Saturday, January 28, 2006

I Was Polled Today

Chabot 0, America 2


President George Bush and Congressman Steve Chabot

I picked up the phone, which normally I wouldn't have done because the caller ID on my trusty white cordless said "Unknown Name & Number". However my daughter is out with friends today and my "mom mind" went into overdrive so I went ahead and picked up.

I heard a recording and let me tell you; I despise recorded telemarketing attempts even more than when you get a live person shilling whatever. Again, I nearly hung up but just before I could press "end" I heard the male recorded voice say the word "poll" and my interest was piqued.

The recording went on to say that Steve Chabot supports President Bush's wiretapping of American Citizens and that this would be a two-question poll to get my opinion on the matter. It gave me a bit more wind up and then came the pitch.

Question 1 - Do you support President Bush's wiretapping of American Citizens?
Press 1 if you support
Press 2 if you oppose
Press 3 if you are undecided

I pressed 2 and it went on.

Question 2 - Would you vote to re-elect Steve Chabot?
Press 1 - if you would vote for Steve Chabot
Press 2 - if you would not vote for Steve Chabot

I didn't wait for option 3; I simply pressed 2. The recording thanked me for my time and participation then the call disconnected.

Now I wonder how many polls I've missed because I routinely screen calls by Caller ID. I wish I had paid attention to the recording to find out who sponsored the poll. This also got me to thinking about all I hear about polls lately and how they always seem to be one-sided. When I hear poll results reported on T.V. I usually have one of three responses.

1. Well duh? Why did you even have to poll for something so obvious.
2. What the heck? Who are these crazy people that would think that?
3. That's a stupid question? Why would they even ask that? I would have asked...?

In the back of my mind, I always wonder if the poll is legitimate, who got asked, why do I never seem to get polled, and lastly, who cares anyway?

Well since I finally got asked, I guess I can't say I never get polled because well, now I have been and I obviously care enough to write about this brief experience. Also the questions asked were pertinent to something I feel very strongly about. That still leaves me with "is this poll legitimate" and will my "vote" be accurately counted.

On this site regarding "How Polls Work", Mr. George Gallup himself has a simple reasoning for this.

George Gallup likes to explain it with his soup analogy. One spoonful of soup can accurately represent the taste of the whole pot so long as everything is well-stirred.

The stirring's the key. That's what introduces the random element that's so important to scientific sampling. Randomness, in turn, is what brings the laws of probability into play. And the laws of probability are what make accurate polling possible.

The site goes on to site an example using six-feet tall men and a graph that you are more than free to peruse, but I won't go into here however they ended their article on an interesting note that sent me a-googling.
"And that's why George Gallup has been able to call every presidential election within 3 percentage points since 1952."

'Wow, that's impressive,' I thought. Gallup Poll predicted the outcome of the 2004 Election? I thought one of the main contentions for proving election fraud was that the election results were so different from the polls that some tampering had to have taken place.

According to this USA Today article published Halloween, 2004, just two short days before the election, Gallup actually reported it was neck and neck; "49 percent to 49 percent" and the title of the article proclaims "Swing states lean to Kerry". Seems to me they didn't predict the outcome. They simply claimed it was "too close to call" up to nearly the day of the elctions and then patted themselves on the back saying "we knew it all along" when Bush won. The article also quotes an earlier polls where Bush was ahead. I suspect they would have done the same thing if Kerry had won.

So much for accuracy in polling. Or maybe the accuracy is dead on and the reporting is the problem. Not much of a surprise considering how right now we live in an America where the press is anything but free.

However corporate controlled media is a topic for another day. At any rate, Mr. Chabot did not get my vote last election time and he didn't get it today.

I wonder if today will make a difference?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Denied


(Part II)


The right to legal abortion is a very old debate in this country; likewise the debate over birth control. Condoms seemed to be the one method of birth control that we not only agree upon but also find amusing. Condom jokes abound; even a few prophylactic brand names were included in a Halloween episode of The Simpsons. Bart chants an incantation from a book that reads: Trojan, Ramses, Magnum, Sheik!

It may surprise you to know that condoms have been around since about, oh let's say 1000 B.C and their usage has been depicted in cave paintings. You would think that with a history this long, the use of condoms would be taken for granted. As a matter of fact, I've taken for granted a lot of things regarding being a woman. Being able to get birth control pills, condoms, the Today Sponge and in the extreme, an abortion if that is what I decide to do. However, the research I have done since posted Part I of Denied has taught me one lesson.

Women take their reproduction rights for granted at their own peril. Think again if you believe that denials are rare, or could never happen to legal adults in Ohio or Cincinnati. If it's up to people like Karen Brauer, women's access to the pill, let alone abortion would be illegal. At this rate it won't be long before condoms or "the sponge" are questioned as well.

