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Saving Lives Every Day? July 24, 2010

Law enforcement should be held accountable to the public upon deploying a Taser to the same extent as firing a gun.

(This is my final paper for “Argument Based Writing”.  I got an A. I know! I’m sharing because I’m kinda proud but mostly want to get the info out there. Students: do not be tempted to plagarize this. If you found it, so can your teacher.) 

   The Taser (an anagram for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle) was introduced in 1974. It fires an electrified barb up to 25 feet that delivers a painful shock (Berenton). In the 1990s, Tom and Rick Smith created Air Taser (which eventually became Taser International) selling a seven-watt weapon that they marketed to police departments (Schlosberg).  And police departments have been buying them. Over 6000 US police departments have bought Taser products (as of 2005), and over 200 have purchased a Taser for every officer (Cusac). Despite rising concern for the safety of the weapon, police are using Tasers with increasing regularity. Tasers should be treated as firearms. Taser use should be regulated and restricted to situations in which the suspect is causing or about to cause bodily harm.  Law enforcement should be held accountable to the public upon deploying a Taser to the same extent as firing a gun.

      According to Taser International’s website, http://www.taser.com, the consumer versions of the Taser (C2) is around six inches long, weighs about seven ounces, with a three-second shock time, and  “discreet enough to be carried in a pocket, hand bag, backpack, or just about anywhere.”  The C2 reminds me of an electric razor.  The version police officers carry (X26) is larger and has a greater range (25 feet) with a five to ten-second shock-time.  The X26 looks like a space age black and bright yellow gun with a large X on the side reminiscent of comic book heroes The X-Men. Early versions were low wattage, with only five watts of power (Cusac). The wattage has increased over the years. Over fourteen watts causes electro-muscular disruption, which is an “uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue” that can “physically debilitate a target regardless of pain tolerance or mental focus” (Cusac). The X26 has twenty-six watts of power (Cusac). Taser International’s website states:

Energy is sent over the wires into the probes, which can penetrate up to two cumulative inches of clothing. The charge is transmitted between the two probes, jamming sensory and motor functions, and inhibiting muscular control.

    The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) ruled that the Air Taser was not a firearm because it uses nitrogen not gunpowder to launch the probes (www.taser.com).  This ruling exempted Taser International from federal firearm regulations, allowing the company free to market without “government interference or oversight” to police departments, departments of correction, security companies, the military, and overseas law enforcement (Schlosberg).  A consumer version is available to the mass public in most states. A buyer does not have to acquire a license to carry or conceal the weapon. 

      Police officers have reasons to like the Taser. They find it to be effective in ending potentially violent conflicts without injuries. One Utah police chief states, “it’s increasingly a less lethal weapon of choice. It’s proven to be a relatively safe and effective tool” (Cusac). Statistically, in a study of field applications of the Taser, 99.7% of people tased had no injury or only mild injuries (Hall). Police departments claim that Tasers have reduced rates of injuries and fatalities. Phoenix, Arizona, had a 54% drop in police shootings its first year of Taser use and Seattle had its first year in fifteen years of no shootings involving officers (Cusac).

      Terry Hillard, former Superintendent of the Chicago police department says he wishes he had Taser technology during his time as Superintendent. “It may have prevented two lethal force incidents that occurred within a 24-hour period.” Litigation from these incidents cost the city over $25 million, “more than enough to have covered the cost of a full deployment of Taser devices to every officer in Chicago” (www.taser.com).  According to testimonials for the consumer model on Taser International’s website, simply aiming the C2’s laser sight at a potential attacker has been enough to deter him. A lady named Paige Anderson in her video testimony tells of running a potential rapist out of a parking garage by just saying she had a Taser (www.taser.com).

   Taser International’s slogan is “Saving Lives Every Day” (Schlosberg). As a substitute for shooting somebody, the weapon can save lives. In 2006, a 16 year-old girl holding a small knife in a deserted park was shot to death by two police officers in Huntington Beach, California (Greenhut). If the officers had Tasers, this scenario might not have ended fatally.

