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Entries from blogs tagged with “International affairs”

Strong Women

Cal Thomas' column (last week) on Benazir Bhutto took me by surprise. It wasn't just the fact that he had sipped tea with her, an experience he said he would never forget, but that he called her a "strong woman" and pointed out that "leadership is more than biology. It takes a well-crafted ideology and goals beyond one's self." He believed Bhutto had them in abundance. He also stated that:"Women who are strong in the things that matter most - courage and character - are a threat to weak men without such traits. Some men will go to any length to oppress such women, even invoking the "will of God" as the ultimate justification, when God wants to liberate women (and men), not subjugate them to self-righteous sinners."Hmm. I agree with Thomas. One doesn't have to go outside the United States, or even Kansas, to find rantings when strong women are appointed to or seek positions of leadership in national life. It wasn't too long ago that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church were attacked in some sections of the media simply because they were women. Do you remember any previous Speakers being ridiculed for the ties they wore, or the size of their biceps for that matter? The topic of Pelosi's pearls drew nearly as much attention as her appointment and, at one point, Hilary Clinton's cleavage was inflated to grab pretty large headlines.The US touts itself as the land of freedom, equality and opportunity but one wonders why a woman has not yet been elected to its highest office? England AND Ireland, small countries who could well fit into the state of Texas with plenty of room left over, have already had females in the top posts. England had its first woman Prime Minister nearly 30 years ago until she was ousted by the "Big Boys," and Ireland has experienced two female Presidents. And then there is Benazier Bhutto, the focus of Thomas' column, who became Prime Minister in a Muslim country. She balanced family life (with a husband and children ) with her political duties, and managed to retain her femininity. I know that comparisons are odious, but, in this case, they should give food for thought, even though some may choke in the process.I'm not saying that Hilary Clinton should be elected President simply because she's a woman; I'm saying that she shouldn't be ridiculed and dismissed just because she is. If she is the only women to emerge as a potential Presidential candidate, what is this saying about the women in America? Or what is it saying about the men?

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A Blog Entry regarding max1’s tired Bush Quote

"I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."- George Bush Sr. ( in response to a question about whether he recognised the equal citizenship and patriotism of American atheists)-max1, over and over and over, as he is want to do.Allegedly.While this is a favorite fall-back quote to prove the danger the GOP poses to non Christians, it is only alleged to have been uttered by Mr. Bush by one man: Rob Sherman. http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... quote was apparently uttered by the then sitting Vice President of the United States, poised for a run for President of the United States, in a "news conference." http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... no other person has ever been able to substantiate the claim made by Sherman. No video or audio of the "news conference" (involving the Vice President) exists. No other people at the "news conference" have stepped forward to substantiate the quote. In fact, in 2002 on his website http://www.robsherman.com Sherman wrote: "One reporter, in particular, who recalls this exchange quite well is Greg Lefevre. He was, in recent years, the San Francisco Bureau Chief of CNN until CNN fired him in 2001, along with a group of other fine reporters, for budgetary reasons. I've referred people to him about this several times over the past fifteen years, but I don't know where to find him now since CNN got rid of him."http://web.archive.org/web/20020323184302/http://www.robsherman.com/information/liberalnews/2002/0303.htmSeveral people have apparently contacted Mr. Lefevre, who is indeed alive and available at http://greglefevre.com/ and have been informed by him that he never heard any such utterance.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli..., an examination of Sherman's website reveals that he has since purged any mention of Lefevre.http://www.google.com/search?q=Lefevre+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.robsherman.com&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-aNow why on earth would a respected journalist put it all on the line like this? Standing alone in the storm of neocon blowback, why would this one lonely journalist stand by an indefensible quote? I'm sorry, did I say journalist?Who is Rob Sherman? Is he a tireless reporter, in the model of Dan Rather?http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2007/oct/27/atheists_daughter_fights_momentsilence_law/Why, he's here! Right here in a Lawrence Journal-World story! His daughter is filing a ridiculously frivolous lawsuit challenging a moment of silence law in Illinois! Turns out Rob Sherman may just be a guy with an axe to grind, and he may be grinding away, with his daughter in tow.Rob Sherman is a lonely oppressed atheist, fighting the GOP anti-atheist pogroms. Now the alleged Bush quote makes a lot more sense! Now Sherman can get a thousand atheist or anti-GOP blog posters to use the "quote" as a signature file, and have them help carry the water, potentially giving millions of web-surfers the uneasy feeling that the GOP is poised to revoke citizenship rights of non-Christians. Erosion of Democracy, indeed!Allegedly.