"Denied, Part I" details an incident I witnessed where a 16-year-old young woman was denied the right to buy condoms at a local store. At the time I was outraged but while I wrote out Denied, I realized that I had more questions than answers. There were many things I didn't understand and needed to find out.

So, I went back and talked to the store owner

He was very skittish and at first I thought he was going to simply leave me standing there. He would not allow me to talk to him elsewhere, not even a secluded area of the store. We carried on this breezy conversation about his condom selling policy in full earshot of anyone who entered or exited. He did, however, answer a few of my questions.

I asked him again why he had refused to sell the young woman condoms. As in our initial confrontation, he reiterated that he knew the young woman's family. I waited for more but along with her age, he seemed to feel that this was reason enough. I asked him if he really felt that refusing to sell condoms would keep a young person from having sex? He said he wasn't sure but that he hoped it would at least "make them think twice."

I asked him would he have turned a boy away. He told me a brief story about a young boy on a bicycle who wanted to buy condoms but was also turned away. He did not have an approximate age, but from the bicycle reference, I'm assuming middle school age or younger.

Again, he was very nervous and this interview was very hasty. When I first came in and reminded him of who I was and stated what I was there for he asked me, "Are you related to her?" he asked, meaning the young women he had denied the condoms. I told him that the young woman and I were no relation but that I simply wanted to ask a few questions about the incident. He asked me why and I made up a fictional college assignment. I felt bad lying to him, but I felt he would have bolted otherwise. My intention was to get him to commit to a sit down session, but I saw that it was then or never.

My last question to him was, "Are you aware that you she had previously purchased condoms in your store?" He immediately looked at the clerk who was obviously listening in because se immediately chimed in, "I didn't sell them to her."

I informed him that it was actually his son who had sold the condoms to this particular customer. I also informed of that I had driven her to another store. He seemed surprised, but he made no other comment. At this point, I found myself angry for several reasons, but I kept my temper this time. He was inching away from me so I said my goodbyes and left the store.

Even though our interview was brief, I think I gleaned quite a bit of information from our exchange.

The store owner was very surprised when I showed up again. He was also very hesitant to answer my questions or defend is position. At one point I asked him if he knew whether there was a minimum age to buy condoms or not? He actually picked up a condom box and said, "Well there's really no information on the back that says so either way."

This let me know several things. Far from knowing or caring to find out whether he had the right to refuse the sale of condoms to anyone, he simply did so because he felt like it. He didn't think minors should have sex and by his logic, if he doesn't sell them condoms, then they won't. He also actively demands that his employees to follow his agenda to the point where they feel they have to defend themselves for a perfectly legal sale. He also had made no effort to find out whether his actions were legal or not. He knows now, because I told him of my phone call to Planned Parenthood and the resulting information that there is no minimum legal age to buy condoms in the U.S. I wonder if he has conveniently forgotten that information or if he even cares.

My next call was to a long time friend who is a pharmacist and manager of a local drugstore. He also happens to be a devout Christian and I wanted to know his views on this subject.

What I thought would be a ten minute conversation lasted over an hour and I learned several disheartening things in the course of our interview, mainly that even the people with the best of intentions, may still be complicit in denying birth control to women

Imagine that you've worked all day, you're headed home, you remember that you've taken your last birth control pill and must stop for a refill. You walk up to the counter and only one pharmacist is on duty and that one pharmacist refuses to refill your birth control prescription because of their religious beliefs. You ask if there is another pharmacist available and they tell you no.

I talked to a long-time friend that I'll refer to here as J. J is currently a pharmacist and manager of a local drugstore. He achieved his Pharmacological M.D. in the University of Cincinnati's five-year program studying anatomy, physiology, biological science, biochemistry, pharmacological studies and human development. According to J, the pharmacist is supposed to do several things. They should first be polite, apologetic and firm in their refusal. They should also refer the patient to the nearest pharmacy available, phone in the prescription to the other pharmacy and offer directions there. They should also return the prescription to the patient.

J informed me that drugstores are not required to keep two pharmacists on staff, even if they know that the pharmacist on staff could possibly refuse to dispense a legal prescription to a patient. Of course, most women are not told about the religious or moral objection reasoning. They are merely told, with the sanction of their managers and the company, that the prescription they need is not in stock.

I bristled at this asking, "You encourage the pharmacists to lie?" He insisted that it was simply a precaution taken if they felt the customer might become angry. I asked him if he felt the customer had the right to be angry for being refused or lied to. He said yes, but he was also trying to keep a calm store environment for the other customers as well.