      According to Amnesty International, more than 300 people have died in North America after being shocked by a Taser (Marks, Use). In many of the Taser related fatalities, the victims were under the influence of drugs. Often they were shocked multiple times in a short period (Schlosberg).  One victim had twenty-two Taser marks on his body (Schlosberg). Drugs and alcohol can cause a condition called excited delirium, which can increase risk of fatal cardiac arrhythmia when shocked by a Taser (Marks, Shocking). According to University of California cardiologist Zian Tseng, even healthy people can be at risk if hit by a Taser at the wrong period of the heart beat cycle (Schlosberg). “If I hit the heart or create electricity in the wrong time of the beat cycle, it could send the whole heart into an electric tailspin”, says Tseng (Schlosberg). Multiple shocks increase the risk of the electric charge hitting the vulnerable period. Tseng likens it to playing Russian roulette with the heart (Schlosberg). Taser International to this day has denied that any death was the result of their device and that all reported after-tasing deaths are “attributable to other factors and not the low-energy electrical discharge of the Taser” (Morgan).

      A Taser incident need not be fatal to be inappropriate. “Tasers are suffering from mission creep, from being an alternative to lethal firearms they are now becoming an indiscriminate compliance tool,” says Nick Lewer of the University of Bradford, UK (Marks). When Taser International claims the Taser has saved 8000 lives, do they mean 8000 people were shocked instead of being shot to death by police officers? I doubt police officers would appreciate Taser International promoting their product with thestatistic phrased that way. No, it is a false spin on the numbers as not every use of a Taser is a substitute for the deadly use of firearms. Taser International’s own training materials recommend using the weapon in less threatening instances as “flight of unarmed suspects to verbal displays of hostility and non-compliance” (Schlosberg). People who have been tased by police officers include “the elderly, children as young as one year old, people apparently suffering diabetic shock and epileptic seizures, [and] people already bound in restraints” (Cusac). These are basically harmless people in situations it would be ridiculous and illegal to use firearms to resolve. According to Amnesty International, a Pueblo Colorado police officer shocked a man strapped into a hospital bed screaming for his wife (Cusac). Tasers are linked to other serious injuries that do not include death. One of the 50,000 volunteers that Taser International claims to have been shocked by a Taser when offering their claim that “there have been no long term injuries caused by the Taser,” is Deputy Samuel Powers. Powers suffered fractured vertebra after being shocked during training (Schlosberg). Deputy Powers and officers in at least five states have filed suit against Taser International for Taser related injuries including “multiple spinal fractures, burns, shoulder dislocation, and soft tissue injuries” (Schlosberg).  On the website YouTube (www.youtube.com), one can watch a seemingly endless array of videos of people being tasered by police. The victims range from ten year-old-girls to little old ladies in wheelchairs. Maybe it is a matter of “bad news sells” and good news does not get reported, but what is missing videos of police tasering someone who is actually a threat to life or limb.  

      Taser International’s website (www.taser.com) markets their product to law enforcement with language that stress the safety of the officer; “Officers don’t get paid to get hurt.” Steven Greenhut sums up what police often tell him as “Our only concern is getting home safely at the end of the day” (Greenhut). Statements like that reveal that police officers feel an oversized sense of danger and that officer safety is becoming a larger concern than public safety. “The police culture in our country has changed,” claims former San Jose police chief Joseph McNamara (Greenhut). Modern policemen are likely to have a military mentality and often a military background (Greenhut). “Reasonable people accept that a cop’s job is difficult and dangerous,” says McNamara, “But the police are not and should never be allowed to think of themselves as soldiers or to believe they are at that level of danger” (Greenhut). Indeed, the job of police officer is nowhere near the top ten on the Department of Labor’s list of most dangerous jobs (www.dol.gov). This perceived threat level combined with the Taser’s advertised safety record has resulted in an increased use of the weapon in situations a far cry from life threatening. 