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Rememberance

There is anger between factionsThere is no understanding Differences not always celebrated There is sadness across a countryPakistan has been hit, as Israel once wasGreat leaders of Peace fallThey are remembered and mournedBenazir Bhutto led a fightMade things different for the womenPushed for a change that was resistantBut never gave in, never lost her footingExiled and loss of powerDid not stop her from her fightThis is a great womanA loss for PakistanA loss for the Middle EastFor women everywhereThe loss will be feltjust as Rabin and othersThe fight for peace is often violentA single tear flows downSadness at this lossFollowed her since middle schoolI pray this day that her death Will not be in vain But that when others remember herThey will keep her spirit aliveAnd strive toward peace and understanding

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Why Obama Will Never Win

Obama may look like the winning horse leading the pack at the beginning of this year's Presidential race, but he won't be able to keep up the pace all the way to the finish line. He isn't seasoned. He isn't experienced.

Neither he or Edwards have the lineage behind them that would be required to go the distance.

Still, Obama is working the track and has picked his way from the back of the pack and moved into a key position to make a run for the final stretch. It hasn't been an easy task. He has been hit by dirt and mud as much as any of his opponents. He seems to be gaining speed. He is a full length ahead of Edwards and Edwards is a nose in front of Clinton.

I am glad I have my bet on Clinton though. She is saving herself for the finish line. She has great stamina, loves to be pushed for a grand finish and is well seasoned and confident. She stands head and shoulders above the competition because of her previous experiences in other races such as these - some of which she watched from the sidelines.

Obama has blinders on; he won't be able to see the filly passing him on the inside track until he begins to taste the dust that is stirred up as she leaves him far behind.

And she hasn't even begun to work up a lather.

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Anyone See the New Hampshire Debates?

Mitt Romney is probably my least favorite candidate for president this year. But even I had to feel sorry for the guy when he was used as a virtual punching bag by the other Republican candidates in New Hampshire last night. Even John McCain was cracking up at the one liners he delivered at Romney's expense. (My personal favorite was when he referred to Mitt's knack for flip flopping by calling him a "real candidate for change"). There was buzz on the cable news shows about Fred Thompson's performance, but I can't say I was blown away. I thought Ron Paul had some interesting points about the economy and wished he had more time to go into further detail. Overall, I thought McCain handled the attack on his immigration stance pretty well. This is one of the areas most Republicans differ with him, but I have to say it's one of the things that make me like the guy.On the democratic side, Hillary had the most to prove after coming in third place in Iowa. Unfortunately, although she did have some good points on foriegn policy, she was the first to attack and then quickly assumed the defensive. Edwards allied himself with Obama on the whole change notion, and when Clinton snapped back to defend herself she came off as a bit too angry. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite a Howard Dean moment, but it was close enough.I can't say Obama was as inspiring in this debate as he was in his speech following his win in Iowa, but at least he didn't make any bad moves. Edwards was on fire about his personal mission for attacking corporations, and his alliance with Obama seemed to hint at a possible President-VP pairing that would be pretty powerful. What did you think about these latest discussions on the future of our country?

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Let’s Caucus About the Caucus

