Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sharpton defends Jesse Jackson mistake

"We all make mistakes, we all have erred." "But we should not throw away everything when we err, and to say that Rev. Jackson made a mistake is correct, but to act like Rev. Jesse Jackson is not pivotal to our movement, our history ... is wrong."

I wondered why the usually loud-mouthed Reverend Sharpton was so uncharacteristically quiet on this issue.......his dear friend was being slaughtered in the media and not word one?

And now we see........he thinks that we are of the opinion that Reverend Jesse Jackson's behavior negates his work in our movement - not so, Reverend Sharpton. I cannot imagine a black person in America who does not recognize the amazing work that these men have done on our behalf. However, I can imagine a world where the green-eyed monster does not have to rear its ugly head and act like a crab in a barrel - desperately trying to reach the top, only to claw down its brothers in its efforts.

Reverend Jesse Jackson is perhaps realizing that his time has come and gone, hence his petulant and grossly inappropriate outburst.

Should Marion Jones be pardoned?

Years ago, my sisters and I won medals galore as track runners in Southeast London.

I have watched Marion Jones and many others win numerous gold and silver medals for their amazing feats. Now, along with Ben Johnson and other disgraced athletes, Marion Jones is dropping her head in shame. It seems that the lady would like President Bush to entertain the notion of providing her a presidential pardon.

Pardon me? She lied to federal agents - that equates to jail time for the likes of you and me. Yes, I know that she has a young family - perhaps she should have thought harder before committing perjury.

We are just over a week away from the summer Beijing Olympics - the president could not send a worse message to the young athletes if he pardons Jones. From the athletes who are from China who might have lied about their ages (with help from capable adults, I am sure) to get passports to claim they are 16, to those who have already been barred from competition for using performance enhancing drugs.

No pardon should be allowed - lying is lying and lying to a federal agent equates to jail time for the rest of us, as I said.

Monday, July 21, 2008

By a margin of 5 to 1, why do Europeans prefer Obama?

My English brothers in law are thrilled at the change that is engulfing America.

Years ago, prior to the Iraqi war, my neice named Bush a warmonger. She was a teen for the summer in the US as a volunteer at a camp for underprivileged youth. She saw the writing on the wall, even at her tender age.

Europeans are yearning for a time when they can again love their American brothers and sisters. No more of this"Big I, little You!" Bush's way of diplomacy. No more fist slamming, rubbing the shoulders of Angela Merkel inappropriately, I might add - and to do that to a German to boot - they are, after all, less than warm and fuzzy - I know - I lived there for 7 years and almost married one. No more of this "we know better than you" nonsense.

Finally, a true diplomat - one who, in spite of his relative youth (he is just a year shy of my 45 years) - gets diplomacy at its very core. His foreign relations advisors number some 300, vs McCain's 30. Who is it who is serious about foreigh policy again? Which candidate is making the most progress?

I can speak for my European family members, and for myself when I say - we all want to be the change that Obama speaks of.

Olympic games rewind

Let us turn back the clock to the winter of 2002. The Winter Olympic Games were scheduled to come to the mountains of the Great Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, the mountains were nowhere to be seen. They were hidden - not by an inversion - a naturally occurring phenomenon whereby warm air traps cold air and creates a layer of white "fog-like" covering of the mountains and valley, but by - gasp! Smog. Yes, the dirty secret was out - the great Salt Lake Valley has some of the worst air quality in the nation - second only to L.A. on any given "smog/inversion" day. The folks at Utah Department of Transportation sent out an edict - residents were to get their vehicles off the road and carpool whenever possible, so that our friends would be welcomed by the vistas, not the "inversion." Within days, the smog had lifted, due exclusively to there being fewer cars on the road. At my local LDS Church later that week, a woman remarked that God had surely wanted the Olympics in Utah as he alone had cleared the skies. I retorted that the lesser amount of cars on the highway must surely have more to do with it.

And now China is forcing their cars off their roads - it seems they have the same problem - smog! How ironic that this great and yet overpopulated nation has allowed their athletes to train exclusively behind the Zion Curtain - that's Utah to the rest of the world - or at BYU Hawaii. The LDS Church had to promise not to preach their gospel and their PR folks came up with badges for their staffers to wear- "Friends to all nations" - against the backdrop of an LDS temple. The Mormons, it would seem have much in common with the theocracy they practice in Utah and the communism that is practiced in China.


Zimbabwe rivals sign agreement

It seems that Robert Mugabe and his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai have signed an agreement. The former is a dictator and a mercenary - slaughtering and torturing the followers of the latter, the latter left the country recently before elections were to take place, not wanting more bloodshed. Which of the two is the REAL leader?

The two men have come together to agree on working to end the political strife that has decimated their motherland in recent months.

I am not holding my breath, but at least it is a start......

Friday, July 18, 2008

Racism in America

According to a recent NY Times and CBS poll, there is a continuing disparity between what white and black Americans think about race relations.

I don't have the statistics handy - I don't really need them. What I do know is that blacks and whites are not integrating, either in work, at school or in their neighborhoods. They are not spending a significant amount of time with people of another race. Blacks think that race relations have changed little in the last 30 years and whites think they have. How can one know the answer to that question when one lives in a homogeneous society?