   Aside from a lack of regulations regarding the use of Tasers, the is also a lack of accountability of police activity to the public. “There is no serious oversight of police behavior. Law enforcement writes the rules of engagement, investigates its own officers, and has a well-oiled publicity machine that kicks in whenever something disturbing takes place” (Greenhut ). Whenever a Taser incident makes a headline there is always a police spokesman to say that the offending officers only “did what they were trained to do” (Greenhut). In an Illinois case Sheriff’s deputies held down a 12 year-old on a bed, tased him in the neck and threatened to sodomize him and reputedly tased another minor. Sherrif Roger Mulch stated that an investigation by Illinois State Police found “no indication of any wrongdoing” (Police). The children involved were committing no crime and were never charged with anything. There is virtually no public oversight for officers that follow the rules and hurt or kill citizens, or for officers who act outside of proper authority and abuse their power (Greenhut). Combine this with the advertised perceptionof safety of Tasers and police officers’ perception of being in perpetual danger, we have a situation where police officers are using the Taser as an all purpose cattle prod instead of a substitute for deadly force as originally intended. According to Amnesty International USA director Larry Cox, “Most of the cases we’ve looked at, there’s been no weapon involved at all [on the part of the suspect], let alone a deadly weapon. So these are not situations where necessarily the police officer sees a threat” (Morgan).

   It hurts to be hit with a Taser. A police officer should not have the right to hurt citizens for minor infractions. Taser survivor Margaret Kimbrell, 75, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, described the shock as “traveling all over your chest like a big snake or something worming to get out. I prayed, ‘ Lord Jesus, make it quicker.’ I was waiting to die so the pain would go away” (Cusac). The United Nations Committee Against Torture has declared Tasers to be an instrument of torture, stating they create extreme pain and have a proven risk of death (Morgan). “These are people that have seen torture around the world, all kinds of torture. So they don’t use the word lightly,” remarked Larry Cox(Morgan).

   Seven states and the District of Columbia have made it illegal for citizens to own Tasers, including the C2 consumer version (www.taser.com). Groups such as Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP have proposed bans on the weapon, at least until more research is done and better regulations in place. I would like to see strong regulations put in place. Tasers should only be used in life threatening situations, in very limited circumstances. They should only be used as a substitute for firearms and treated as a firearm. There should be restriction on whom a Taser can be used on. The weapon should not ever be used on pregnant women, the elderly, children or anyone already in restraints or unconscious (if you think this is common sense and a cop would never do such a stupid thing, think again). They should never be used on passive resisters. Many departments have policies of their own, and some progressive departments observe these restrictions and others (Schlosberg). But so far, Taser use policy is up to the individual departments to implement. Police departments need to become more open with the public about their internal investigations and disciplinary actions, or we have to continue to assume they are corrupt. But as long as police departments investigate and discipline themselves, there can be no real accountability to the public. Appealing to Law and Order is always a huge vote getter and no policy maker can get far being perceived as “weak on crime,” but we need police officers who are not weak on crime but respectful to the civilians—the citizens, the taxpayers who they are supposed to be working for. In researching this topic I have become more fearful of the police. In too many instances the victim of a Taser shock is like Kailee Martinez (Fourteen), a law-abiding citizen until they encounter a police officer. Her crime was running away when she saw the Taser. She was scared.  The question is:  are the police our public servants or are they our overseers, some kind of Gestapo?  It seems that the days of Officer Friendly are over, and we are quickly moving toward the comic book world’s judge, jury, and executioner Judge Dredd, wearing a big helmet and carrying a bigger gun, stating, “I am the Law.”

 Works Cited

Berenson, Alex. “Police Group Urges Limit on Taser Use.” New York Times 19 October 2005: 13. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Nov. 2009.