Well, it's official. I am a political geek. While most of Lawrence cheered about the Jayhawks winning Virginia Tech, I cheered about Barack Obama winning the Iowa Democratic Caucus. How did this happen? When did a cynical 31 year old with no party affiliation start taking a genuine interest in the political process? Maybe it is the war.... or the economy... or the fact that motherhood has given me a vested interest in the future of our country. But whatever the reason, I was glued to MSNBC not ESPN last night. So, what do a couple of meetings in Iowa really mean in the grand scheme of things?Basically, it's about momentum. The Iowa Caucuses are the first chance candidates get to prove themselves. Obama showed that he can bring in the young people, Huckabee showed us he can carry that evangelical clout, Ron Paul proved that his supporters weren't accurately portrayed by polls, and McCain... well, McCain found out he really needs to win New Hampshire. From here, the campaigns realize who the real competition is and can stradegize about how to move forward. I think Obama will get a huge boost. In his post-caucus appearance, he spoke of change and unity with such passion analysts are comparing him to Bobby Kennedy. This probaby means it is time for the competition to attack him. It is easy to make predictions, but once the results from New Hampshire come in, everything can (and will) change. I think what's exciting about the Iowa Caucuses is the knowledge that election year has begun. Democracy is at work, things can be changed and this is the first step in the process.

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20,000 Kansas poor children are without health insurance.

President Bush gave us a New Years present with the signing of the SCHIP legislation (Health Wave in Kansas). This legislation extended government subsidized health insurance for children in families with limited income through March 2009. Without this extension Kansas would have serious problems maintaining the Health Wave program. President Bush twice vetoed this legislation because Congress, controlled by Democrats, wanted to extend the program to more children. But that is not the story here.Kansas Action for Children reports that there are 20,000 children living below the poverty line without health insurance (http://www.kac.org/ftp/File/Publications/KC_datanotes2007.pdf). This is 39% of Kansas children without health insurance.A White House statement dated December 19, 2007 praised Congress for passing SCHIP legislation that President Bush could sign. This statement said that this is an "important program for America's low income children." There seems to be a contradiction here. What was debated was not health insurance for children living in families below the federal poverty level. Medicaid is the health insurance program for these children. SCHIP is for children in families above the poverty line. The debate was where to draw the line for eligibility. Should it be at 150% of poverty, 185% of poverty, 200% of poverty or higher?Why isn't Medicaid working for the 20,000 Kansas uninsured children living in poor families? There are many answers. For one, consider a single mother with one child living on less than $13,690 a year. That is the current poverty line for this family ($17,170 if she has 2 children). Incidentally, the US Census reports that more poor children live in married couple families but their challenges are similar. So mom needs to get to her job (81% of women heading poor households work according to the US Census), keep food on the table, take care of child care and, by the way, get to the SRS office and take care of Medicaid applications and requirements. This includes the issue of proving that you are a US Citizen. When did we last see those birth certificates?She needs help. More attention, both individually and collectively, needs to be given to these families and you can help.1.Statewide advocacy organizations need to focus on getting children in poor families enrolled in Medicaid.2.Local social service organizations need to advocate for these families and remove whatever barriers exist to Medicaid enrollment. 3.What about a house to house survey in poor neighborhoods that identifies poor families and provides assistance with enrolling in Medicaid?4.Friends and neighbors can volunteer to help enroll poor families5.Friends and neighbors can question local social service providers on their efforts to help poor families enroll in Medicaid or Health Wave.By the way, think about the economic benefit to the local community if the medical expenses of all poor families were covered by Medicaid rather than the local community through donations to organizations like Health Care Access.

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Frogmore Stew

Except for sub freezing temperatures outside, 25 co-workers and their families might feel they are in South Carolina rather than gathered in rural Douglas County on New Years Day.What created the warm southern feeling on a cold Kansas day? Frogmore Stew.Named for Frogmore, the mailing address for the residents of St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina, the stew is a combination of ingredients readily available on this historical island. While their neighbors in the States might have a BBQ, St. Helena residents add shrimp, potatoes, corn, and spicy bratwurst together in a pot. Our first try at the Low Country specialty began with a round of home brewed beer. Created by our favorite brew master and co-worker, it was dark, smooth, and served at room temperature. While enjoying our ale, we heated water and seasoning packets in a big (very big) pan over a propane burner. While new potatoes are the best choice, we opted for a large, firm baking potatoes cut in large pieces and dropped in the pot after the water was hot. Following potatoes, in went the precooked and quartered hot and mild brats. Almost the same time frozen corn on the cob slid in. Setting the table consisted of spreading plastic and newspapers over the entire surface. In addition, we added shrimp sauce, homemade bread and butter, hot sauces to taste, and many napkins.When the shrimp went in the pot, everyone gathered around ready to eat. Five minutes later, two people carried the heavy hot pot outside and poured the hot liquid through a strainer held by the third. Finally, they dumped the steaming ingredients in the middle of the table.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... Stew6 quarts water
¾ cup Old Bay Seasoning
2 pounds new red potatoes
2 pounds hot smoked sausage links, cut into 2 inch pieces
12 ears corn, husked and quartered
4 pounds large fresh shrimp, unpeeled
Bring water & seasoning to a boil in large stockpot.
Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add sausage and cook for five minutes more. Add corn and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink, about five minutes. Drain immediately and serve. Serves 12 depending on appetites.