During recent months, Barack Obama has spoken of race - thanks to his former Reverend Wright, he has spoken more on race than he expected, I imagine. He has spoken of missing fathers, broken homes, child support reform and more. He is trying to have crucial conversations, but the American people are not ready to have them.

Jesse Jackson has criticized Obama for not addressing issues germane to the black race, but what has he been doing in the last 10 years? I don't recall him having any crucial conversations. It is so easy to point the finger at others when all in our own house is not in order.

It scares me to think that intelligent thinking Americans will really not vote for Obama simply based on his race - he is, after all, 1/2 black and 1/2 white - he is NOT black - he is NOT white - he is BOT. I am offended at the notion that he should have to deny his heritage to appease anyone. Indeed, while his mother was pursuing her further studies, it was his white maternal grandparents who stepped in and raised him to be the person who was able to get scholarships to Harvard.

Enough already.

Let's start talking about race - in our homes, in our places of work, our places of worship and anywhere else where it is appropriate and expedient.

I know that the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church are both having these conversations. Others would do well to follow suit.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sudanese President Charged With Genocide

Frankly, this is a headline I did not think I would ever see.

Who would have the temerity to charge a sitting head of state with genocide? According to today's Washington Post, NAIROBI, July 14 -- "The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir Monday with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for orchestrating a brutal, scorched-earth campaign against particular ethnic groups in Sudan's western Darfur region." The ICC is the same group that brought charges against nazi war criminals, if memory serves.

I have been to many protests in my fourty odd years on this earth. One of the most heart-wrenching was organized by an amazing woman, Anabel Scheinberg - we met in Salt Lake City, Utah at the City and County building. The Mayor was also in attendance and shared heartfelt comments on the situation waging a world away. This woman, Anabel, a Jew, was determined to see that these atrocities not continue to take place on her watch. Some 100 or so people attended that protest. The mood was solemn, serious and one of quiet desperation.

I have long since left Utah, but am glad to see that for the first time, a sitting head of state is going to be made accountable (such as he can be) for his hand in these deplorable happenings. It happened on his watch - he is the head of the nation - he should know what is going on, and should be doing all in his power to see that such actions cease.

Are we taking a chance with what might happen as a result of this legal action? Absolutely. Someone has to take a stand for the people of Darfur.

Oreo, cracker and the ilk........

I first heard these terms from one of my sons. He used it to describe himself, being a child with mixed parentage - a white father and a black mother. The term cracker was directed to his friend, a white Jewish boy. My son was an adolescent at the time - Yes, I had taught him better and hope that he makes me prouder these days even when I am not around to correct his foibles.

Why on earth would this term Oreo be used on the McLaughlin Report to describe Barack Obama? Why shouldn't he benefit from all civil rights strides made on behalf of ALL blacks in this country, African American, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Cubans, Jamaicans and on and on......

Jesse Jackson seems to think that Obama has not earned the right to be where he is, not having the correct parentage and all.......should Jesse Jackson's illegitimate child be doomed to a life of welfare, simply because he or she was born out of wedlock?

Obama can't win for losing - he is too black for whites, not black enough for blacks, and his skin tone - well, that's another story....

Over the weekend, I attended a large gathering in the back garden of a former associate. Unfortunately, they had neglected to inform the neighbor that they were having a large group of friends over. The police were subsequently called, found nothing amiss and then the insults began to be hurled across the fence. This gathering was of people who were fairly well educated, professionals, and yet, some of them chose to use the term "cracker" to refer to the neighbors who it seemed always gave them grief about one thing or another.

Was this really about race, or was something else afoot? I don't know, and I don't particularly care to know. I do know that race relations have reached a boiling point in this country, which is why the New Yorker finds nothing wrong with their distasteful cover this week.

When will it end? Dr. King is turning over in his grave, methinks.

Enough! BET, MTV Hurt Our Children

It appears that a group of concerned black parents are concerned with the trash that has been spewing over the airwaves of BET and MTV for decades. I struggled with monitoring my children and tried valiantly to keep them away from the influences of gangsta rap, suggestive clothing and base lyrics. Tipper Gore tried in her own way and was successful in getting labels on CD covers to warn parents of what their children would potentially be listening to.

I have one son who is a rapper, and is particularly fond of gangsta rap - another likes rap and R & B. They both watched BET during their teen years. Looking back, I should probably have forgone CNN and other educational news stations and said simply no to cable TV in our home. The problem is they have friends and other places to access this nefarious noise that passes for music.

I do not envy the parents who are calling for MTV and BET to clean up their acts. We as a people have for too long been stereotyped by the media.

Enough is enough.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spiritual, not religious - proud to be labeled "progressive"

My elder Brother, Jesus was progressive - one of the leading progressives of his time. His voice spoke on being kind, adultery, hypocrity, being charitable, not judging, paying taxes, and a myriad of other issues that I don't necessarily need to name here.

For over 23 years, I was a member of the LDS Church - that's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known by its nickname - the Mormons. The same religion that Mitt Romney affiliates himself with.

Some 2 years ago, I had to painfully extricate myself from this church that I had known and loved. I had been baptized in this organization, been married for 15 years in a sacred temple ceremony to my former husband and raised 3 of my 4 sons faithfully in this religion. Seven years ago when I moved to Utah, I was disturbed to see that there was an inordinate of racism experienced first by me and then by my 3 teenage sons. As things became progressively worse, I tried to make sense of it.

