hand in her class for the rest of the year. Predictably, I did not do very well.

I wasn’t the only student who had to make up the credit. We were twenty in all, almost a full classroom, for that summer’s algebra course. (That was just the morning class. There was an afternoon class as well.)

Teachers like Ms. White make every teacher look bad. I still wonder how this woman was able to continue teaching, in spite of complaints by me, and several other students and parents.

When so many students struggle in one teacher’s class, that teacher is not doing his/her job!

Please don’t get me wrong. The majority of my teachers were good. Some of them were excellent. Good teachers deserve to be paid handsomely for their time and effort.

– Just sayin’

BTW – Ms. White was still teaching seven years later, when my younger sister entered ninth grade. Happily, she was assigned a different teacher.

This post was first published July 2011 on ADignorantium.tumblr