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Unity Politics Anyone?

I just read an article about NYC Mayor Bloomberg's upcoming meeting at the University of Oklahoma. The goal of the day long session will be to discuss ways to break down the barriers of party lines in an attempt to increase efficiency in the government. This novel idea (yes, any idea involving government and efficiency is pretty unheard of these days) is called unity politics. There are some heavy hitters on the guest list, including former presidential candidate Gary Hart, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, Senator Chuck Hagel and former senator John Danforth.I have to say, I am quite intrigued by this notion of bipartisan politics and independent candidates. What about a McCain-Lieberman ticket? And surely, Ralph Nader belongs on somebody's administration. How about Ron Paul and: okay, I'm not sure who Ron Paul would team with, but you get the picture. Hey, if Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda could team up on The West Wing, the idea must not be too outside the realm of public consumption.Seriously, though, I think most Americans agree it is time for change. Our two party system has stymied things for too long and most of us are ready to shake things up a bit. Bloomberg and friends may have just the political muscle and funds to make that happen. I am not saying they will necessarily back the best candidate, but it sure would stir the pot and allow for some more options out there. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting and can't wait to see what might come of it. Of course, there is always the possibility that nothing will materialize and this session will be gridlocked just as much as Washington. But political change begins with discussions and I say who better to start the discussion with your neighbors? So, let's hear from some Lawrencians: what are your dream teams for candidates- bipartisan, independent or otherwise? You can even throw in a few just for laughs if modern politics has gotten you really jaded.

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WIC participation helps prevent obesity.

An Associated Press article from Thursday December 27 brought attention to the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. The news was that 3 stores that specialized in serving WIC participants were going out of business. More than 30 people commented on the article in the Lawrence Journal World. It is clear from the comments that the program and its benefits are not well understood including the fact that there are many other stories that supply WIC products. Let's change the headline Children who participate in the WIC program at age 4 are at significantly lower risk of being overweight. This is according to a RAND Corporation study of 2004 (Rand Working Paper 172). This wasn't reported yesterday so it is not "real" news. Previous research has found that WIC reduces the risk of infant mortality, low birth weight and reduces the cost of maternal and neonatal care. While not news, many people do not know of these substantial benefits. WIC basics WIC is a program that was originally intended to prevent hunger by providing food assistance to pregnant, postpartum and lactating women. This is an overly simple description of the program. Complex rules and regulations make a concise description of who is eligible and what they receive impossible. To check out the details go to http://www.kdheks.gov/nws-wic/wic_nutrition_prog.htm. The Department of Health and Environment administers the program in Kansas under regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture that Congress charged with developing the program.The rules are not complex because KDHE or USDOA are large government bureaucracies. They certainly are. The rules are complex because we don't trust poor people to make good decisions. We don't want people that are not really poor to benefit and we don't want people buying caviar when they are suppose to buy milk. Of course some people make bad decisions but our paranoia probably adds more cost to program administration than fraud would. The Rand studyThe findings of the Rand study that children who participate in the WIC program are at reduced risk of being overweight are quite impressive. Childhood obesity is a problem with major future health care consequences. A program that reduces the likelihood of obesity may significantly reduce future health care costs. We already know that WIC participation reduces maternal and neonatal care costs. Are WICs benefits due to the food that the family receives or the nutrition education they receive? The study couldn't determine that. It is likely that it is some of each. Were the children in the study different in some way that would explain the results? The study found that the WIC children were less well off than others. In other words those most in need were participating in the program.This study demonstrates that WIC is a program that reaches children and families who need it and produces substantial benefits. We should all be supporters.Reaching out to poor women and childrenA disturbing finding in the RAND study is that only 38% of eligible children between ages one and four use WIC. More than twice as many poor children could be receiving these benefits and are not. Data for Kansas or Douglas county are not available but it is likely that there are local women and children who could benefit from the program but are not participating.If you know a struggling mother with young children, ask if they know about WIC. Volunteer to help determine if they are eligible. The KDHE website is useful for that and it identifies Gayle Sherman of the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department as the local contact.