According to the most recent census data, Utah is less than 1% black. According to Mormon doctrine/theology/tradition or even heritage, blacks were deemed less than, or even inferior - their dark skin was allegedly the mythical mark of Cain. While I am no scriptorian, my readings and research into this matter have never revealed to me whether this mark was a wart on the end of Cain's nose as punishment for his sins, but I do know that Jesus died on the cross for any "sin" or transgression committed by any who have lived or died, including Cain.

It is then, not surprising that there are vestiges left over in Utah of racism, based partly on those archaic and, in my belief, incorrect teachings, and on the teachings of one of the early leaders of the LDS Church - some have called him "American Moses" - that would be Brigham Young, who believed and stated that blacks were lower than dogs.

In 1978, the ACLU was going to sue the LDS Church and force them to make public their financial records - this was their way of getting the LDS Church to bring blacks into full fellowship. Up until that point, their fellowship was limited to merely visiting church - no participation in communion, baptism services, no admittance to the temple. The dream of any worthy person of the LDS faith.

When I joined the LDS faith in January of 1982, this was explained to me in a peripheral way, essentially making it sounds like an unfortunate blip on the screen of LDS theology. Friends had often asked me how I could align myself with the religion. One of the men I admire greatly is a former ACLU attorney and civil liberties champion. He is Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. One day, years ago, I was in his office. He was praising my intelligence and intellect and was the first person who had intimated that Brigham Young - a Mormon leader and prophet was racist. He asked me why I was in the Mormon faith. I told him that the Church worked for me and should the day come when it no longer did, I would leave.

I know exactly how Senator Obama felt when he had to extricate himself from his church over the Reverend Wright debacle. I have been there. I cried more tears over that than even over my divorce from my husband of 15 years. The pain was visceral.

As I look today at the potential (and in some cases, certainly in some African Episcopal churches) for the same rift to come to the Episcopal Church over women being ordained to the priesthood. In the Mormon Church, my understanding is that many people left after blacks were allowed to become fully functioning in the church.

I continue to be spiritual and not religious, because it is more important to me to be like my elder brother, the Savior, Jesus Christ, than to associate with any church that discounts any of my brothers and sisters.

Obama Proposes Small Business Tax Credits For Health

It is not surprising that Senator Obama is first out of the gate of the Presidential Candidates to speak of the aforementioned tax credits publicly. He is collaborating with the remarkable Senator Hillary Clinton whose valiant efforts to bring some sense of balance to this broken healthare system of ours some years ago was vetoed and essentially torpedoed from just about all in the establishment, fellow politicians (ok, she was not theoretically a politician at the time, but was the First Lady), and healthcare minions.

Some 65 million Americans in this country are uninsured. I have been one of them for some eight months, not being able to afford COBRA payments offered to me from my previous employer for cost prohibitive reasons.

It is time that someone had the tenacity to take on the lobbyists and special interest groups and yes, even the HMO's who have hijacked what used to be a very sensible and fair system, to the top tiered management type of system, ruled by indivuals who make arbitrary life changing decisions without the necessary medical background of a doctor. Perhaps they, too should be asked to take a Hippocratic Oath before becoming CEO's and CFO's of HMO's.

According to the NY Times article, "A statement detailing the proposal said small businesses create, on average, more than 2/3 of net new jobs each year, but they pay on average 18 percent more for health premiums than their larger counterparts". Too many of us remain unaware of the great contributions paid to us by small business. Those numbers seem grossly unfair to me - why should those who employ 2/3 of the American people be unnecessarily burdened with disproportionate healthcare costs. A tax subsidy/credit would be one way to balance the scale for those small businesses who keep so many of us, myself included - employed in this great nation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jackson Sorry for 'Crude' Obama Remarks

So, Reverend (and I use his title regretfully, I admit) Jesse Jackson is "sorry" for the crude remarks made about Presidential nominee, Senator Obama. He is sorry alright - sorry he was caught offguard.

There are conversations that we should, if at all, have in a coffee shop, around friends, and in the privacy of our homes, but Jesse Jackson's years in the spotlight should have elucidated to him that tact and diplomacy are of paramount importance.

In years gone by, Jesse Jackson was a man of whom I thought highly. Unfortunately, when he made the "sorry" mistake of having an adulterous affair and producing an illegitimate child to the tune of some $10,000 a month in child support - he lost his allure.

He criticizes Senator Obama for not speaking out enough on black issues. We all know that our prisons are overcrowded - what is Jesse Jackson doing about this? Is his Rainbow Coalition meeting with the US Conference of Mayors to address the latest news out of Philadelphia. The Mayor there (I don't know what color his skin, nor is that germane to how well he does his job) has worked with business owners to provide tax incentives to those who hire convicted former prisoners.

Jesse Jackson protesteth too loudly - he is sorry his remarks were caught on mic, not sorry that he said them.

On that note - what has senator McCain said on his campaign trail about morality issues?

Who said that this race is not about race?