Cruz, Gilbert. “Jack Cover.” Time 19 Feb. 2009. 3 Nov. 2009 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1880636,00.html&gt;.

Cusac, Anne-Marie. “The Trouble with Tasers.” Progressive 69.4 (2005): 22-27. SIRS Researcher. Web. 8 Nov. 2009

Greenhut, Steven. “The Militarization of American Police.” Freeman 58.2 (2008): 15 – 20. SIRS Research. Web. 13 Nov. 2009.

Hall, Christine A. “Public Risk from Tasers: Unacceptably High or Low Enough to Accept?” Editorial. The Journal of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians 11 Jan. 2009: 84-86. Academic Research Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 Nov. 2009

Marks, Paul. “The Shocking Use of Police Stun Guns.” New Scientist 12 Nov. 2005: 30-31 Academic Research Premier. EBSCO. Web. 16 Nov. 2009 —  “Use Only as Defense and have Medical Care Ready.” New Scientist 203.  2732 (2009): 20-21. Academic Research Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 Nov. 2009

Morgan, David. “U.N.: Taserrs Are a Form of Torture.” CBS News.com 25 Nov 2007. 8 Dec. 2009 <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/25/national/main3537803.shtml&gt;  “Police Threaten to Sodomize a 12 yr old while Tasering Him.” 2009. YouTube.

AreYouConcerned. 8 Dec. 2009 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8zLdbgwC-E&feature=related >

“Fourteen yr old girl Tasered in the Head” 2009. YouTube. CopsOutOfControl. 8 Dec. 2009 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fizo-sOSE6o&gt;

Schlosberg, Mark. “Stun Gun Fallacy: How the Lack of Taser Regulations Endangers Lives”. San Francisco: ACLU of Northern California. Sept. 2005.


Jim Starlin September 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — brain77 @ 8:02 pm

        Jim Starlin is on Facebook. My general feeling on the topic is OMIGOD
OMIGOD OMIGOD. Should I send him a message, post on his wall? What would I say?
“I love your work, I’m your biggest fan?” Yeah, he’s never heard that before. And it just
doesn’t express the extent of the sentiment. After all, this is Jim Starlin, one of the last of
the Giants. The Giants of comic books. But mostly the Giants of my childhood heroes.
         Fred Hembeck proposed in a Comic Book Artists commentary that Jim Starlin is
our generation’s Kirby. He was referring to the more cosmic of Jack Kirby’s 1960s work,
like the galaxy spanning adventures of the Fantastic Four and Thor, which he took to
even higher levels of cosmic audacity in the 1970s with The New Gods and the creation
of Darkseid (probably DC’s most profitable villain after the Joker). Starlin’s first work
appeared at Marvel soon after Kirby’s New Gods was cancelled, and everybody has
commented on the resemblance between Kirby’s Darkseid and Starlin’s first Marvel
creation Thanos. So, Yes, Starlin seemed to pick up where Kirby left off.
         But I don’t see Starlin as our generation’s Kirby mostly because at the same time
that Starlin was creating his most beloved work, Captain Marvel and Warlock, Kirby was
doing Omac and The Eternals among others, including his version of 2001: A Space
, which probably the most far-out comic in the “cosmic” category ever published.
Our generation’s Kirby was Jack Kirby. Jim Starlin was our Jim Starlin.  
        Starlin’s “cosmic” was a different flavor than Kirby’s. Kirby’s was bombastic and
external, it was about the technology and adventure. Starlin’s was more internal and
spiritual. His characters went to the outer reaches of the universe, but also visited their
own minds and souls to battle their inner demons. And Starlin miraculously kept it
interesting to ten-year-old readers.
        Starlin’s internal conflicts required him to create his own visual language to
communicate such abstract concepts as insanity and death. He created design oriented
pages that eschewed typical narrative.
        Starlin is a solid draftsman to this day. His characters have mass and weight, exist
in space and cast shadows. Modern day “photo realistic” comic book artists can learn a
lot from studying his work. His figures are pure fantasy, no real human can move the way
his superheroes do, but his solid rendering makes them “real” to the reader. Not
everything needs to look like a photograph, real talent can make fantasies believable.
        Jim Starlin was a giant of my childhood. To some people of my age, Star Wars
was a generation defining event. To those of us who read Starlin’s planet hopping space
opera Warlock, Star Wars seemed old hat. The splash page of the Warlock story “Death
Ship” makes one wonder how much the makers of Star Wars studied Starlin’s work,
seeing how much it resembles Star Wars’ famous opening scene and logo. I think they
cribbed some of Starlin’s aliens too.
         Most of the comic books I drew for myself in the 70s followed a Jim Starlin
model, usually involving a cosmic war and being resolved with a psychic battle rather
than a typical superhero slugfest. By the 1980s cosmic freak-outs and psychedelic
storylines went out of fashion and were replaced by “grim and gritty” Rambo types,
macho kill-crazy anti-heroes. There seemed no more room for spiritual quests in the
superhero genre, and I gave them up by the time I graduated high school.
        But seeing Jim Starlin on Facebook brings back the good old days, when there
was no limit to what one creator could do with $20 dollars worth of art supplies and a lot
of imagination.