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Has the Assassination Changed Your Opinion of the Candidates?

Experience was the buzz word on the campaign trail today as Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after a political rally. It has all the stuff screenwriters dream of. A courageous woman with a tragic past: allegations of political corruption: a return to politics to restore order to a troubled land: and finally, a tragic ending. But what will the coda for this film be? Will Al Qaeda gain control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, or will some other leader emerge out of Bhutto's shadow?With all these questions in the air, America felt the all too familiar twinges of concern over national security today. And who better to assuage these fears than the '08 presidential candidates. The future leader of our nation is out there- he or she will put us at ease:. right? Well, maybe. Let's see how they fared.McCain and Clinton seemed to take center stage as they were seen as the most "experienced." I bought McCain's grandfatherly assurance that he knew all the players in this game and could take on this challenge if given the reins. Clinton, I found to be smooth and confident, but does the word "experienced" fit her? I'm not so sure. As first lady, she did meet with foreign leaders, including Bhutto, but does this really translate to foreign policy experience? I say this in light of the recent information that has come out on her lack of involvement in the White House affairs during Bill's presidency (and I don't just mean Monica). Perhaps, we are supposed to accept Bill's experience as her experience, but this seems a bit condescending for our first female candidate. I liked the way Edwards stepped up and called Musharraf on the phone. Okay, maybe not much came from it, but I give the guy points for taking some action, not just putting out a press release.Giuliani made an attempt to connect the events in Pakistan to 9-11 in order to prove he had experience (there's that buzz word again). But, as McCain pointed out, Giuliani was involved in post-crisis problem solving, not necessarily anti-terrorist dealings.At the bottom end of the scale, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama seemed kind of awkward with their responses to the tragedy. At least Hillary seemed comfortable with her statement on the assassination. My guy, Obama, was a bit disappointing. He has strong opinions on Pakistan and Musharraf, so why did he seem so unprepared? You think someone on his campaign staff would have helped him get his act together before he picked up that microphone. If you are pitching yourself as an agent of change, use that to your advantage and turn the experience question on its head (i.e. the way we have been doing things has not been working, so let's try something new).Well, yesterday, it was immigration; today it is national security. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. But in politics, you should always be prepared.

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Benazir Bhutto

The stark news ricocheted around the world today - Benazir Bhutto assassinated. Newspaper headlines will try to summarize the tragedy in tomorrow's editions and many columns will be written about her life and the impact of her death on the world's political scene. How can we ever hope to capture the life and courage of the first woman to become head of Government in an Islamic State? In the US, and even Ireland and the United Kingdom, we take it for granted that woman have the right to hold the highest offices in the land. Such rights are not automatic for women in Islamic countries. The achievements of Benezir Bhutto took the kind of courage that goes beyond words, and only those closest to her will know what it cost.She knew the risks she was taking as she tried to return to Goverment. She was willing to pay the price that sadly ended in her death today. Her husband has lost his wife, her children a mother - and women all over the world have lost a living symbol of the strength and courage of the feminine spirit.