Let Senator Obama do what he does best - work on issues close to him and the hearts of the American people. This mess did not happen overnight - it will take him a long time to address the social needs of ALL of America.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The #1 quality men want in a wife - someone like their mother

This is according to a study by University of Iowa sociologist Christine Whelan, author of "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women." Contrast this to "Why men marry bitches" - a bestselling book for women to understand why their nice girl ways don't appeal to the men in their lives.

I have known far too many smart men who have married Barbies and/or bitches. They tend to be adulterers too - the men, that is.

For instance, some years ago, I was just arriving at a party to celebrate the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic games in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was walking across the room to greet friends and associates, when I heard a man exclaim, as he looked pointedly at me and held out his arms: "There's the woman I've been looking for all my life." As luck would have it, it was the husband of my then supervisor - talk about awkward. This is the same man who asked me to visit a "gentleman's club" that he represented as an attorney - in order to see that there was nothing really untoward. I don't need to visit a gentleman's club to know that exploitation goes both ways. On both occasions, I wanted to slap the man's face, but what can one do when one's boss is looking on?

I had this discussion about marriage with a dear friend who is going through a divorce. We are both in agreement with the biblical notion that men and women are to be helpmeets to each other. Ideally, they should have parallel lives - whether that be full time career, full time school or even full time motherhood/fatherhood - they should also have interests outside of each other - interests where they don't have to "ask" permission to participate. They then reconnect during the day or as often as needed to touch base and check in.

I have been seeking a helpmeet for over 10 years and have yet to find him. I don't want to be with a man who wants a bitch, nor with a man who wants someone like his mother, unless his mother was an amazing woman - a great mother, worked inside and/or outside the home and is good friends with him.

A woman has to have high standards as she seeks her helpmeet, or she runs the risk of being traded in for the smarter associate, younger Barbie type, or even the nanny.

For those of you reading this post, it is likely abundantly clear why I am still single.

Edwards won't rule out another VP run

According to my ISP's news page this afternoon, it seems that John Edwards is on Obama's short list, along with Governor Bill Richards to name a few.

How does one pick a running mate? I don't envy Obama's senior staffers and advisors. Having served as a political appointee for over 5 years and worked on as many campaigns, I learned firsthand that politics are not for the fainthearted.

John Edwards brings his legal experience and Senator experience, and can help deliver the voters from the south to Obama - maybe even some of Hillary Clinton's disenfranchised and disenchanted supporters. Bill Richards brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, including serving as a Governor and UN ambassador - did I mention that both men are extremely handsome? I digress. Back to serious business. Will this election come down to race? John Edwards is white and can deliver white middle class voters, Bill Richards is Latino and can deliver Latino voters. Are we still not quite beyond voting for or liking a person because of the color of their skin? Did Dr. King, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and others really die in vain? I hope that the voters will prove me wrong in November.

The key to Obama winning will rest heavily on who he picks for a running mate - it is clear that he needs to win over the white middle class voters. They are the staunchest Hillary supporters and have indicated that they might just stay home in the fall.

As I watch McCain's campaign implode from afar, I wonder whether he will have the sense to pick Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney's business acumen would not allow for the nonsense that has been playing out in recent days in the McCain camp. He can also deliver the ultra right wing Christian conservatives to McCain.

This is the most exciting election cycle I have ever witnessed.

I anxiously await the outcome.

Bush urges world to unite on Zimbabwe sanctions

I am writing this post after the fact, though the issue is still topical.

Monday's CNN headline news reported this headline. I had no time to post on Monday, I was a tad preoccupied with other issues.

Was Bush a tad preoccupied with other issues before now? Why on earth has this taken so long? He waits suntil the 11th hour - his last G8 summit (thank God) to denounce Zimbabwe. Why didn't he say something sooner? Before the election would have been a good time. Before Mugabe's opposition leader Tsvangirai had to flee the country, grief stricken at the atrocities taking place against his followers.

We should cut off all communications with Zimbabwe, issue strong sanctions, even if every other country in the G8 does not agree. While we are not the world's police, we are held to a higher standard.

The world expects more from the U.S. I hope that the next administration will deliver that again.

Reducing, consolidating and simplifying our lives

A friend offered me a ride home from work yesterday.

On the front seat of her car were four freshly-picked (straight from the farmer's market) ears of corn. They were a gift for me and my mother to enjoy. We ate them with some meat from a local store last evening for dinner.

She drives a small, fuel efficient car and was combining trips to several stores in the vicinity of where I live in order to reduce, consolidate and simplify her life.

She is an amazing woman - one whom I admire greatly. She is the moderator at The Church in the Highlands in White Plains New York. A moderator is the minister's right hand person. This woman is serious about making a difference in this world. She reduces her carbon footprint, recycles, tends her grandchildren, attends bible study, volunteers in her community and still finds time to bowl with her sweet husband, play bridge with a remarkable group of women and more......and they say retirement is boring.

An article in yesterday's Washington Post spoke of the changing way in which Americans are living their lives to adjust to soaring food and gasoline prices. They are following my friend Irene's lead. They are reducing and simplifying. They are tending gardens at home where previously there were none. They are using farmers' markets - fresh produce arriving in your home within hours of being picked from the farmers' fields. All this supports the local economy - some 65 cents of every dollar spent at a local store stays in the community - not so with those nefarious big box stores. People are watching for sale items on foods and one retired couple is even reverting to their menus from - gasp - their graduate school days - soups, beans and the like. I read of one employee who is brown bagging with peanut butter and jelly.