I find this more than a bit of a double standard. I feel that pharmacists should not cite "moral objections" as a reason for not dispensing birth control and then commit the immoral act of lying about it; neither should the drugstore management or owners accomplice their lie. If someone is willing to go to the extent of inconveniencing a customer, making them find another pharmacy, and generally, in some cases endangering the patients health and/or well being, then maybe, just maybe, that pharmacist should be willing to take the heat and tell the truth. J insisted that telling the out-of-stock "white lie" was better than angering the customer.

To his credit, J stated that he would never turn a patient away for a legitimately acquired prescription. J further stated that professionally, the only reasons to turn a patient away would be for incorrect dosing or if a prescription had been tampered with (i.e. patient has changed the quantity or dosage).

I asked J if he felt that pharmacists who refuse to fill a prescription deserve to keep their jobs and he surprised by saying "Yes. There are some darned good pharmacists out there." I wanted to know what makes a pharmacist "good", especially one who refuses to do part of what their job requires.

"Well, a good pharmacist looks out for their patient. They have low error rates and are able to spot possible problems with drug interactions or dosage errors. They provide good follow up and have good accuracy rates. They also provide good customer service." I grumbled my skepticism over the customer service bit, but let it lie. I asked him his personal view about pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions. J stated that although they have a right to their views, he wished that they would take his approach of providing empathy and professionalism, again, not letting their personal opinions cloud their professional duty. He also stated that as a manger and a pharmacist, he also feels "stuck in the middle" between the rights of the patient and the conscience of the pharmacist.

Conclusion
1. There is no legal minimum age to buy condoms.
2. Minors DO NOT need parental consent to buy or obtain condoms.

Now that we know this, what do we do. First, I, again, am going to make sure that the store owner gets both of these articles and the above message.

I find this apalling and frightening because I really don't see how long it will be before mentail health patients can't get medicine for whatever ails them; or how long will it be before overweight people can't get diet pills because some moral arbiter thinks they should lose weight "the way God intended".

Refusal of service should not be taken lightly
. If you work in the public sector, then be prepared to serve the public and keep your moralistic judgments to yourself.

Any Questions?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Denied

(Part 1)
I was halfway to work when I stopped at a McDonald's. I wasn't quite hungry, but I knew I wouldn't survive the entire morning at work without something to eat. I pulled into the drive-thru and sighed with impatience. The line of cars was around the building; the line inside was even longer. I'm overweight anyway and the last thing I needed to do was sit on my ass for five minutes waiting for another sausage, egg and cheese biscuit.

I pulled out of line and drove on to work. I almost passed up the food mart on my right but decided I could get some orange juice and maybe a piece of fruit and as luck would have it, the lot was nearly empty. Bingo.

As I pulled into the parking lot, a girl went in ahead of me. I headed to the coolers, grabbed a single serve bottle of Minute Maid OJ and 35 cent Little Debbie's honey bun (they didn't have a single piece of fruit in the joint, I asked). I'm looking around for something, anything, better than a honeybun when I hear the man at the counter speak to the young girl.

"You have your mom come in and tell me you can have them and then I'll sell them to you."

He was nice about it but firm. I grinned thinking the girl had tried the age old line, "My mom asked me to buy her some cigarettes." It's a neighborhood store, so this guy isn't buying it and has probably seen her before. I laughed again to myself. Good try kid.

The girl stands there for a second looking surprised. I'm thinking, how surprised could you be kid, trying to by smokes at your age. I just knew she was going to mouth off, but for the second time that day I was wrong. She politely and simply said, "OK" and then left the store.

So I walk up, lay my oj and honeybun on the counter and ask him. "What was she tryin to buy?"

He replied, "Condoms. Can you believe that, she's only 16."

The smile slid from my face and I must have looked as shocked and pissed as I felt because he started in with the excuses before I could open my mouth.

"Why the hell didn't you sell them to her?!" I asked him in raised voice, but trying to stay calm.

He had been so certain I would agree with him, he was still smiling for a second but that didn't last long. He must be married bcause he looked exactly the way my man looks when he knows he's piqued my wrath. Looking back, I see that we could have been any couple arguing about their teenage daughter. Except for the fact that we were strangers.

"She's only 16. I know her dad," was the flimsy crap he finally came up with.

I must admit my response wasn't much better. Later I thought of so many things I should have said but I was so dumbfounded and angry I could only think of one response.

"You should have sold her the condoms. What the hell is your problem?"

"She too young to be having sex..."

"Obviously not."

Suddenly this turned personal.

"And what about you?"

It was a short question but his meaning was clear. Obviously, to him, I didn't look like the kind of person who would have had sex at her age. It cost me something to say it out loud and it will cost me more than you will ever know to put it on my blog, but I will. He had to understand the magnitude and idiocy of what he had done.

"What the hell? By the time I was her age, I'd been having sex for three years!"