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Freedom Machine

Married less than two months, it was the summer of 1966 when we drove to a nearby state lake for our first overnight campout. We had an old army tent and plenty of food and beer. We slept on the ground. To those humble, early marriage beginnings, we added two children and various types of outdoor sleeping accommodations. Our family enjoyed freedom of open spaces, solitude, beautiful scenery and relaxing around a fire. Several years ago, our children long gone and retirement at hand, we began thinking about a recreational vehicle. In the past, we traveled to one place. We now plan longer road trips. We did not want to give up our independence in overnight accommodations, but needed something suitable for our age.We were not alone in our wish to own a RV. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) states more baby boomers own RVs than any other age group. Although the purchase of new vehicles will slip somewhat in 2008 because of higher gas prices, projections indicate sales will still be the fifth highest in 30 years.Our search for an RV fitting our lifestyle started at the yearly early January Kansas City Sports Show in Bartle Hall. Even though a new RV would not fit our budget, we walked through the units on display to determine our preferences. We wanted something small enough to park anywhere and self-contained so we could stop for the night without a reservation. Finally deciding on a small van conversion with gas mileage comparable to popular SUVs, we began looking for a used unit.Newspaper want ads and online sales sites were excellent sources, but good deals moved fast. I did not hesitate to call or email questions. Without fail, owners were anxious to share information. Six months later, we purchased a five-year-old 17-foot conversion van found on an Internet-listing site. It had 17,000 miles on the speedometer and cost less than half of a new model. We picked it up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.It is everything we hoped. You might see us tailgating at football games or parked on Mass street in Lawrence. We have been to Maine, states in the Midwest and especially enjoy two-day trips right here in Kansas. We are planning an Alaska trip a year from this summer. We feel as secure parking in a large chain store parking lot (boon docking) as a remote hilltop. We use it year round. We call it our Freedom Machine.

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Merry Christmas From Your Candidates

'Tis the season for eating too much cookies, maxing out your credit cards and, wait a minute: groan inducing political ads?Now that the Iowa Caucuses have been moved up to January 3rd, campaigning has spilled onto the holiday and left us with these sometimes humorous, occasionally embarrassing media clips. And, yes, Virginia, there actually is one that touches on the true meaning of Christmas. It all started with a seemingly innocent bookcase. Mike Huckabee's ad caused quite a stir when a cross shaped bookcase was seen behind his head while he spoke about Christmas. People wondered whether this was an overt evangelical message or merely a coincidence. I think it's a bit of a stretch to call this Christian propaganda, but the filmmaker side of me does find it hard to believe that no one called this "coincidence" to the candidate's attention during the filming. With directors, production designers and cinematographers involved in even the most basic productions, there are usually a lot of eyes on the video tap to pick up on visual symbols, intentional or not. Moving on to the more innocuous, meet-the-family ads: Barack Obama and Ron Paul both had some serviceable spots with the obligatory cute family members getting in the holiday spirit. These festive ads are meant to show us that they are not just politicians but, in fact, "real guys." I think it would have been more real to see them loafing on the coach after turkey dinner or getting into arguments with family members, but that's just me.John Edwards took the gig more seriously and drove home the issue of those without homes. This somewhat dour message stood in contrast to his soft lighting and cheerful sweater. I think if you are going to take a gritty approach to the holiday you should get out of the studio and hit the streets. Use the visual medium of television to get your hands dirty. Unless you are afraid of messing up that $3,000 haircut. Moving on, the next two political ads are quite simply in bad taste. With a forced attempt at humor, Hillary Clinton finds a gift under her tree for universal pre-K. It just feels condescending. A gift from her? Aren't we the taxpayers? But even this wasn't as bad as Giuliani's Jerry Lewis impression as he tries to ham it up with Santa over fruit cakes. Come on guys, leave the acting to Fred Thompson.Last but not least is John McCain's Christmas ad. I was a little skeptical at the opening- a slow motion image of McCain's POW days. It set the stage for something a bit heavy handed. But then, he tells a heartfelt story about how his guard wrote a cross in the dirt on Christmas day. He touched on the universality of Christmas and left us with the feeling that he is just the guy to bridge cultural gaps. There was nothing subliminal, false or cornball here. I couldn't help but remember that episode of "30 Rock" where Tina Fey says there's an 80% chance she'll tell her friends she voted for Barack Obama when she actually voted for John McCain. So, take them or leave them, love them or hate them, it just goes to show you politics don't take a holiday. Personally, I was hoping that Mitt Romney would have had an ad where he said he "saw" his father ride with Santa Claus, but you can't get everything on your list.