I grew up in London, England with 7 family members in our home. We took the weekly trip to the grocery store seriously. My sisters and I took turns going to the store. We schlepped groceries for all 7 of us on the bus and when the not always punctual bus did not arrive, we simply walked a few miles up the hill back to our home.

My father was a professional boxer. Years ago, when he had surgery for herniated discs in his back, there was no way he was going to file for disability - he was a very proud man. We grew even more vegetables in our garden, and subsisted on my mother's income as a civil servant (I love that play on words.....) and what we could grow and harvest. It was a valuable lesson.

I am watching and waiting for my little tomato plants on the balcony to grow. They are small but healthy - organic and grown from seeds. If you have a spot to garden, use it - a balcony, container gardening is great! A small yard, a community garden - find some land and till it - put it to use, that is what it is there for.

A canning event is coming up at The Church in the Highlands in White Plains, New York. Watch for details in the newspaper or call the office at 914-949-2023 for more information. Membership in the church is not necessary. We are in this together after all.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What we can learn from Michael Vick's dogs

Last year, I became acquainted with a Greenburgh town police officer. I had recently relocated to NY from Utah and she wanted to pick my brain about an upcoming trip that she had planned for a week in Utah. I mentioned all the world famous ski locations, the Southern wilderness, the famous redrock and Bryces' and Zions' National Parks. She dismissed my suggestions and told me that she was going to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab Utah. It seems that this officer had been an animal control officer and was tired of repeatedly seeing the correlation between people who abuse animals who then go on to hurt people. She then decided to become a police officer where she believes (as do I) that she is making a larger difference. She was taking a week of her vacation time to go and take care of - Michael Vick's dogs.

I read this morning an encouraging report in the Washington Post regarding many of the dogs who were removed from Michael Vick's Virginia home last year. Fortunately, the judge in the case was surrounded by forward thinking animal lovers, including an animal rights attorney. It was decided that only those animals (one) who were too sick to survive be put to sleep. The rest would be in the animal sanctuary being loved and cared for with the help of some almost one million dollars that Michael Vick was ordered to pay for the keeping of his animals for the rest of their lives.

Most of the dogs have made remarkable progress. They have been adopted - one is working with cancer patients - another is a couch potato and lives with 4 other dogs and as many cats. Still others have become best friends to other humans.

This story has a happy ending - I am thankful for that, being an animal lover who has rescued one dog from certain death in my lifetime - he ran away and we never found him - God bless Peanut.

I wonder if we could treat our former prisoners with the same level of love, kindness and dignity as these sweet animals have experienced. If they had the love and support of family - and yes - I mean extended family - they return to live in our communities after all - they would not experience such a high recidivism rate.

More to ponder.......

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Who needs the FDA?

Last year while traveling, I met an employee of one of my least admired organizations - the FDA - yes, I said it. I asked her quite pointedly why there are apparently more recalls being issued in the last few years than at any time in previous years. She claimed that it was merely a perception and perhaps the news media was to blame. Would that it were so easy.

In years gone by, the FDA was there to help in times of need. Recalls were issued swiftly, medicines did not get fast tracked, only to be recalled due to speedy testing and the agency was one to whom we could look, as the American public, to ensure that our food and drugs were safe enough for our consumption.

I was watching Lester Crawford, the head of the FDA on C-Span recently (you may recall that his confirmation took an agonizing 5 months). He noted that the agency is woefully underfunded, ill-equipped and not functioning at the 21st century level that they need to be working at.

According to a Washington Post article from July of 2005, "The Senate confirmed acting Commissioner Lester M. Crawford as the permanent head of the Food and Drug Administration yesterday, five contentious months after he was nominated by President Bush.
Crawford won a comfortable 78 to 16 majority, but before the vote, he was subjected to sharp criticism from a bipartisan bloc of senators that included four Republicans. Although some praised his long experience at the FDA, others said he was part of a system that needs to be shaken up.

The FDA, which regulates one quarter of the nation's economy, has been without a permanent commissioner for more than half of Bush's presidency, and most recently since spring 2004. The agency's need for stable leadership was cited by some senators as a reason to confirm Crawford."

A perfect example of the ineptitude of this agency is the latest tomato scare. This fiasco has cost the nation's tomato business some $250 million dollars according to NBC nightly news this weekend. And now, after further investigation by the FDA, it would appear that tomatoes might not be the culprit - it could be peppers or even scallions. I am not a scientist, but I can sure tell a tomato from a pepper and a pepper from a scallion.

The price of the war in Iraq is affecting our government's ability to function. Where will it end?

Troops are needed in Afghanistan - is a draft on the horizon?

Will we all become organic farmers so that we can trust for ourselves where our food comes from, rather than trust the government?

Where is big brother and what on earth is he doing?

Bush's final summit

I shall never forget the look on Angela Merkel's face as she visibly recoiled from George Bush's touch and massage of her shoulders at a G8 summit some years ago. One would hope that he is older and wiser....