"You were having sex at 13...good God..." he looked stunned.

"Exactly. You should have sold them to her."

"Well you were too young and so is she." He was firm about this, but he still looked shocked.

"Well I can't change that now, can I? For me or her."

In that instant, I made several hasty decisions. Talking to this guy was a waste and to hell with being late to work. I also decided in that I would go find that girl and take her somplace, anyplace, where she could buy the condoms she wanted. I took one last look at the guy as I walked out. The wind was taken out of my indignantly flying sails a bit when he sat down. Hard. He didn't look so sure that he had done the right thing anymore.

I got into my car and pulled out. I saw her walking a good clip down the street. She must have been angry too, because she'd made it a good way down the street and the counter guy's exchange with me hadn't taken long.

I pulled up next to her and asked her if she needed a ride. She recognized me from the store and said yes. There were two drugstores on the corner but she asked for a ride to the nearest Kroger. We walked to their "feminine items" section" They had pads, tampons, and oddly enough both kinds of KY Jelly, the regular kind and the "fun gel" warming kind. Ironically, these items were conveniently positioned near the disposable diapers What they did not have was condoms.

I learned a lot from that girl in our short ride and I learned that you truly do make an ass out of yourself when you assume things. I was writing the counter guy off as a mysoginistic, racist, prick, but again I was wrong. According to the girl, the man was the store owner and he had been right: She was 16 and he did know her and her family. Although the man did not know it, she had purchased condoms from his store before. Usually his son or another employee was at the counter. She actually worked at a local drugstore and she would buy "them" there later, but it was hard to do and embarassing even if someone friendly was at the counter. At that point, I realized why she didn't want to go to either of two drugstores and I tried to imagine myself buying condoms in front of my co-workers; especially when even at my age, I can't buy tampons without avoiding eye contact. One comment that stood out to me in our brief exchange: "I'm just trying to take care of myself".

She assured me that she was "OK, now" and thanked me for the ride. I gave her my cell phone number and told her if she ever needed anything to call me. I meant that.

She asked me a million dollar question in our ride, and although I gave her the correct answer, it took me a Google search and call to Planned Parenthood to be absolutley certain. "Do you have to be a certain age to buy condoms."

According to the Planned Parenthood (Springdale), there is no minimum legal age to buy condoms in the United States. Period. In my Google searching, I found that nearly every state has varied versions of "age of consent" laws, however these are meant to curb abuse of legal adults preying on minors with the exception of Texas. As recently as 2002, sex between consenting minors of the same age would have been illegal punishable by juvenile detention. This has since been modified to exclude consentual sex between minors with an age difference of no more than three years.

Personally, I'm still very angry with the store owner's decision not to sell condoms to her for many reasons

I know that the man meant well. He knows this girl, he knows her family and probably thought he was doing the right thing. I'm sure he thought he was discouraging her from having sex but he may have just been encouraging her to have unprotected sex. Had she wound up with a child, was he going to help her take of it? If she wound up with an STD or even HIV was he going to foot the bill? What if he hadn't known her? What if "she" had been a "he". Would a boy have still gotten the moral judgement of "he's too young" or would it be the age old double standard of "boys will be boys"?

Legally, can a store owner pick and choose what items to sell someone? I know store owners, even managers have the right to refuse service, but he actually sold her the other things she picked out. Does he have the right to choose which legal purchases she gets to make on the basis of his morality and her age?

I'm obviously overweight. What if the store owner thinks that being overweight is a morality issue. He feels it would be morally wrong to sell me a honey bun, but he's happy to sell me orange juice because he feels it's a better choice. Or depending on how well he knows me, maybe he sould require me to have a relative call with my calorie count for the day before selling me anything but water? Where dol we draw the line that keeps his nose out of my personal choices or anyone's, especially someone trying to prevent the life-changing events of pregnancy and/or disease.

One of the many critical health issues of the day is whether pharmacists have the right to deny women legal birth control based on the pharmacists personal and moral judgements. For those who may think that these denials are limited to the emergence birth control prescription EC or the "morning after pill", think again. Many pharmacists are denying women the right to the good old fashioned "dial-a-pill" birth control. Are we at a point now where women are deemed so dense to making their own decisions that we now eave their birth control choices up to anyone and everyone who owns, manages or merely works in a store, but not the women themselves? I find this shameful.

But I see that I have only scratched the surface. My experience has only raised more questions so I will do a follow up to this post. I will talk to the store owner and see if he is willing to answer some of my questions above. I will talk to a physician, a lawyer, and a pharmacist and a few store owners in my neighborhood. I really want to find out why that Kroger sells pleasure gel but not condoms.

I want women to get choice of their own bodies back and keep it.

Part II of this story will be posted on Friday, January 13.