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Just about …. and more

A few years ago, I took my husband to the Tate Art Gallery in St. Ives, Cornwall. The building is pretty impressive. It overlooks the sea, and catches the light of the sun as it travels around the Bay.We arrived early and found various piles of dust and dirt as we moved up the stairs."Wouldn't you think they would have cleared that up before the place opened," I remarked.We arrived on the first floor and along the side of the wall in one of the galleries was another enormous pile of dust and dirt."What's all that dirt doing lying around here?" I asked the attendant."That's not dirt," she said with a sniff. "That's part of the exhibition."She directed me to the details of the artist near the pile of .... art.It didn't quite end there. In another room our eyes were assaulted by piles of rotten carrots placed strategically on the black tiles of what looked like a large checkers' board; the white tiles were untarnished by the putrid vegetables. The "work" was titled something like "Desperation."I haven't quite looked at carrots in the same way again.The "mother" Gallery, the Tate (Modern) in London, has now found a creative way to get rid of the dirt piles and carrots. A large crack, with a title, has appeared in one of the gallery floors. You would be forgiven for thinking it might be called "Cracked," or "Art is not all it's cracked up to be," but it isn't. It's titled "Shibboleth," and it's supposed to symbolize racial and class divisions. Apparently it's getting great reviews. I know I'm probably missing the point somewhere along the line, so maybe I need to be enligtened. When do cracks and piles of dirt turn into pieces of art? I've noticed several cracks in my garage floor today as well as piles of dirty salty grime (leftovers from last week's ice,) and I'm now looking for a suitable title for a possible masterpiece. I know I might have to do some rearranging to get the full artistic effect but I'll give it a try. How will I know if it's art? I wonder if I need to get a licence from the City in order to charge a fee? Any ideas about what I should call it, and what it might represent?

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Crush on Obama

I wanted to like Hillary, really I did. I was rooting for her in much the same way as I root for womenfilmmakers. I go out of my way to see even the most mediocre sounding premises and manage to overlook theoccasional bad dialogue and unimaginative camera workin the interest of women directorship. But unless I am in a really "you go-girl" kindof mood, even I must admit it is just not justifiableto like most of these movies. Or, in this case, this candidate.Hillary is in a difficult position, I'll give herthat. A woman president would be hard to take for somepeople. Heck, my old school cinematography professordidn't know what to think of me as a female Directorof Photography. But a chick Commander in Chief? I canonly imagine the fun he'd have with that one.So, understandably, Clinton is trying very hard not toappear soft or give any indication that her womanhoodwould affect her leadership. But as a result ofdistancing herself from her estrogen, Hilary ismissing one of the things that our sex is know for passion! And this is one thing Senator Barack Obama has goingfor him. I was cruising around in a rental car that had XMradio during the time of the Jefferson Jackson dinnersand got to hear all the candidates back to back. (Sidenote- XM station POTUS 08 is one of the coolestthings ever- I lived in LA for eight years and alwayshated the traffic, but that week with POTUS, I didn'tmind it a bit.) I was still in that "maybe Hillary"mode when Obama put in his two cents and that's when I wouldn't be voting for a woman this time. I was actually moved by a political speech and I didn't see it on the History Channel.I know that voting decisions are supposed to be blindto issues like gender and color, but the idea of ayoung girl seeing a female president get inauguratedprobably biased my first look at these democraticcandidates.But in the end, you have to go with your heart. And ifObama is elected, he will also be an inspiration to manychildren for years to come. There's a handful of promising women directorsemerging lately (like Kimberly Pierce and PattiJenkins, to name a few), so it's only a matter of timebefore we get our first female president. Hopefully,she's one worth caring about.

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Sit and Wait

Sometimes you sit and waitThere is nothing you can doWhen everything seems to be going wellthe other shoe dropsLeaves you wonderingIs it really worth it?You feel failure and despairDon't know where to turn or what to doYou feel the will leave through your fingertipsThe tears flow down your faceIs it really worth it....to fail?Everyone dies after allthere is no where to reach toNo one to pull you upIf you have used all your strength Do you just let go? Fall like a petal from a wilted flower...hit the ground and get swept away......join the petals that have left before you...reunite in the eternal garden......