Not so - he is adamant about attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing for this summer's Olympics. Granted, most of his cabinet has long since fled for greener pastures, but one has to wonder - who on earth is advising our President on such matters? China's atrocities and human rights violations are well documented. We, the "free" and "civilized" western world should have the guts to stand up and say - "not on our watch". Why should they get to parade their athletes around and cover up their distasteful and abhorrent behavior?

According to today's NY Times, “I view the Olympics as an opportunity for me to cheer on our athletes,” Mr. Bush said, at a press conference in nearby Tokyo, after the two leaders met privately. He said not going to the opening ceremony “would be an affront to the Chinese people” that might make it “more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership.”

Mr. President, I must respectfully disagree. While I commend your desire to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership, the surest way to get their attention is when the entire world is watching. The Olympic games have not been about athletics for some time now - please enlighten yourself and get a clue.

Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown are boycotting the opening ceremonies - these are your G8 colleagues - why can't you follow suit? The Chinese government deserves to be affronted - that is the price they pay for their human rights violations.

This would be something redeeming that you could do in the waning months of your administration.

Let's send Bush a message - let's not watch any of the Olympic activities - I am starting my own boycott here and now.

Sizzling hot men at Wimbledon

Bjorn Bjorg first caught my attention as a teenager with raging hormones decades ago. I saw him sitting in the stands at Wimbledon yesterday and my heart started racing. God, he looks good. And I do mean "Good" - with a capital "g". Jimmy Connors is still handsome and aging well.

Nadal and Federer are still playing the final match today - jolly old England has experienced some rain today which is causing the delay. Talk about hot! Mui caliente! I almost need a fan to watch these guys in action.

The commentators with specific attention to John MacEnroe have aged well also. A girl feels like she has died and gone to heaven for two weeks of men in white outfits, their muscles flexing and their shirts flying up during serves and volleys to reveal chiseled abs.

Why is it that I love Wimbledon so much again? The men, of course. The tennis is secondary, my dear readers.....

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Cheers" - where everybody knows your name

I miss my old grocery store. Smith's in the Avenues in Salt Lake City, Utah. It comprised a deli, a pharmacy, flower shop and much more. The prices were always matched with competitors and coupons did not need to be clipped. Truth be known, I miss Kelli the pharmacist and my favorite cashier the most.

Today, As I accompanied my mother on an errand for groceries in search of lowest prices , I was reminded again why it is that I patronize locally-owned stores.

For the 3rd time in as many trips, my mother had been overcharged for items that should have scanned "on sale" or at a lower price. Determined not to be a victim again, she stood at the head of the cash register, carefully scrutinizing the prices as they were scanned in. She mentioned to the cashier that she had been overcharged on recent visits and was not about to let it happen again. The cashier took serious offense and commenced to scowl even more than she had been previous to the comments made by my mother.

Contrast that with a trip to Trader Joe's - locally grown produce, (when not local, at least it is American), happy music, Hawaiian print uniforms, free organic lemonade and happy staff - yes - happy - I said it. What does it cost to provide good customer service? Not too much. I am pretty sure that the hourly wage between our local supermarket and those at Trader Joe's is not terribly different, but I can tell you that there is a vast difference in how the staff at Trader Joe's treats their customers. It is not just that they have an information desk where one can purchase beautiful cards for $1 each. There is also an information center where there community involvement is clearly spelled out. Do you need $50 worth of coffee and pastries for a church event or other local event? You can get that at Trader Joe's. Yes, Starbucks claims to offer this as well, but based on several conversations with their manager at my local store, one wouldn't know it - it is practically impossible to navigate the black hole leading to free coffee - then again - isn't this the place that is going to close some 600 stores????

How can I speak of such things? I worked at a sprawl store a la Wal Mart years ago, while my former husband and I had small kids in elementary school. I wanted to be a full time mother and volunteer at their school, so I chose to work the overnight shift stocking shelves. I considered myself blessed to have a job that allowed for me to balance the motherhood thing.

I am NEVER going into that supermarket again - local and lower prices be damned - I am choosing the higher ground. I am shopping at Trader Joe's where I don't have to clip coupons, or wait for a sale - where I am treated with respect and dignity and where I know the names of my favorite cashiers, because they wear nametags.

Clinton voters may stay home in November

After an agonizingly protracted primary, Senator Barack Obama has emerged the heir apparent and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared with him publicly in recent days to show her support.

Not so, say her former supporters - they are not switching teams. Today, A CNN poll indicates that an increasing number of Mrs. Clinton's supporters are going to stay home and - gasp - not vote.

What gives?

Allow me to elucidate on a conversation I had recently at a lovely wine tasting. I had mentioned to a woman, that I was enthusiastically going to throw my support behind Obama (had done months before - right as he announced his candidacy, as a matter of fact), and was preparing to spend lots of time working on his campaign. "But you're a woman!" My companion exclaimed, thoroughly chagrined. She is white, and I am of course, black. "You'd rather have another man than a woman?" She questioned. It was, of course, a moot point a few weeks ago once Obama had secured enough delegates to become the heir apparent and the presumed Democratic nominee on the Presidential ticket. I explained to her that while I would love to see a woman President, that Barack spoke more to me and those of my generation. I should have added that he voted AGAINST the war and with any luck, neither of my draft-aged 3 sons will have to fight in it.