Land of the Lost July 20, 2009

Filed under: Land of the Lost,Uncategorized — brain77 @ 8:41 am

I got to see the Land of the Lost movie. Don’t worry, it only cost my time. The reviews I’ve seen for this movie are all bad so I went into it with lowered
expectations. It was still worse than I was expecting.

The bad reviews I’ve read all commented on Will Farrel’s performance. When they mention the source material, the 1970s Saturday morning kid’s program, it’s in terms of “half-remembered kid-vid” or to mock its “cheesy” low-budget production values.

 There are some of us to whom Land of the Lost was a well remembered and much loved part of our youth. The low-budget video green screen effects were not state of the art it’s true, and the acting was summer stock. But the writing and the concepts were as sophisticated as any other science fiction series on TV at the time, certainly the equal of Star Trek, Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. I was nine when it debuted. I was young enough (still am!) to be fascinated with the dinosaurs and sleestaks and old enough to know that the pylons and crystals and other internal mythologies made Land of the Lost head and shoulders above everything else the adult world was trying to “entertain” me with. It didn’t talk down to its audience. The cheesiness of it’s production was stagecraft, and good storytelling rises above its medium, and is told in the imagination of the viewer. The 1970s Land of the Lost was a quality product in a modest package.

I can only image what the person who green-lighted spending millions to make this new movie version was thinking. He obviously didn’t read the script. Maybe there wasn’t a script, just “Will Farrell in Land of the Lost” scribbled on a report of Farrell’s movies’ profits. No one involved respected the source material; that much is certain.

There was no parody of the original. It’s merely a modern frat-boy comedy in the thinnest skin of the original series. For it’s plot, they appropriated the most visible elements from the series: the sleestaks, the dinosaurs, the pylons. But there was no understanding of the borrowed items. The movie’s plot was stock, a standard Hollywood fill-in-the-blanks formula that had none of the imagination and intelligence of the “kid-vid” series. It insults the viewer’s intelligence in ways the original never did.

Before seeing it, I though the idea of making the Rick Marshall character a typical Farrell asshole was not a completely bad idea. The original character was too perfect and had little charisma. But the moviemakers made the entire cast, including the lovable Cha-Ka, into disgusting unlikable frat boys. They made the intriguingly amoral character Enik into a typical Hollywood villain. Of course, they made Holly into an adult “romantic interest” instead of the eleven year old daughter to avoid a family film label, and thank God they did. Children shouldn’t watch this.

Basically, the brilliant Hollywood producers took a children’s property and had to dumb it down to moronic levels to sell it to “adults”. That’s insulting all around. This movie has no reason to exist. And worst, it will probably prevent a serious well-budgeted treatment of the material from ever being made.

