Thursday, September 25, 2008

My cousin Jeff

Earlier this week, The Mercury published a letter to the editor from a local woman. The letter began, "I wanted to share with you my cousin Jeff's impression ..."
After the letter appeared in the paper, we received a number of emails and letters informing us that the published letter was actually an Internet posting that has been circulating for months. The local letter writer probably does not even have a cousin named Jeff.
Those complaining chastize the newspaper staff for not doing a better job of vetting the letters we publish. The complaint is valid; the problem is we do not have a foolproof solution. And, the lament -- at least mine -- is that the strengths of the Internet are outweighed by this weakness to take a story, usually fictitious, and spread it as truth to damage a person's reputation.
Unfortunately, we can't always see through the chain letters and Internet ramblings posed as letters that we receive. We realize, in the midst of this wild campaign season, that we will be very vulnerable to unknowingly violating our policies of not printing chain letters or letters written by someone other than the local person who submits it. We are on the watch for this, but a letter doesn't always look, smell or talk like the duck that it is.
My email is clogged every day right now with about seven times the normal volume of nonsense from political campaigns and frantic cries for publicity.
(I continue to be amazed by how many people want the attention of newspaper editors, even as they fail to read newspapers, decry our credibility, predict our demise and refuse to spend 75 cents to see what we had to offer today. They seem to think someone pays attention to us, though, the way they clamor.)
I often receive a dozen or so letters in one day sent to my email address and addressed to "The Mercury Headquarters 24 N. Hanover St. Pottstown PA". These are clearly addressed from a provided list. However, even in those cases, I can't accurately determine if the text is original or if the message was provided along with the address. Rarely are letters carbon-copies of each other, which would automatically tag them as unoriginal.
Sometimes, when confirming a letter-writer's name by phone, which we do for all letters, we ask if they really wrote the letter or if it is an Internet post. Sometimes, they tell the truth.
In the case of the one that slipped by us last week, we apologize for not catching it. We do not want to be the purveyors of false information, and we do not want our readers to lack confidence in our ability to see through the Internet nonsense.
But, we also know that with the volume of letters we are receiving from supporters of both candidates, without even addressing the opinions in SoundOff, the chance remains that someone will pull one over on us.
In this case, other readers caught the mistake immediately and let us know. We invite you to continue to work with us and police these opinions.
The Opinion page letters are intended for the opinions of local people. Help us keep it that way.

Friday, September 12, 2008

They read the editorial!

When I saw the Associated Press photos of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain while planning today's editions of The Mercury, I couldn't help but think:
"They're paying attention! They read the editorial!"
Those who know me and who read my ramblings on a regular basis know that "getting along" is a popular theme for me. I promote non-partisanship and a coming together across political party lines on themes of importance to citizens of this country. Not Republican. Not Democrat. Just citizens.

From Thursday's opinion piece in the paper, also posted as a blog entry yesterday, were these words, recalling the days after Sept. 11, 2001:

"If only for a short time, the lines between Democrat and Republican, city and country dweller, and every other division were blurred. People behaved with decency toward one another."
The point is that remembering Sept. 11 should inspire such decency again.
And so, I was thrilled to see the photos of the two presidential candidates walking together in a common theme of remembrance and honor instead of the sniping we are becoming accustomed to as Election Season gets into full swing.
(For a lighter look at this "bipartisan luv," see Scene and Heard.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today is September 11: A day to reflect

Today has been designated by Congress as Patriot Day in remembrance of those whose lives were lost and in honor of the heroes who were found on Sept. 11, 2001. Ceremonies will be held throughout the country in remembrance of the thousands who lost their lives and in honor of those who have sacrificed their lives in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that came after the attacks.
A special service in Montgomery County today will honor 13 hometown heroes who were killed in the Iraq War. Among them are area heroes: Army Lt. Col. Anthony L. Sherman of Pottstown; Army Lt. Col. Mark P. Phelan of Green Lane; Army PFC. Travis C. Zimmerman of New Berlinville; Army Sgt. John T. Bubeck of Collegeville; Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon V. Van Parys of Schwenksville; and Army Capt. Nathan R. Raudenbush of Douglassville.
Memorial banners for these local servicemen will be unveiled during the ceremony today at the Plaza Courtyard of the county courthouse in Norristown.
The ceremony is in keeping with the sentiments of 9/11 observances, noting a day that is no longer “new” but not removed enough to be “old.”
The day is to those living in its wake a historic turning point, but not yet history.Just as the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, should never be forgotten, so should we remember the weeks following that tragedy when citizens behaved with appreciation for their country and civility toward their neighbors.
In those weeks when office workers wore flags on their lapels and the e-mails circulating through chain letters were more inspirational than comical were an important part of our history.
If only for a short time, the lines between Democrat and Republican, city and country dweller, and every other division were blurred.People behaved with decency toward one another.
The period of appreciation didn’t last long, but it proved that Americans know what is important and can put aside petty differences when needed.
Each year, the importance is emphasized of remembering the losses of that day, the inspiring acts of courage among fire and police, and the sacrifices of the military overseas to protect freedom.
But with each year that passes, the sentiments lessen. In his proclamation for Sept. 11 last year, Gov Ed Rendell remembered the tragic day in 2001 as a time when “out of the destruction flowed generosity, hope, and unity and everyday people demonstrated extraordinary bravery and compassion ... the people of America gained a new appreciation of what it means to be a hero and a patriot.”
Today, say a prayer.
Pause for a moment of silence.
Fly the U.S. flag.
Offer gratitude and act with patriotism.
Today, make a personal pledge “to honor and cherish the freedom, equality, and peace that defines America” with hope that our land remains safe and with faith that peace can be achieved.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shots in the war of words

"For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."