Is this about race or is there something else going on? Democrats have failed to do what Republicans do well. They circle the wagons and will step down from the nomination pool - think Mitt Romney - if they think it is for the betterment of the party. I wish I could understand why thinking, intelligent women and men who supported Hillary would rather stay home and see McCain and his minions continue to decimate the working poor, middle class and disenfranchise the country even more. Who would throw their hard-earned vote away in such a manner. Are there any angry Hillary women out there who can shed light on this poll, please?

The Williams Sisters - a dream come true

I just finished watching parts of an amazing tennis match. The Williams sisters met in the Wimbledon finals this morning. Venus bested her sister and won handily, but the game was thrilling.

Wimbledon was a staple in our family's life growing up in London - there was football (soccer), tennis and cricket. We spent hours glued to the TV, rooting for Bjorn Bjorg, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and others. We watched John MacEnroe yell at umpires, while trying to gain a point against the venerable Jimmy Connors. I watched Boris Becker play years later in Germany when my allegiance switched to continental European players. Now that I live in America, I confess - I root for American players.

Some 20 years later, I still watch though with not as much interest as I used to have.

I suppose I have learned to take for granted that the women such as Chris, Martina and Billie Jean paved the way for Venus and Serena to be playing. That is of course, after Arthur Ashe shattered the color barrier at the all white, all England tennis club.

Venus won today, and she hopes to win the doubles final so that her sister, Serena can have a trophy as well. Their father did not watch the match - it is said that he cannot bear to watch the sisters compete against each other. This is a tad surprising, as I recall reading of the sisters years ago - they were homeschooled, kept away from outward influences and reared in a strict but loving home with their parents. They did not go out into the tournament world until their dad, their coach as well - thought they were ready.

I never dreamed that I would see such diversity in this sport that I love.

Thanks to the sisters for giving us a great match today.

Often people ask my why I choose to live in America vs. England - a country that I love dearly - the answer is quite simple: Only in America is the dream of the Williams sisters possible, and Barack, and Tiger.......need I say more?

Enjoy the weekend. I hear there are a couple of sexy men playing in the finals tomorrow. I will probably be glued to that match too - for different reasons. Hey, I am all girl - what can I say?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Are prisons obsolete?

Angela Davis (whom I had the privilege and honour of meeting a couple of years ago in Utah of all places) has written a book with the aforementioned title. I am going to be reading it soon, along with a host of other amazing books. It was recommended by my cousin, a college professor in Virginia, who is now speaking to his students about the econimic cost of prisons.

There are some 2.3 million or so individuals incarcerated in America. At a rate of about $25,000 a year per resident, that is some serious money. The question is, do they all belong there?

A family member is awaiting sentencing for crimes committed during a seemingly innocuous 6 month probation for minor infractions - you know, hanging with the wrong crowd sort of thing. I am not excusing the behavior by any stretch, but I am curious to know whether a mental health screening took place as noted in the prisoner handbook of the jail where he awaits sentencing. He had confided to me that he thought he was schizophrenic right before these crimes were committed. Unfortunately, the family with whom he lives do not believe in mental health counseling, medication or anything else that would have prevented this individual's demise and subsequent sucking into the system that is known as the criminal justice system.

This family member was raised in the same family as a national honor student, a second in state track star and an advanced middle school student. What gives? This family member worked at McDonald's in high school and staged a walkout leading to his termination after the minimum wage increase was not honored. What awaits this individual after some 2+ years in a federal prison? The same fate that awaits many ex prisoners, particularly those who are felons. This family member is so very close to my heart. He is indeed the same silly one who brings me pies in the middle of the night from Burger King when I am having PMS. The same one who gorges on Slurpees, soda, PBJ sandwiches and cereal in exhorbitant proportions. The one who love shoes, like his mother, who loves music - you should hear his lyrics. The one who couldn't quite seem to fit in. His mother is bi-polar, his father has depression - statistically, he would be prone to depression too. Some 300+ people are praying for this individual whose hearing is on Monday. Perhaps you would care to pray too, now that you know how much he means to me. This is serious business.

Earlier this week, I read in the news of a resourceful Mayor in the city of brotherly love - Philadelphia (incidentally, the first state I came to when immigrating all those years ago - the first time I saw a police officer with a gun in this country) - tired of recidivism and the community fallout from too many broken homes has taken matters into his own hands.

It seems he is having business owners receive tax credits for hiring former prisoners (forgive me, but I don't like the term "ex con" - it has a negative connotation). That city has one of the highest prison populations in the country - I am not quite sure what the Governors (present and former) have done to mitigate this, but as I learned, working as a political appointee to a mayor - grassroots is where it gets done - not on the federal, national or even state level, but on the local levels, through the National League of Cities and Towns, through the National Conference of Mayors and other such amazing organizations.

Why is this subject of such great importance? Let's just say - if caucasians were imprisoned at the rate of our black brothers and sisters, I believe that mitigation would have happened long ago.

Any thoughts out there?

Idi Amin is alive and well in Zimbabwe

The recently elected (by default) Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe says he is open to talks on ending the country's political crisis, provided the opposition accepts him as leader.
"I am the president," he said. "Everybody has to accept that if they want dialogue."

"Opposition must accept Mugabe." So reads the headline on the BBC website today.