Maybe it’s for the best. It’s becoming apparent that screenwriters are becoming stupider every year.


Photorealism in Comics June 2, 2009

Filed under: Comic Books,Photorealism,Uncategorized — brain77 @ 6:34 pm

Another comicbook related entry. Let’s see if I can present my thoughts in a civilized way and not rant like last time.

Another trend in comics that MUST BE STOPPED is Photorealistic art in superhero comics. I do not like it. At first it was just background that were ridiculously over rendered, but seems to have tainted the figures now. It seemed to begin with Joe Quesada’s rise to power a Editor in Chief of Marvel, and it seems to me to be his personal taste. I can’t prove that of course, it’s a theory. Another theory, related to the slick production values discussed last time, is self-loathing among editors and creators and fans. They love comic books, but they want to prove they are mature adults, so they’ve conspired to “adultify” comics, to make and buy mature comics. Fine, I agree that adults can enjoy comics with mature content. But I disagree that “superheroes” and “comics” are synonyms. I believe that superheroes are a child’s genre like fairy tales. I don’t see a problem with an adult enjoying a superhero story on the level of Harry Potter. (I read Harry Potter after turning 40). The problem is when “Mature” is code for “Sleaze“. The problem is trying to fit the child’s genre of superheroes into a mature adult mold. Watchmen was interesting as a stand alone experiment. But making all superheroes into the Watchmen afterwards is like making all funny animal cartoons X-Rated after Fritz the Cat. Disaster.

After that tangent, I have to say, the point was that Photorealism is an attempt by self-loathing artists and/or the editor’s who choose the artists to make superheroes seem like a ligitimate grown-up’s interest. FAIL! 

  I can’t name the offending artists, because when I pick up a comic book and it looks like every panel is a traced photograph, I just say “yuck” and put it back down. It’s stiff stuff, no sense of movement, no personality, NO FUN. And that’s what’s really missing: fun. Superheroes should be a fun genre, not dark and depressing. 

  Of course, exceptions prove the rule. I liked Alex Maleev on Daredevil, he obviously used models. But he made it work as comics. Dave McKean had a reference photo for every panel of “Cages” and he made it work. And I’m not refering to “realistic” illustrators like Neal Adams and his army of clones, though I’m not a fan of Adams, and I believe he started us down this road to overdrawn, overwritten “realistic” funless airless superheroes.

In comics, anyway. Still got Ben 10 and Teen Titans on TV. Teen Titans GO!


$4.00 Comics May 29, 2009

Filed under: Comic Books,Cover Price,Production Values,Uncategorized — brain77 @ 12:32 pm

Comic books cost $3.99 now. I’m done. That’s too much. I can’t do it anymore.

You publishers! You have made a mistake. I long for a return to a cruder product. Print those things on cheap pulp! They are not precious collectable works of art. They are comic books! They are enjoyed in stacks, you can’t buy just one a month! You are going to have to increase the quality to make them worth four bucks! These things don’t take 10 minutes to read any more. 

Seriously. Publishers need to rethink the biz. Crude production never put me off a comic. The slick package appeals to the ever shrinking (30 year old) fan-base, but to survive they’ll need to hook the new readers. Reverting to pulp, utilizing computer programs’ ability to optimize two-tone and black and white printing. The the thing a publisher should be asking, what would it take to publish a comic for a buck again?  Answer: Cruder production, higher quality content and a larger audience. Maybe it will never achieve the dollar goal, but having it as the goal would only help.

 Worried no one will buy a B&W comic? Manga is B&W. Manga is outselling comics. Do the math. Print comics that appeal to intellegent kids! Don’t continue to nickle and dime the middle-aged continuity-obcessed Legion of Asperger’s fanboygeeks. Their parents will eventually die and they will need their money for rent. Then who will buy your inbred, obcessive fanfic? 