That comment by Michelle Obama earlier this year sparked a firestorm of criticism accusing her of being unpatriotic and failing to appreciate the advantages of this nation.

In the after-glow of the two recent conventions, I must say I not only understand but embrace the sentiment. I would change "for the first time in my adult life," to "never in my adult life have I been more proud ..." But, the point is that the "firsts" of this election and the resulting enthusiasm of these times is cause to be proud of the people of this country in a way never before experienced in recent decades.

The four people at the top of the two major party tickets for President of the United States are an African-American raised by his Hawaiian grandmother, a Scranton-born senator from Delaware, a Naval career officer and Vietnam prisoner of war hero, and a woman from Alaska who is the mother of five and includes among her hobbies commerical fishing, basketball and hunting.

The diversity in background, color, creed, and gender reflects a nation that is finally evolving to allow its leaders to reflect its followers. I have never been more proud.

That pride, however, is tempered and will be tested in the weeks ahead by the war of words as candidates seize on every comment and every nuance of their opponents.

The attacks against a candidate's wife who was raised as a minority in this country for proclaiming her pride that the times are changing is one example. But it is one of many. Both campaigns are guilty of distorting reality and spinning it into another world. And, "the media" -- which includes the pundits and the magazine columnists and the metro editorial writers, as opposed to your average daily newspaper writers and editors -- thrives on the personal drama.
I am appalled by the attacks on Sarah Palin, but I am equally appalled by the spin placed on comments that are not attacks. (Does anyone seriously believe Sen. Obama was referring to Palin when he said you can put lipstick on a pig ... ?)
I am ever so proud to be a citizen in a nation that is truly embracing change for the first time in my adult life.
I am not so pleased by the nonsense in words that we will all have to endure during the next two months.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Women and what they wear

S0me might say this election is all about the women, and I might say it's about time.
All traces of feminism aside, I must admit I have closely observed the hairstyle and fashion nuances of the star women of both national conventions. Was Hillary's suit too bright? Michelle's dress better suited for a cocktail party? Cindy's outfit too green? Sarah's choice of unmatching top and skirt disconcerting?
When I saw this Opinion piece in my inbox today, I realized I am not alone in analyzing the wardrobe choices of the first and foremost women of this election. According to this, some people analyze it as a profession.

What You Wear Matters
Opinion Editorial by Pat Heydlauff

Over the last 10 days, millions of viewers have watched the Democrats and Republicans put on their best faces. Both parties have been successful in their own ways. Some were trying to portray themselves in a different light; others were trying to put themselves forward. Did their energy serve them the right way? Did they reach the voters with the right message?
Energy was apparent in the choice of clothing by each of the speakers, but did the clothing wear them or did it in fact support their intent and their message?
First Lady Laura Bush
Her high energy red suit exuded self confidence, poise and a presence of importance. Since she was on the platform officially representing the White House, and helping to introduce the satellite feed from the President, she needed to make sure all eyes would be on her. And she did just that with such a high energy color. The red further emphasized the patriotic theme of the enormous flag in the background.
Hillary Clinton
Hillary wore a bright, distinct, crisp orange pantsuit while delivering her speech. She wanted to maintain total control, be in charge of her moment and say to the world "here I am, and I am good." She succeeded because her orange suit was not only a high energy, high visibility, in-charge color, but it also contrasted perfectly with the blue background. Blue and orange are complimentary colors, which causes color vibrancy.
Cindy McCain
While she was not in the spotlight last night delivering a message, as a potential First Lady, Cindy knew she would be very visible at the convention. Her choice was a fresh, bright green dress that made the statement, "I am somebody - but not the center of interest." She gave the campaign a positive energy image by standing out in subtle way, and chose a color that represents growth, new business and giving birth to new things.
Michele Obama
She looked absolutely stunning, wearing a beautiful jewel-tone blue dress representing herself well as the potential First Lady. Her dress was soft, although fitted, and in a very calming color. Blue can be calm to cool and even cold in the certain shades but she got the color just right. Michelle would have succeeded even more had consideration been given to the background, which was also blue. If the intent was to make her melt into the background it worked perfectly. If the intent was to give her a strong but soft presence, a different color would have worked better.
Sarah Palin
She wore a two-piece suit with a black skirt on the bottom, giving her strong grounding and a light colored jacketed top. While this was a less traditional suit (since the top and bottom didn't match), once she stepped up to the microphone with a black background, the perfect yin/yang balance was struck. She succeeded in making herself be the "in control" focus of her presentation. All eyes were on her and not her clothing.
The results of this year's election are not out yet, but it's clear that each of these women is strong, self-confident and focused. During the recent conventions, each woman's clothing told its own story - speaking 1,000 words without making a sound.

Pat Heydlauff is president of Energy Design, a company that uses proven Feng Shui design principles to improve the bottom line. As a consultant and speaker, Pat helps organizations and businesses of all sizes remove stress and clutter, while increasing creativity, employee retention and productivity. Her forthcoming book, "Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It,"
outlines the small changes that can lead to a big improvement in one's personal and professional success.

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