My headline is a tad more provocative, even scandalous, some might say.

His way or the highway. Where have we heard that before? Mussolini, Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, and Hu Jintao to name a few. All military leaders who would see their countries destroyed and their people killed rather than admit defeat, dialogue or compromise.

Recently, I was going to take a tour around the fabulous island of NY when I came upon a demonstration right near the Chinese Embassy downtown. I enquired of one of NY's finest as to the guidelines, etc for hosting such protests. I was enlightened and glad to know that under their guidelines, pretty much anyone can hold a protest if they follow the appropriate permit process. God bless America.

Having lived in Salt Lake City during the Olympics, we too, as an administration had to grapple with free speech. Barriers were erected to create a designated free speech zone, and postcards disseminated with quotes from Dr. King and Gandhi regarding non-violent opposition under the capable leadership of one of the finest men whom I know, the amazing civil rights attorney - Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson. It was a privilege to be his political appointee for over 5 years.

I for one, am not going to watch a single Olympic event this summer. I stopped watching a Wimbledon match yesterday with a Chinese player. I know it is not her fault - she is an innocent pawn - a bystander, but we have to take a stand somewhere. In fact, I am making a conscious effort not to purchase anything from China if I can at all help it. Beware you Marshall's and TJ Maxx shoppers - those are my two favorite stores - most of their home goods are made in China. I am not entirely sure how it happened that China is allowed to host the Olympics given their human rights violations - Tianenman Square and Tibet come to mind. This should not stand and we should not let it. If we all stopped purchasing their goods, they might be forced to take a look at their human rights record and make some changes. Look at what happened in South Africa?

Anything is possible.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A call to serve

I am the proud former wife of a servicemember. He served 15 years of his life in the US Army - they didn't ask, and he didn't tell - another story for another day.

Today, Barack Obama has issued a call to serve - the military, Peace Corps, wherever we can find a need that should be filled in our communities, at home and globally. Hand in hand with that goes his desire to expand faith-based initiatives. He does not speak of the ultra right-wing conservative groups who have latched on to this program en masse under the Bush era, rather a sweeping level of access - yes, even to his own United Church of Christ and possibly even that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the church of his apparent opponent on the VP ticket - Mitt Romney.

I have ties to both of these churches. I was an active member of the LDS faith for some 23 years - yes, another long story for another day - and am now working at The Church in the Highlands in White Plains New York.

What are the differences between these two churches? On the surface, not many, but let's examine this further.

The LDS Church has thousands of missionaries - those who proseletyze, and those who serve in temples, those who live in the splendor of the mission president home and the elders and sisters who live in tiny one room apartments. Those who serve welfare missions building bridges in third world countries, those who step in after a disaster when the US Government fails.

The Church in the Highlands has no missionaries that I have seen - at least, none that wear nametags and go door-to-door. They do, however show up in my office regularly - to take the newsletter to the mail, after collating and stuffing by hand - a tedious job for the most devoted of the Savior's followers. They call the office when they hear of a new baby or a death or a hospitalization of one of their fellow congregants. They come to be with me in the office to help me with office tasks when I need a little help. They make bank deposits, and watch over the children, clean the church and a myriad of other tasks seen and unseen.

They are connected under the love and care of an amazing woman, the Reverend Melanie Miller. They are planning a community garden, a morning of learning how to can, learning to shop efficiently and locally, taking advantage of the farmer's market and eating locally grown produce. They are instituting movie night where everyone from the community is welcome. They have weekly bible study and meditation and recently watched "For the Bible Tells me So" - I am sure that the discussion was thoughtful and deeply insightful.

They are some old, some young - their attendance has doubled under Reverend Miller's careful tugelage this last year since they snatched her up from a congregation in Chappaqua.

They trade old books and magazines, volunteer at the food pantry and have a resale shop where items can be procured at little cost for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

The church is a beautiful edifice - recently a pew was removed after careful deliberation in order to accomodate young families with little ones, strollers, and those with wheelchairs.

No matter where you are on your journey, you are welcome there.

Their faith is old, their thinking is not.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Independence Day - Change is coming

Will Smith is undeniably hot - as in sizzling, sexy hot. I loved him in Independence Day - one of the biggest holiday weekend blockbusters of all time. I loved how the movie made me feel - proud to be an American - proud of what we could do if we all pulled together.

And now to another more serious issue.

Rwanda, Darfur and now Zimbabwe. I dined with my dear friend, Blaine and his partner Scott recently. Blaine was born and raised in Zimbabwe. I cannot begin to imagine how heartsick he must be at the events as they unfolded in his homeland in recent weeks. Where is the international community? Where is the outcry as women and men are torn limb from limb because they affiliate with the wrong party? Why did the UN Security Council wait so long to express their "concern"? Why did Doctor Condoleeza Rice, one of my most-admired women - wait so long to "strongly" condemn the killings?

I spoke with a Senegalese man recently and asked his opinion - it is too sad to even write about. Suffice it to say, we are both hopeful that with the Obama administration, God willing, foreign policy towards Africa will change. This continent and her 70 countries is beautiful, rich, steeped in heritage, culture, spirituality and history - for too long she has been raped, murdered, taken advantage of.

I will continue to pray for Obama and his family - a change is sweeping the country. I welcome the change.