Cruder production will piss off the hardcore fan boys. They will bitch and moan. But they won’t stop buying comic books. They can’t. If they could stop buying comic books, Infinite Crisis would have already put DC out of business. If shitty content won’t make them stop, I doubt cruder production will.

As it stands now, it’s a rich kids hobby. Except for the lucky ones who know where to get cheap back issues.

Update: Regarding the “Legion of Asperger’s” comment. I had in mind people who say “I think I have Asperger’s” (I’m guilty myself, it’s a fad) and not people actually diagnosed with said syndrome when I typed that. I doubt any of the 3 people who read it were offended…


Brain Damages May 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — brain77 @ 12:32 pm

I used to have a point of view. Now I just have a worn down nub of view.


The worst thing about watching 1980s movies & TV is the cringe-worthy cars. Prime example: Robo-Cop driving around in a Ford Tempo.


Dick Cheney, not a peep out of him in eight years a vice president, now he won’t shut up. Everytime I turn in the TV or log onto the web, there’s his face and he’s running his mouth. He says there’s no middle ground on the war on terrorism.
“No middle ground.” Isn’t the belief that there is no third option a diagnostic criteria for insanity? The belief that there is no third option makes people mean and stupid.
I don’t know if Obama is a good president or not. But he’s not insane and that’s a major improvement from previous administrations. You know it.


Final Reflections May 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — brain77 @ 8:14 am

Correct & Incorrect Methodology (Dos and Don’ts) of planing and designing a website.
Do make titles and headlines accurately describe the material on a page. Organize content in a logical order. Be brief.
Make the intended use of buttons obvious. Don’t use long button titles.
Do keep design simple. Do not use ultra-complicated features or too many pull down menus on the home page. Use a simple Search feature.  Keep navigation obvious. Do let the user know where he is in the site in regard to other pages. Krug, Don’t Make me Think.
Design according to usability guidelines (Ease of Learning, Efficiency of Use, Memorability, Error Frequency, User Satisfaction etc).  From www.usibility.gov .

Techniques an Components that are effective and ineffective in the success of a website.
Frustration with a site will drive the user away, so always design w/ the user’s satisfaction in mind. A user won’t stick w/ an unattractive or annoying site. Krug. Make use of ambient signifiers and action verbs in navigation to guide the user and make them feel they are accomplishing a task. Hoekman.

Google Analytics ( http://www.google.com/analytics/features.html )
has many features for tracking activity and gathering information. I can’t pretend to understand Most of them. The Internet Site Search makes the most sense. It can tell the sites owner how people are finding their site, which search words they use the most, what they look for when they get there where they end up. This info could help the site direct traffic to where it would do the most good. Geo marketing shows you where in the world you traffic is coming from. This can allow the site to better cater to it’s target audience. For instance, you get a lot of hits from China, you can research that the Chinese like Red and Gold (Prosperity) but White and Navy Blue remind them of Funerals, so you get rid of the Navy Blue font on the pages they hit most.

In my opinion, yes there is a background color I don’t like. I don’t like that white is the default background color on 99% of websites. (Statistic made up). White is all colors of the spectrum combined, this means that the cathode ray tube is zapping your retinas at full intensity. LCD screens may not be so bad, and it might be a matter of how long you have to stare at the screen. When I worked a Perry’s, that was 8 hours a day. The Program I used most was Smart Draw. Eventually I wised up and learned to change the background color while I work and switch it back to white for printing. I experimented with many colors. I found an orange/tan color to be easiest on the eyes. I’ve read that green is the color that the human eye never gets tired of looking at, but that didn’t work on a 19″ cathode ray monitor. Dumb monitors I used way back when at CrossCreek were black with green letters. Genius! Black is the absence of rays on your retinas. Let bring it back!
What I do like about a site is when I actually find the information that I’m looking for. That is such a rare thing.