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In-Box or Mailbox

The New York Time published an article Sunday, December 16, by Phyllis Korkki entitled Still Choosing the Mailbox Over the In-Box.In the article Ms Korkki noted that today 275 million first-class cards and letters are expected to be mailed. From Thanksgiving to Christmas the USPS estimates 20 billion cards, letters, packages and other pieces of mail will be handled.Korkki goes on to say many thought the Internet would be the beginning of the end of the USPS. Instead, the Internet, especially the online shopping aspect, has created the need for hard copy as well as a service to ship the packages. Consequently, since 2001, the first class volume of mail has remained fairly steady.Finally, Korkki says,"...although email is now a permanent part of the communication landscape, the old-fashioned letter is far from dead...."I agree. It is a great feeling to open my mailbox and find a letter from family or friends. I can reread it as often as I like and save it for reference later when I return the favor. And, sometimes the short three sentence notes are meaningful. My grand kids love to receive a note about something significant in their lives.What do you think. Do you still choose the mailbox over the in-box?

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Like a Broken Vase

All it took was the thought of something that will never beRemembering that love rarely comes alongAnd when it does it usually doesn't lastThat one moment, one ache in my heartTo take me back to JulyBack to the moment I answered the phoneHeard the hesitation in his voice"Hey Claire, have you talked to mom yet?"I hadn't he would soon realizeHe had to be the one to tell me"Pete shot himself last night, he's dead"Not a day goes by that I don't feel the emptinessThere is something that is missing in my lifeThere is a void that no one can fillNothing will ever heal that painThose that leave me behind, don't leave a voidBecause the void was already thereI am broken, unable to move onI am vase that cannot be filledFor it is crackedA dream that goes unfulfilledBecause I never wakeI am the rose that never blooms Because of the late spring frostI am the wounded horse That must be laid downI will never be whole againThe pain continues to comeIn waves it flows through my bodyLike my body has been hit by a volt of lighteningI fall limp after tears have run til' they run no moreMy body is exhaustedI fear lossI fear Saturday calls from himI miss the laughterThe jokes about "Lak MiSing"This American Life will never be the sameThe life I live will never be the same

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Anatomy of an Ice Storm

It is Monday evening and a major ice storm forecast looms. My backup front wheel drive 1987 model car is ready for my ninety mile route. With studded snow tires in front, it is better than four-wheel drive on ice.Tuesday morning it is raining steadily. The temperature lingers at freezing. I am not sure I have seen an ice storm begin with so much water run off. By noon it is running over the low water bridge on Deer Creek. Slowly the temperature drops and ice begins to accumulate on trees, fences and electrical wires. Trees bend more and more under the weight. Lines must be going down as the radio reports lost electricity.Low night temperatures and a thick coating of ice give way Wednesday morning to limbs, mainly Elm, lying under trees. Several times I hear a sharp crack and see a limb go down. Hardy cedar tree limbs simply bend to make a tent of ice forming a house underneath for rabbits and quail. Pines bend but hold. Oaks with leaves still attached have an extra burden. I saw one large branch loose the battle. With pastures frozen over, cattle stand at gates waiting for a bale of last summer's hay. Geese honk as they follow the Wakarusa Valley. Are they thinking of turning south? I would not blame them.I had company on the roads. Douglas County, Clinton and Kanwaka townships are busy blading and throwing sand. I wonder if they have been out all night as many roads and all bridges and steep hills are treated. A rancher with a big bale heads for the pasture. Along with me, brown, yellow and white delivery trucks bring holiday orders. It seems everyone else smartly stays home.Thursday dawns beautiful. There is no other word to describe the ice covered world under a clear sky and sunshine. Branches encased in ice radiated like stars or prism-like spectrum of colors. Ice on metal mailboxes melts from the inside out. A drive under a tree results in a barrage of ice falling like rain. Squirrels and turkeys, run about excited to feel the warmth on their backs. As the sun warms, steam rises. Birds, especially finches and sparrows fluttered in cedar branches. Hawks use warm updrafts from the melted fields to soar low looking for prey. Cattle spread out over the same fields grazing contently.Three days, the ice storm is history. In our area, most have electricity. Trees survive although some still bend as ice clings on northern exposures.What's next? Snow.

December 2007
Click on picture for pictures of the ice storm.
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